THE SNOW IS MELTING! WHAT TO DO NEXT…

…in your landscape. Here in Minnesota, we kept a very deep and heavy snow cover for much of the winter. The situation was exacerbated by the Christmas 2009 rain, ice, then heavy snowfall. We didn’t get a January thaw this year and even though it didn’t snow much in February, we didn’t lose any snow cover either. For those of you living on the east coast, you had your series of heavy snows that wreaked havoc on your landscapes I’m sure. I’ve already had calls from friends of mine out there with questions.

The most immediate problem is the wrecked shrubbery. Don’t worry! Simply clean up and make clean cuts on parts that have been broken. If your shrub has been decimated, it will still come back with proper care. It may not look that great now, but by summer’s end and certainly next year it will be beautiful again. A major problem in Minnesota is the damage from under snow varmints. Rabbits, squirrels, and voles will do a real number on your lawn, shrubs, and smaller landscape type trees. If you have a vole problem on your lawn, you’ll notice after the snow is gone brown trails randomly running around the yard. The voles, working under the snow, chew up and eat the grass-roots and crowns of the grass plants therefore killing the grass. After the ground is dry enough, rake those trails out good and over seed them. The varmints and snow and ice did a number on the shrubs. Where the snow remained at three feet or less in my yard, the varmints ate all the branches off the arborvaetes and ate a several of my rhododendrons. The arbs are an eyesore now. The plant itself is fine health-wise, but I can’t use them in my landscape anymore. With evergreens, pines, and firs, areas of the tree with missing branches don’t fill back in like a deciduous tree. I’ll have to dig them out and replace them. Both in the midwest and the east, the plants, trees and shrubs could benefit by a little shot of soil booster and a little food, light on nitrogen, though. If you have acid loving plants and shrubs growing near the house, sidewalks, or driveway, give them some Miracid. Calcium leaches out of foundations and concrete areas thus neutralizing the acids in the soil. Most anything evergreen, including pines, firs, arborvaetes, rhododendrons, and azaleas would be examples of acid loving plants.

Smaller trees may have been “girdled” by varmints under the snow. This means the bark has been chewed off around the whole trunk in a particular area. If the eaten off area does go all the way of even three-quarters the way around, your tree is doomed to die. Most “landscape” trees of three and a half inch trunk diameter are the trees to watch. By installing white drain tile pipe around these trunks in the fall you can head off girdling and sun scald on the bark. If the tree is girdled, replace it. If the bark is sun scalded, it should survive okay, just remember to wrap the trunk every fall until it’s large enough.

Once you have cleaned up the winter damage on the shrubs, you must wait until the spring bloom to do your normal shaping or pruning. Right after blossom drop get your trimming done. The plant starts setting bud for the next season soon after it sheds this years blooms.

If you didn’t clean your beds last fall, as soon as the ground is firm enough, clean up the debris from last year’s gardens. As a reminder, do not plant tomatoes in the same spot as the year before, but that’s still a long way off.

Do not rake the lawn until it is dry and firm. The tender crowns of the grass plants can be harmed significantly by a rake. For sure do not power rake or de-thatch until the frost is completely out of the ground and the lawn is completely dry and firm. This is something that really only needs to be done every four or five years, anyway. If you had crab grass last year you need to start treating for it this spring. The best way to rid your lawn of this is to apply pre-emergent crab grass control in the spring. Crab grass seeds begin germinating when the soil reaches a temperature of 53 degrees. Figure a couple weeks earlier for the several feet along curbs, streets, sidewalks, and house foundations. Then apply to the rest of the lawn later, you can over cover the first areas too. Do not apply too early as the chemical will wash away or become too diluted to be effective and do not apply too late, because once the seed has germinated, it’s too late. Go the garden center this month a pick up a soil thermometer, an inexpensive but very valuable tool to have.

For major tree trimming or pruning, you still have time. The maples will “bleed” a lot but that won’t hurt anything. In the upper midwest, you have about three weeks left to get your oaks trimmed, otherwise wait until next winter. Professional tree trimmers need work right now before spring storm season hits, so you can probably save some money now! If you have any trash trees on your property, do yourself and your neighborhood a favor by removing them. In descending order of importance to remove a tree species it would be; cottonwood, siberian/chinese elm, silver maples, box elders, and buckthorns. Again, tree specialists need work right now, so get rid of those rotten trees and save yourself some money too. Remember, when trimming or pruning trees, do not paint or shellac the wound, let them heal over in the air.

Hopefully this will give you a little early spring guidance for your home landscape. I am a full service landscape company and tree trim and removal service. If you live in the Twin Cities and would like some help, please feel free to call me, 612-747-5575. I will try to get more landscape articles written and out to you over the critical next couple of months. You may also e-mail with questions and comments or attach them to the blog. Thank you very much, I look forward to hearing from you all.

Cam Obert

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