March 20 is the first day of spring, meaning WFIU’s annual spring gardening show was here again with expert panelists Don Adamson and Helen May.
The panel fielded many questions callers had for their gardens and lawns, a selection of which is listed below.
Bulb plants like irises and tulips, are those still going to make it despite the flux in cold weather?
May: I would think so, unless something really prodigious happened in the freeze because they’re pretty hardy and they don’t bloom until May anyway. So they’ve got time to make some recovery and bloom. If it’s a little frizzled on the top, it’ll be growing out and grow some more leaves.
The first day of spring is Monday. What should people be doing to get their gardens ready?
Adamson: The main thing is to clean them up, get the remainder of the leaves up from fall. A lot of people remulch it this time of year too, because that will keep them healthy going through the hot summer we’re going to have.
May: You may come across some weeds coming up since autumn under things. Get them out while they’re small. You’d do better to get them out now while they’re young before there’s too many of them.
What qualities should gardeners be looking for in soil or mulch?
May: The main thing with soils is you don’t want to work them while they’re real wet. If you have any clay at all in there, it’s going to compact and make hard lumps and knots and it’s just not good for the roots of your plants.
Mulches generally as they decay will supply a certain amount of nutrients. But also they improve the structure of your soil so the roots can penetrate more easily. If I’m digging in a real clay heavy area, I will add some sand and some organic material, compost or cow manure, to improve the structure of that clay soil. That will make a big difference in how the plants grow.
Adamson: We talked about the mulching each year. That mulching really helps to make the soil better over a period of years as it breaks down.
I’m wondering what can be done about moles in my lawn and garden?
May: Learn to love them. Consider them your little furry friends. You can hire someone to poison them or do it yourself to poison all the moles, but a few months later they’ll move back in from your neighbor’s property probably and start up again. It’s a perpetual problem if you have good soil with insects in it.
Adamson: Get a mole cat. We have a great cat that brings moles to us all throughout the season. The cats won’t eat them, but they’re good at catching them.
What can or should people be planting now?
Adamson: Any trees or shrubs. I like to plant them as early as you can. They’re still dormant at this time and there’s much less stress on trees when they’re planted in the dormant state than after they leave out of it, so now is a good time to plant trees and shrubs of any kind. It might be a bit too early for perennials.
May: Probably. The main trouble with planting perennials too early is that the soil is in no condition to work, so you may end up with a brick when it dries out in the summer. You want the soil to be workable. But a lot of perennials can be planted early. Just put a bit of protection on them if it is a real cold night.
What can I do about controlling crabgrass? Is there something I need to be putting on now?
Adamson: No. in fact it can be put on much later than now. Crabgrass does not come up until the soil temperature gets much warmer than it is. It’s all pre-emergent, so as long as it has not come up, it can go down and take care of the crabgrass. One application in the spring will take care of it the whole season.
May: There are different ways of applying it. You can get a hose-in sprayer, you can get that little wheeled cart which spreads fertilizer as well. It depends a lot on your own situation, what size area you need to treat, and what you would prefer to do.