I will review some basics for you today to get your landscape looking it’s very best for the upcoming warm season. Let’s start with the lawn. Generally, with a well-managed lawn maintainance program, a lawn will not require fertilizing in the spring. But, if did not make your two feeding applications last September through November, you will need to give your lawn a little boost this spring. Buying expensive name brand fertilizers is not really necessary. Cheap house brands will do the job just fine. The most important early spring application to be made is crabgrass pre-emergent. This should be done around the time the soil temperature reaches 53 degrees, the seed germination temperature. Crabgrass is a self seeding perennial grass. The grass dies at the first hard frost of the fall but, not before it has released it’s seed for the following year. Once crabgrass has begun growing, it’s next to impossible to get rid of. Please don’t apply pre-emergent too early, rain will dilute it to the point of uselessness prior seed germination, and if you apply it too late, the seed already germinated. The old rule of thumb in the far north is about the time the lilacs are done blooming and in the Middle Atlantic states the old rule of thumb was the azalea blooming time. This year in the North, forget about it! The lilacs are blooming now but the soil temperature is already in the 60’s. I use a soil thermometer to gauge it more accurately. These are cheap, less than $10 at the garden center and you’ll really only use them in the spring but, it’s worth the small investment to get a handle on the crabgrass. If you have crabgrass infestation, it will take a few seasons of diligent chemical pre-emergent applications to get rid of it for good. Be patient.

If you are planning to overseed an area of lawn, do not use pre-emergent chemicals in that area. Overseeding should be done as soon as the soil is workable. Basically, you want the grass up and thriving before the heat of summer sets in. Heat and dry conditions are grass seedlings worst enemies. This is why seeding your lawn in September is recommended.

In May, start going after lawn weeds, particularly dandelions! Not only are dandelions an eyesore in your yard, they are an intrusive nuisance for all of your neighbors to deal with. When dandelions go to seed, they float off to everyone’s property not just yours. If you can coordinate this application with many of your neighbors, you can end the problem for the whole neighborhood. Get your city or county to spray for dandelions and other noxious weeds on public property and ball fields as well. I recommend any house brand, K-Mart, Wall-Mart, etc. hose end sprayer weed killer. You simply follow the label instructions and spray the lawn. Please spray in calm conditions as this weed killer can’t distinguish the difference between weeds and flowers or delicate plants. You can also use a granular “weed and feed” fertilizer. This will also give the turf a little shot of food. You can use both if you go a couple of weeks between applications.

Three times at least a season, beginning in early May in the far North, applications of soil insecticide should be made. You need to target grub worms, beetles, sod web worms, ants, etc. These insects not only are harmful the turf and landscape plantings but, they are the food of moles and pocket gophers. If you rid the area of their food, they will stay away from your yard. If you already have mole and pocket gopher activity, good luck! No, try any of the traps on the market, or spray the turf areas with castor oil and water mix from a hand pump sprayer or a pre-mixed oil in a hose end sprayer. The idea being the oil will give the varmint a bad case of diarrhea and they will die from dehydration.

When planting trees and shrubs in the landscape your soil type is important. If you are living in an area of clay or very heavy soil, do not mulch the plant after. This type of soil has enough trouble shedding excess water as it is. If you are planting trees in the lawn, always ring the tree with landscape edging. A properly planted tree will be buried to the “crown” or the part of the trunk the emerges from the soil and root ball. Do not plant the tree deeper as this will kill the tree. In clay, dig a slightly smaller hole than recommended. This is to force the tree to start penetrating the clay with its roots as it grows. If the hole is too big, the tree may try to live in the amended soil of the original planting and eventually will become root bound and die. Ring trees in the yard to prevent mowers and weed whips from injuring the trunk. Again, if in clay or heavy soil, do not mulch, try landscape fabric and rocks. In sandy soils, always use a heavy layer of mulch to keep as much moisture in the rooted area as possible. Mulch should be maintained at a level of 4 to 6 inches deep. Remember though, do not pile mulch up tight around the trunk. Let air stay on the trunk all the way down to the crown.

Pruning and shaping of flowering shrubs should be done right after the flowers drop. This is important, so don’t delay. The shrub starts setting flower bud points soon after the old flowers fall off, so if you sheer them right away, they will be able to place their bud starts on the bush that is left. If you wait too long, you will remove many of next seasons flower buds. Tree pruning is not recommended again until next winter, unless you incur storm damage. Particularly in Minnesota, you should not prune ash, oaks, and American elms this time of the year as the insects and diseases will attack them at the cut wounds.

I know we’ve all been fooled by this very early spring and are itching to get going in the garden. But, the average last frost date for the Twin Cities area is around the very end of May. That hasn’t changed even with the early emergence of spring. I arose this morning looking at a fairly heavy frost on my neighbor’s roof, and when a checked my back porch thermometer, it was at 34 degrees. The weatherman is calling for the possibility of snow in our metro area this weekend. Snow won’t hurt anything in the yard, but frost will. Try to hold off until the end of the month before planting your annuals, tomatoes, peppers, melon vines, squash, etc. Remember, do not remove the tops of your tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, etc. until they are completely browned out and dead. It’s these dying tops that feed the tuber for another year!

If you haven’t done it yet, get all of your plant beds completely cleaned and recomposted. Till compost into the soil the condition the soil and to feed your plants. If composting, you will probably not have to fertilize. If you had any kinds of disease in a bed last year, try to remove the top layer of soil and debris and discard.

There, you have a lot to do these next couple of weeks prior to your summer annual and vegetable planting. Then it’s over and you enjoy your landscape! My next landscape article will be in June, but in the meantime, if you have questions or comments, please call me on 612-747-5575, or e-mail me at camobert@comcast.net. I hope this has been helpful for you. Enjoy and thanks for today’s read.

Cam Obert



  1. cklimen Says:

    Your readers also may be interested in the products found at CrittergetterOnline.Com which have been proven (both through customer feedback and testing performed by the University of Nebraska) to be 90% effective for gopher control. The Crittergetter uses an abatement technique that folks have employed successfully for decades.
    Link to University of Nebraska report: http://www.crittergetteronline.com/PDF/gophers.pdf

  2. youandmedoweagree Says:

    Thanks Cam I really appreciate your gardening tips and suggestions, keep them coming.


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