By now, you have probably noticed the early signs of spring starting to appear. Bulbs are starting to peek through the soil, birds are singing early in the morning and the snow has melted away (for now). Here are some tips to help keep you occupied until the temperatures get to be a little more stable.
As you notice your bulbs start to come up, it is time to start removing the layers of mulch you have put down for the winter. Do this slowly 1/3 of a layer at a time. This will slowly acclimate new growth to cold and fluctuating temperatures.
Feed tulips now as growth begins to show. Feed other spring bulbs after they have flowered. Use bone meal or use two pounds of 5-10-10 or 6-12-12 per 100 sq feet if you have lots of area to cover. Daffodils and tulips will need to be fed again in late August.
Remove all dead blooms after bulbs have flowered, and remember to leave foliage until it turns yellow on all spring flowering bulbs.
Now is a great time to transplant houseplants. As you do so be sure to check for insects that may have gone unnoticed during the winter months. As you transplant, keep several things in mind. Make sure your plant will have good drainage. Put pebbles, broken clay or packing peanuts in the bottom of the pot before adding soil. As you transplant break up the bottom of the root ball with your fingers and cut off any rotting roots.
Turn your houseplants. Make sure to rotate your houseplants each week for even growing.
If you started seeds last month, and they are getting a little large, you may now move them to peat pots. Be extremely careful not to disrupt their roots.
Begin to bring dormant geraniums up from the basement. Pinch new growth, and growth that has gotten leggy and begin water and fertilizing cycles.
Keep starting seeds that need plenty of time to develop. These include lettuce and tomatoes-be sure to check the back of your seed packages to avoid starting seeds too early!
At the end of the month set out or seed early crops such as broccoli, spinach, cabbage and cauliflower.
Cut down perennial grasses from last season. Leave about 2-4 in from ground. Some people prefer to burn their grasses. Use this as a last resort because it can damage shoots near the surface.
Check plants for frost heaving. Freezing and thawing can push plants right out of the ground. If you notice this use your foot to gently push the plant back into the ground. If it does not move mulch heavily around the plant until the soil thaws and you can push it back in.
Trees and Shrubs:
Prune fruit trees before buds swell.
Remove winter protection from shrubs at the end of the month and check for damage.
Watch roses for black spot. Start spraying at the end of the month, weather permitting. Roses may be pruned towards the end of the month.
Use a dormant spray on trees and shrubs to kill overwintering insects such as mites, aphids and soft scales now (mid-month).
Remove dirt and debris from your road-side yard and gardens. Rake out sand, slat and pebbles to avoid further damage as your lawn wakes up.
Look for mole damage. If you see mounds in your yard, look for the main tunnel that runs between them. Use Tomcat Mole Worms in their tunnels. This is the most affective method of dealing with them.
Rake leaves and remove branches from your yard early. As you rake, remove dead clumps of grass that have died the previous year (de-thatching). Prepare soil to reseed.
Keep an eye out for small tunnels in your yard. These are from voles. Use a traditional mousetrap, and nail it to the ground with one long nail through the front (this prevents the trap from being overturned from underneath and from being disturbed by other animals).
Check your lawn for poor drainage. You may need to add drainage tiles or a trench to avoid problems during heavy spring rains. If an area is always soaked consider planting a rain garden in its place.
Odds and ends:
Clean out your bird feeders! Remove old nesting materials and scrub them with a mild bleach solution. Be sure to rinse well. If you have a woodpecker house, be sure to fill the bottom with fine wood shavings to attract them in. Be sure to keep houses out of the reach of cats, raccoons and opossums.
Turn your compost piles mid month as they start to heat up. Remove large clumps of materials that are not decaying. Add any course mulch left from the garden to the pile.
Repair fencing and trellis slats (remember not to disturb perennial vines such as clematis when doing so).