Spring Chores for the Outdoors
By Michael Stanley
Well, “Punxsutawney Phil” did not see his shadow and that is good news to all of us anxious to get out and garden. While old man winter may still have a little more in store for us, it is time to plant those cool season vegetables such as asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, garden peas, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, potatoes, radish, rutabagas, spinach, and turnips.
For your warm season vegetables (beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, squash and tomatoes) you want to wait until after our last chance of frost which is usually after April 15th. To insure your best chance of success be sure to fertilize with a balanced fertilizer every 3-4 weeks. Keeping your garden clean and weed free will help protect against disease and insects. You will also want to be sure to scout regularly for plant damaging insects.
Early detection goes a long way in preventing infestations. There are both conventional and organic methods to control pests in the garden. Consult your local garden center for the solutions best suited for your situation. Most of your spring flowers should be planted after our last chance of frost unless you are able to offer them some protection (frost blanket, straw etc). Spring flowers in or around the vegetable garden can add some aesthetic value and also attract bees and butterflies which are essential for pollination.
Let’s take a minute and think about some of the wildlife around the garden. Birds can be fun to watch and offer some value. Different species of birds eat insects and are an asset to have around. Purple Martins and Barn Swallows are two birds touted to eat mosquitoes and other flying insects. Setting up habitats for these birds will help attract them to your garden. Purple Martins are out scouting now for habitats. Birdhouse gourds are a great choice for the Purple Martin.
If you have fruit trees in the landscape you are going to want to get started with a insect control regimen if you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Just as the buds swell you should apply Horticultural Oil spray that will kill any overwintering insects. While your trees are blooming you want to avoid any use of insecticides to protect the pollinating insects. After most of the flower petals have fallen you want to make an application of Fruit Tree Spray which will contain an insecticide and fungicide once a week for 4-6 weeks and then every 2 weeks until harvest. If you want to take the organic route, use Neem Oil instead of Fruit Tree Spray. Following this schedule will increase your chances of enjoying fresh fruit before the worms and insects do.
As far as the lawn is concerned February and March are good months for weed control. Pre-Emergent herbicides can be applied now to help prevent weeds like dandelion, clovers, crabgrass etc. Pre-Emergent herbicides do not kill existing weeds but prevent weed seeds from germinating. Applications done around Valentines Day and Labor Day will reduce the presence of weeds on your lawn. If you have any actively growing weeds, it is a good time to control them now before applying fertilizers. For warm season lawns you do not want to apply any nitrogen before May. Early applications of fertilizer may cause problems down the road.
TREES & SHRUBS
Early spring is also a good time to fertilize trees and shrubs. A good slow release fertilizer is the best choice. You also want to check for scale insects on your shrubs. A black sooty mold will be evidence that they are there. Horticultural Oil or a systemic insecticide will help control insects in your landscape. Be sure to clean up decaying leaves and plant debris as this can harbor disease that can attack your plants.
OK now spring is right around the corner and now that you have your to do list, lets get gardening. Remember for all of your gardening questions contact your local garden center.