By Leif Knecht
In these uncertain times when most of us are staying very close to home getting active in our gardens can be a wonderful source of comfort and optimism. Using some of the extra time you are at home to make your landscape the nicest it has ever been is sure to yield great rewards.
This is a great time to start your spring cleanup. Pruning trees and shrubs is an excellent first step. Then as the soil firms up from the spring thaw, you can remove the spent tops from perennial flowers and ornamental grasses so the new growth can shoot up unimpeded.
When soils dry enough to allow gentle raking or blowing to get old leaves off the lawn, things will look 100% better within days when your grass can fill in quickly. A light application of fertilizer will give your turf a nice jump start. Don’t over do it on fertilizer. A light application is all that is needed.
If you have damage or dieback in your lawn that becomes apparent when the old leaves and dead grass have been removed, proceed cautiously if you want to do some grass seed application to thicken a sparse area, or fill in bare spots. No matter how good the quality of the grass seed you apply happens to be, it will not grow if you apply crabgrass preventer. In this situation, make sure the lawn fertilizer you apply does not contain crabgrass preventer. Apply plain fertilizer without crabgrass and broadleaf weed killers and allow the grass seed to sprout, establish and mature. Once the new turf grass has matured for 10-12 weeks, you can use post emergent weed control products to knock out young crabgrass and broadleaf weeds.
If you really want gardens with a fresh and pleasing look, think hard about which shrubs and perennials you have that you never really liked all that much, or have failed to be vibrant growers. If they annoyed you the last couple of years, they will annoy you the next couple of seasons. Consider removal and replacement to get to a better place. There are lots of new and wonderful plants to try and it can be an exciting adventure.
In early April it is safe to plant trees and shrubs, and cool season annuals. For most perennials and all of the warm season annuals, wait until early to mid-May. In the meantime, prepare the planting area with deep digging and the addition of compost, a bit of sand and your favorite fertilizer. Then when air and soil temps are more favorable for those more sensitive annuals and perennials, it will be a very quick process to get them in the ground and begin enjoying plants that are new and different, or some of your most beloved old standards.
For me, and millions of garden lovers all over the northern tier of states, every spring is a time of miraculous rebirth. I never cease to be amazed and overjoyed to see new life spring forth from a landscape that withered and went dormant in October and November. How is it possible for anything to endure a Minnesota winter and then come roaring back with explosive new growth in April and May? To me it feels like a miracle every single spring. In these difficult times we can all benefit from the power of positive thinking and decisive action. Our gardens can give us a joyous respite from grim news cycles and bolster our resolve to take the difficult actions that will lead our entire nation to a better place.
Peace be with you, and may your journey forward be one that is safe and rewarding as we unify to overcome the challenges of this virus that few of us realized could change life so profoundly.
Leif Knecht, owner of Knecht’s Nurseries & Landscaping can be contacted at
507-645-5015 or online at knechts.net.