I pulled the trampoline cover off the swimming pool yesterday to get things ready for the man who comes today to get the pump going, repair the heater, blow the lines out, and shock the water with a heavy dose of chemicals. I waited later this year to do this chore because recent history proves there is no hurry to open the pool. We didn’t swim the past two years until June 13 and 14. The past two summers have not been good for swimming, very cold seasons! I have already filled the fuel tanks for the patio heaters, they get more use in June, July, and August than any other time of the year! Since removing the cover, a local pair of Mallards have taken up their leisure time swimming and preening in my pool. It’s so peaceful watching them go about their business. They even nap at poolside! The water is perfect for them now, all green and dirty. Soon, however, they will avoid it, once the heavy dose of chlorine has been added. Because of the early on-set of warm weather, I’ve already been battling algae problems in my backyard Koi pond. The fish, however, don’t seem to mind the murkiness of the water.

I think the coast is clear in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area to go ahead and plant your annuals. Be ready to cover them in case we get a frost. We still have about ten more days of the traditional frost season. If you still have perennials to transplant, you should try to get that job done before the end of the month. The more they have grown the more difficult it is to divide and/or transplant. Be ready, especially in the warmer weather, to water the heck out of them until they are past transplant shock. The plant will let you know right away if they need water. They will wilt or bend over. Get water to them right away if you find them in that condition. It’s probably too late to attempt shrub and small tree transplantation. Try to move these plant materials while in dormancy or just coming out of dormancy.

Remember, if in sandy soil, heavily mulch with shredded hard wood. If your soil is more clay, use mulch very lightly or none at all. Though I’m not a fan of using landscape rock for mulch, if you have a heavily treed lot, rock mulch is easier to blow leaves off in the fall. Use river rock, cheaper and won’t blow off the bed as easily as the flatter varieties of rock.

This is NOT the time of year to prune oaks, ash, elm, and birch trees. Now wait until fall for this chore. Most other tree varieties you can more safely trim now. Remember, the best time to trim trees is in late fall to late winter, fruit and maple trees are probably best done in January. A tree under stress will start to show die-back near or at the top of or at the far tips at the drip line. The leaves begin to curl and turn brown. If you see the top of an oak tree turn brown it probably has oak wilt. Some varieties can survive a bout of this, but red oaks can’t and will be dead within two weeks of first notice. The newer varieties of elm are Dutch Elm resistant, but if you have a beautiful old American Elm, it can still contract the disease. The Ash forest is now under assault by the Emerald Ash borer. The birches, particularly Paper Birch can be killed by the Golden Birch Borer. If your birches can be treated with a dormant oil, do it. Once they get too big to practically spray, you can let them go on their own. If you have ash trees on your lot and see a die-back occurring near the top, check closely around the trunk of the tree and look for small D-shaped openings. If you see this, rip the bark off there and look for “trails” in the trunk wood. If this is the case, call your city’s forester immediately. They will want to look at the tree prior to taking it down.

Speaking of trees, have you noticed all the cotton flying around? Cottonwood trees not only produce the flying cotton that choke air conditioner condenser coils and fill garages and yards with cotton, they also constantly drop branches and limbs all year round. Cottonwoods are a nuisance and a menace to urban and suburban areas. Please, do yourself, and more importantly, do your neighbors a favor, and remove any of these “garbage” tress from your landscape. Another “trash tree” is the Siberian/Chinese Elm. The DNR now rates them as a landscape nuisance. They are “prodigious seeders” that virtually bury neighborhoods every spring with their seeds. It some times looks like a blizzard when the seeds release at once. Not only do they make a tremendous mess, they also spawn elm tree seedlings in the landscape. These seedlings are quite hardy as well. It takes a lot of Round-Up to make them go away. I usually spend hours a week pulling them out of my beds. These trees are extraordinarily ugly anyway. They have ugly gray stained bark, small leaves that are the last of the fall to release, and do not create a nice canopy at all. They are NOT native to our landscape. Again, if you have these growing on your lot, do yourself and your neighbors a favor and remove them. They too, are messy all year round. Twigs, branches, and limbs die off a lot. The dead debris falls constantly.

Speaking of rural, suburban, and rural nuisances, dandelions are out of control. It’s time for neighbors and neighborhoods to get after property owners that make no effort to rid their property of this landscape blight. Neighborhoods need to be working together on this dandelion eradication because when they go to seed, the seeds land anywhere. So please, do the responsible civic-minded thing and start treating your property to remove dandelions. I personally am going to go before my city council to talk about these suburban landscape problems.

May is the month where you treat your lawn for broadleaf weeds. Herbicides work best when the target is in it’s best growing conditions. You don’t need to buy the “name brand” stuff. Any brand of “weed and feed” fertilizer will do. Sometimes a follow-up application a week or so later helps. The next lawn application will be around the fourth of July, that should be just a maintainance feeding. If you have ants or subterranean insects like grubs etc, apply a lawn insecticide as many as three times a season. If you have a mole problem, eventually they will go away as the grub population gets eliminated.

Your lawn and landscape need at least an inch of water a week. If you don’t have an automated irrigation system, use a rain gauge or a can marked at an inch, under the sprinklers. A long thorough soaking once a week is more beneficial than brief sprinkles more frequently. You want a deep watering to encourage the plants and lawn to grow deeper root systems to seek out water and cooler soil temperatures. Another reason why you want to be very careful about feeding the lawn too much nitrogen. Nitrogen encourages top green growth and doesn’t promote root growth. Deeper roots allow plants to survive drought conditions much better.

That’s your mid-May landscape report. Please, if your property has any of the offensive plants, cottonwoods, siberian/chinese elms, buckthorn, silver maples, and dandelions, do the right thing and remove them. You and your neighbors will be much happier. Thanks for today’s read, and I hope to read your comments and answer your landscaping questions. You can also reach me via camobert@comcast.net or at Backyard Transformations at 612-747-5575.

Cam Obert



  1. youandmedoweagree Says:

    Read the blog. What can I do to get my neighbor to be more considerate? LOL I actually went in THEIR yard yesterday and started pulling all vegetation (don’t want to call it grass because it wasn’t), roots and all, six inches away from the fence on what was probably a 100-foot strip so that it doesn’t keep popping out through the fence and make … See Moremy own yard/driveway look like crap. Lazy bastards! There are two kids – 16 and 17 year olds – who have to be the laziest kids on earth. I want to knock on their door and say something, but my wife thinks it’s a bad idea.

    I could keep going, but this is just to vent. LOL Not looking for answers here; I know the problem wil be the same as last summer.

    Submitted by Mike Taquino.

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