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    Early Spring Checklist

    Wow here we are, April at last! Early spring is such a wonderful time of the year: days are getting longer, migratory birds are making an appearance, trees and shrubs are budding up, even some tulips are showing their early spring color … happy inspiration and optimism for the lovely days ahead are prevailing moods nowadays. Take advantage of this balmy weather: get outside, enjoy the sunshine, and spend an hour or two out in the yard, helping to welcome it from a long winter slumber! Here’s a quick gardening to-do list for this time of year!

    Look good. Yes that’s right, I said it, get outside and look good: get yourself a new pair of gardening gloves, find your favorite hat (early spring is actually one of the higher risk times for sunburn, as most people are at their fairest through the low-light days of winter), and rock your best sunglasses. If it is warm enough and you are daring, it’s a great time to re-introduce yourself to those favorite shorts that you haven’t worn since last summer (friendly warning however: if you are anything like me, you may need to get sunglasses for the neighbors … talk about shocking white skin lol! Oh and a razor, now where the heck are those kept…?!) Some of the best parts of yard work are the least obvious; having fun and getting your body moving are so much easier when you are comfortable and prepared for the task at hand!
    Rake the lawn and throw down some grass seed on the bare spots (blue grass for sunny areas, fescue for shady areas). If your turf is less than 3 years old, a simple going-over with a bow rake will be sufficient to lift grass blades, increase airflow, and stimulate the growth of turf varieties in your lawn. If you have an established yard that was relatively thick and which you mowed a couple times per month last year, you most likely have thatch accumulating in the surface-level of your turf. Using a thatch rake to get down and break up top quarter/half inch of the turf root zone will help immensely. For thatch that is greater than 1 inch thick, booking an appointment for aeration or power raking may be in order. For a great explanation of thatch issues, Penn State Plant Sciences has published a handy fact sheet(click). If you are an avid turf-gardener, you can also fertilize now: a lawn fertilizer that is low in nitrogen, such as a turf starter 7-21-7 or 10-20-10, is your best bet to encourage slow, steady, and healthy turf growth in the early spring.
    Water your plants. Get out the hose and water anything that is actively growing, such as bulbs, perennials, or even trees and shrubs, including hedges and evergreens. Keeping the top 12 inches of the soil moist as perennial plants come out of dormancy is critical to plant health, as most of the plants’ feeder roots are located in the top foot of soil. Winter kill is often the result of the plant drying out early in the growing season. The mild winter we just experienced resulted in less snow cover and reduced moisture levels in the upper soil zones, so this year it is all the more important to get out and water. While you have the hose out, it is also a good idea to spray down all of your trees and shrubs, particularly evergreens, as the water will help to jet off any overwintering bugs, remove dust and pollution particulates, and add some moisture back to the plant tissues.
    Early spring holds an exciting promise of things to come: bike rides on tree-lined pathways, ball games with friends, walking adventures in the open prairies, canoeing the Bow, perusing local greenhouses, barbeques out on the patio, and conquering the yard. Whatever your fancy, make this spring the best ever. Forget your troubles and worries of the day. Enjoy the moment. Get outside and Just Breathe