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Spring Has Sprung Already!

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
March 9, 2016        
Source:  Beth Berlin, Extension Educator-Horticulture
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns & Benton Counties

Spring Has Sprung Already!
By Beth Berlin, University of Minnesota Extension
ST. CLOUD, Minn. (3/09/16) —Each year as the snow melts and the warm temperatures begin I like to remind people about doing yard and garden work this time of year. We are a few weeks ahead of where we were last spring. Spring officially starts on March 20th and with the recent warm weather we might think we should get to work in our yards and gardens.  Doing work too early to your yard and garden may actually lead to more harm than good.
There are tasks you can get a jump start on but lawn care should not begin until the ground has firmed up and the soil is no longer cold and muddy.  Raking too early may cause damage in two ways; the first is by uprooting many healthy grass plants, and the second is causing compaction to the soils simply by walking on it.  Keep in mind you may have different conditions in different parts of your yard so some areas may be ready sooner than others.  Best advice would be to monitor and simply wait until conditions are more suitable to walk on and soil temperatures have increased. This same rule applies for working in your gardens as well.
It is best to leave any protective mulch over bulbs and perennials to maintain protection from possible cold temperatures and maintain a more consistent soil temperature. Spring is very hard to predict in Minnesota, but it is better to shy on the side of caution and leave protection on these plants. If protective mulch is removed soil temperatures may increase rapidly encouraging growth that may then be damaged by cold temperatures. However, leaving it on too late can lead to rotting, so the best advice is to monitor your plants and watch long-term forecasts. If you remove mulch protection and a hard frost or cold temperatures are predicted you could temporarily reapply mulch or other protection.
Are you wondering if there is still time to prune your trees and shrubs?  Do not prune your spring blooming shrubs such as lilac or forsythia; wait until after they are done blooming. Fruit bearing trees, such as apple can be pruned into early April in most years but this year I would encourage you to have a cut off of mid March due to the early spring.   If you can access your perennial gardens without running over or walking on your lawn too much, remove last year’s growth to within several inches of the ground. Cutting any lower may cause damage to the crown of the plant.
Recently several University of Minnesota Extension Educators posted additional information about pruning for maximum bloom and cutting back ornamental grasses which can be found at For more information about pruning shrubs for maximum blooms visit


Beth Berlin
Extension Educator, Horticulture
(320) 255-6169
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