Lynne Forbragd, UM Extension Master Gardener in Anoka County, March 25, 2015
At last winter is loosening its grip on us in the northern hemisphere. Gardeners are ready to get out and spend time in their yard as soon as the last of the snow has melted. But not so fast, some things that we do in our yard now can either benefit or harm our lawn, shrubs and flowers.
If you get out and start raking the lawn as soon as the snow has melted, you can do more damage than good. Raking too early can cause the crowns of the grass to loosen and thin the turf. It is best to minimize walking on your lawn and raking until the ground is dry. This will prevent damaging the crowns of the grass, reduce soil compaction, and green your lawn more evenly when it starts to grow.
Once the ground is dry, walk around your yard and check for any damage. Depending on the type of winter we’ve had, different problems may occur. Vole damage is common and looks like tunnels of dead grass where voles have traveled under the snow and eaten the top of the grass. Rake the dead grass away, there is no need to reseed the area. The grass will come back slower than your regular lawn but soon will fill in and you won’t notice where the voles spent their winter.
Snow mold looks like a gray or pink patchy area on your grass. It occurs when the ground did not thoroughly freeze before it snowed or where piles of snow accumulated in your yard. Once the ground is dry, you can gently rake the area to loosen the compacted grass.
Late winter to early spring is the best time of year to prune your trees and shrubs. Non-flowering trees and shrubs can be pruned before growth begins. Trees and shrubs that flower in the spring should be trimmed after they flower. If you have red oaks, you can trim November to March, but avoid April, May and June as this is the most susceptible time for disease.
Clean out your garden beds by cutting down any old growth on perennials and gently raking out the leaves and dead plant debris that accumulated over the winter. If you added mulch over a plant that needed additional protection over the winter, leave the mulch on the plant until the soil is warmer and freezing night temperatures are no longer a problem.
With these tips, practice a little patience and soon you will have a beautiful yard and garden to enjoy throughout the growing season. For more information, go to: http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/ and search for vole, snow mold, or pruning.