CO-Horts Blog

Monday, April 8, 2019

Spring Has (Not Quite) Sprung

Andie Wommack, Douglas County Extension Agent

A couple weeks ago, we saw temperatures above 70 for the first time this year in Castle Rock. I was so excited and spent as much time outside in the sun that I could. That Friday, it snowed. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth (at least at my house). This is the time of year when many of us start itching to get outside and work in our yards. This year has seemed much more wintery than ones in the recent past, which is contributing to the itch of needing to be outside.

While it’s not quite time to be planting your garden outside, there are several things you can
do to prepare your yard and garden for the coming gardening season. One main gardening task that most people like to do in the spring is fertilize or add organic material or compost. This may be unnecessary. Soil tests are an important tool when planning what amendments to add to your garden or landscape beds. Excess nutrients from home landscapes can be a major detriment to the local water systems. Landscapes can have a positive effect on water quality because they slow rain water down and help filter out impurities, but if you are fertilizing unnecessarily and/or watering too much, it contributes to pollution problems. The three main nutrients in any fertilizer are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). There will be a series of three numbers on any fertilizer that tells you the NPK content percentages. For example, if a 12lb bag of fertilizer says 34-0-4, it contains 34% (4lb) nitrogen, no phosphorus, and 4% (0.5lb) potassium. Fertilizers will often contain other nutrients like sulfur or iron, but you have to read the label to find out how much the bag contains. If you get your soil tested, it will give you recommendations for amendments based on any nutrient deficiencies that exist. If the soil test indicates a need for one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, you would use that recommendation to determine how much of the 34-0-4 fertilizer you would need to apply (three pounds for 1,000 square feet). However, if no phosphorus or potassium is recommended, you would not want to use that particular product. Look for something with zero percent phosphorus and potassium so you aren’t applying unnecessary nutrients to the ecosystem.

Now is a great time to start cleaning up your landscape. Check your area for any damage that may have occurred over winter. Make sure any trellises, raised beds, or other garden structures don’t need any repairs, and check trees and shrubs for any broken branches.
Also check trees for any branches that are crossing each other as those may become damaged when rubbing against each other. Do you best to remove snow during heavy snowstorms to prevent branches from breaking under the excess weight. Cut back your perennials and grasses that were not trimmed back in the fall if the weather is nice. It is important to leave these plants over the winter for food and habitat.

Clean up your lawn by removing any stray leaves, twigs, or other winter debris once it is clear of snow. If you have areas that need to be reseeded, make sure you do not apply any crabgrass preventer (pre-emergent) as this will also prevent your grass seed from growing. Delay turning on your irrigation system as long as possible to help conserve water and money. Generally, precipitation is most bountiful in the spring which will provide the necessary moisture for your turf. Daily irrigation is only necessary for germinating new seed or establishing the young roots of new sod. Daily watering a mature lawn encourages shallow root systems which will greatly reduce the turf’s drought tolerance. Bluegrass is relatively drought tolerant if managed correctly. Spring is also an excellent time to aerate your lawn. Aeration works best when plugs, or cores, are pulled from the soil. These should be two to three inches deep and no more than two to four inches apart. This will require several passes across your lawn. This helps reduce compaction which allows roots to grow easier through the soil.

So, while it may not be quite time to start planting your veggie garden with the potential for snow on the horizon, there are plenty of things you can do to be active outside!

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