This winter has seemed never ending, but is finally showing signs of relenting. There are more animals out and about (mostly skunks) but the hawk has been seen feeding on a stray pigeon or two. This is usually a good sign that spring is just around the corner. Not to say the snow and cold are finished- but the end is near! Take advantage of a warmer day to get out in the yard and clean up the winter damage and debris.
Do a gentle rake on the lawn to fluff up the grass, clean up thatch and assorted twigs, leaves, and other debris. Don’t go crazy, but do get up as much thatch as you can. This will be an all day job. It’s hard work, but your lawn will thank you with healthy growth all summer long. Apply an early spring pre-emergent fertilizer to keep that nasty crab grass down.
The perennial beds need attention too. Rake up old mulch to prevent disease. Trim back any ornamental grasses to about 3 inches and flowering ones 5 inches. Now is a good time to divide perennials to thin out crowded beds or fill in bare spots. Make sure each transplant has at least 3 stems, preferably 4 or 5. No bare spot? Give some to neighbors and friends. I have a huge Hosta bed on the side of my house courtesy of my neighbor. Roses can be trimmed now, so prune away any winter damage. For climbing roses, cut out old woody canes and gently tie up the green ones. Fertilize flowering bulbs with a 5-10-10 fertilizer.
Trim trees, shrubs, and hedges of any winter damage. Train your evergreens to grow as you like. Trim old inner branches to let light in to encourage growth in the middle. Flowering shrubs that flower in summer can be trimmed now but well before the buds swell. Spring flowering shrubs like lilacs or forsythias cannot be trimmed till later, after they’ve flowered.
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO