May 5, 2011 at 9:04 a.m.

Been a long winter and a slow spring

Been a long winter and a slow spring
Been a long winter and a slow spring

I am writing this article and they forecast snow for tonight, so I hope spring will be here when this article is published. Deb Brown, who contributes to the Star Tribune, has some good tips on getting your lawn in shape. Parts of this article are from her research.

It's common to find areas-sometimes quite large areas-of matted, tan-colored grass, particularly where the snow piled up and was slow to melt. This often indicates the presence of snow mold, a fungal disease. Rake the lawn, but wait until the ground no longer feels spongy underfoot. Use a lightweight, fan-style rake, not a heavy metal garden rake, which can pull grass right out of the ground. A gentle raking will break up the mats and allow oxygen to penetrate to the base of the grass plants. You should see new green shoots before long. If you find chunks of sod that were displaced by plows, put them back in place as soon as possible. If the pieces of sod become dry and brittle, you'll have to patch the holes they left with fresh sod, or add soil and seed.

Voles can be a problem any year, but winter's heavy snows left them particularly well protected. How do you know if you have voles? They leave narrow, rambling trails through a lawn where they've been feeding. Sometimes they leave larger damage as well. After raking the lawn (again, wait until the ground no longer feels wet and squishy), assess the damage. Shallow trails should fill in nicely on their own as the surrounding grass begins to grow more vigorously. But if you don't want to wait, seed the trails with a grass seed suited to the sun conditions in your yard. When you seed, mix in some horticultural vermiculite or buy premixed seed designed for patching lawns. Any bare spots fist-sized or larger should be reseeded.

In an earlier article I wrote about the damage done by mice under the snow line on fruit trees. In her article, Deb Brown wrote about the damage rabbits do on fruit trees and shrubs.

In some neighborhoods, plows piled snow so high alongside streets and driveways that rabbits gained easy access to the lower branches of ornamental crabapples and other fruit trees. Once trees are old enough to develop rough, corky bark on their trunks, rabbit girdling (chewing through the bark all the way around the trunk) isn't typically a problem. But, this year, smaller limbs, with their thinner covering of bark, proved an easy target for bunnies. Prune out twigs and branches that were stripped all or almost all the way around. To minimize the potential for your tree to develop a disease, don't prune in rainy weather. Instead, wait until it's expected to be dry for several days. Make the cuts where the nibbled branch joins a branch that's intact.

Someone asked me when is a good time to uncover strawberry plants? Again, there is no hurry. I don't uncover them until I have to.

I realize that if it gets hot, I need to so they won't be smothered. However, if I can delay the growth, I can also delay the blooming. This can be important if we get a late spring frost just about the time my berries are in full bloom. I tend to think that many strawberry growers are like me, having a small patch for their own use. Many years ago I was in San Francisco in late April attending a national school board convention. One night I was back in the hotel watching the national news. They were talking about the weather back in Minnesota, which was hot and dry. This was a dry spring where there were a number of grass and brush fires. The commentator was comparing the fires with the Hinckley fire back at the turn of the century. When they mentioned the temperature back in the Twin Cities was 99 degrees, I started to worry about my strawberries back home, which were still covered. I barely returned home before I was out removing the straw. My plants looked like they had gone through a grass fire of their own, but after a nice spring rain and some warm weather I had my best strawberry crop ever.

We still have bare root plants for sale so if you still want to order plants, call our office at 277-0151, or you can call me at 651-257-4496, and leave a message. Those who ordered plants will be contacted for pick up of plants Saturday, May 7.


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