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Spring Has Sprung! But Wait…

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
March 18, 2015        
Source:  Beth Berlin, Extension Educator-Horticulture
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties

Spring Has Sprung! But Wait…
By Beth Berlin, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (3/18/15) — With the recent warm weather and the official start of spring on March 20th, we may think spring has sprung and 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. So it is important to fight the urge to work in your yards or even remove mulch winter cover until the time is right.

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 would 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 cold temperatures and maintain a more consistent soil temperature. Spring is very hard to predict in Minnesota especially on a year like we are having now, 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 spring frosts. 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.

If you want to start some spring clean-up there is still a short window to prune most 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. 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.

If you’ve noticed areas that will need to be reseeded due to various winter damage like snow mold, voles, or simply an area you weren’t able to reseed last season, mid-April through the end of May is a time frame when reseeding can be done. Prep the site, by roughing up the surface soil and leveling. Apply seed at appropriate rate, then lightly rake or roll in the seeds, and lightly water. This will provide the best seed to soil contact and hopefully remove areas where water may pool.

Finally if you are wondering when to start putting down pre-emergence herbicides to control broadleaf weeds in your yard, wait till the soil temperature has reached 55°F. With any chemical read and follow all safety and application instructions on the package. Often a spring fertilizer is applied, however the preferable time to apply a lawn fertilizer is late August through mid-September.

For more information on turfgrass visit or



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