Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

Springtime to do list


Courtesy of Linda Heath

Above: Mike Heath me installing the greenhouse water system.

The last few days of "pre-Spring time" weather, in other words warm with little wind, set me to thinking about what I needed to do to be ready for planting. Yes, and yardwork, too. I'm trying not to think of the yard work but I'll be taking that on this year as well as the gardening. The first thing I had to do was to fix quite a bit of snow fence that our wild Wyoming winds pretty much tore down over the winter. While I was working on that I put together a list of things that I needed to do so I could start scheduling my time.

The first thing that came to mind was fertilizing the lawn. Granted this won't happen until May but I want to get the fertilizer purchased before there's a run on the stores and they run out. That's happened a lot in the past year. I suggest using a good lawn fertilizer that does not incorporate any herbicides that will kill dandelions. Dandelions are the first food available for our pollinators, particularly bees, in the spring. If they can't get the pollen when they come out of hibernation, they die. Without pollinators our entire food production industry is at risk. This urge to have a nice, neat, clean lawn free of dandelions is depriving the bees of this first food source. Before applying the fertilizer be sure to read all of the panels and labels. Warning labels are essential to your health and well-being before, during, and after application. They'll tell you what kind of clothing to wear, how to handle the fertilizer, health risks, when pets and children can get back on the lawn, and other information. Application instructions will let you know how to get the most out of the fertilizer without wasting it. Waste just costs money.

Spring is also the time to aerate your lawn. Aeration equipment can be rented from any of the equipment leasing companies in town or you can buy one that can be pulled behind an ATV or lawn tractor. If you buy one remember that you're going to have to put quite a bit of weight on it to make sure the tines go into the ground. Aeration breaks up the root compaction and allows water and fertilizer to get down to the roots rather than sit on the surface where it just evaporates.

This year I'm planting a few more trees so I have to prepare the locations. Most are ready but I do have one spruce to cut down and replace. That means tuning up the chain saw before I start cutting. A chain saw is not a tool to play around with. Few tools are but this one can really be dangerous if you don't pay attention. I know that for most of you this is a common tool and you probably take all the safety precautions without even thinking about them. But for the rest, please be very careful and understand the tool before you use it. If you've never used one before, it's not bad to ask for advice from someone who's experienced. When you fell a tree, or even just trim one, you need to make sure it's not going to fall on a building, or vehicle, or even a person. In some cases you may need to take it down from the top or call a tree service of you're unsure. There are ways to topple a tree in a certain direction, but if you don't know how or if you question your ability, it's best to have a professional do the work. At least they carry insurance if they make a mistake. Then the roots have to come out. To replace a tree takes more work than simply felling it. Loosen the soil and add whatever amendments are needed. Usually that won't be much, if any, for a tree. I've always staked my trees for the first couple of years, then two years ago the winter wind broke two new trees off at the ties. They started coming back out last year and I thought they would be okay. The ties were off so they shouldn't have had an issue this winter. So much for that thought. Even without ties they broke off again. So now my original seven foot trees that had bloomed and leafed out so well that first summer are about 18 inches tall. Guess I'm replacing them, too, this year.

It's time now to start preparing the garden plot. That won't be a job to be put off very long. Since I put compost on it last fall I need to till it in and take soil samples. This is the garden plot that I completely killed two years ago with a load of bad compost that turned the soil sodic (too salty). Even weeds didn't grow that year. I started out that first year by dumping water on it the rest of the summer. It pretty much stayed mud until winter froze the ground. I'm surprised the EPA didn't cite me for disturbing a wetland. Last summer I dug out quite a bit of the soil and replaced it with my own compost but I didn't get to till it in.

March is the month to start transplants and for pruning. While the leaves are off the trees and shrubs it's easier to see dead limbs and the smaller limbs that need to be removed. Pruning is quite a skill but it's needed to keep trees and shrubs healthy and shapely. Dead limbs can be taken off any time. It's not really possible to explain how to prune in a newspaper article. Suffice it to say that limbs should not be allowed to touch each other when there's no wind. One of the limbs will need to go. No dead limbs should ever be kept.

Quite a few of the plants in our flower beds and even some in the vegetable (fruit) gardens spread and need to be thinned. Strawberries immediately come to mind for me. As the soil thaws in March digging the new strawberry plants becomes easy. I usually dig 30 or so for the plant sale (May 8th this year at the Archer Event Center) and most years I'm eating strawberries from them before I take them in to sell. To dig strawberries take a good bit of soil around the plant and move the soil along with the plant to your new location. That way they keep some of the soil they had been growing in to reduce transplant shock. Strawberries are good plants to share with friends.

Fall blooming perennials should be divided in the spring along with some of the plants grown primarily for their foliage, such as hostas. The University of Minnesota has a great list of 125 common plants with instructions on when and how to divide them. Some plants don't reestablish well after dividing and some (like echinacea) won't bloom until the second year. But don't give up hope. The original plant will be healthier after being divided.

Then there are all the little chores, and some big ones, that we just can't do over the winter. So start getting those tools ready and make your list. It's that time of year. If you have any questions, ask a Master Gardener. It's what we do.


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