Spring Yard Clean-Up

tulipsMarch 12, 2015 – Kenosha News


Question: It looks like the weather is finally warming up and I can’t wait to be outside. What can I do in my garden and yard? A.P.

Answer: On warm March days it is probably best to enjoy a nice walk, but there are a few tasks you can undertake in the yard.

If the ground is dry, rake your lawn to remove debris.  March is too early to fertilize or apply weed killers. If you use crabgrass preventer, wait until forsythia are in bloom.

Remove winter mulch from roses and perennial flowers as plants begin to sprout.  New growth is prone to disease if kept covered and moist. Keep mulch nearby for a quick cover up of perennials and roses when there is a cold snap. Tulips, daffodils, and other spring flowering bulbs tolerate temperatures below freezing with minimal damage.

Dead stems and seed heads of perennial flowers and ornamental grasses should be cut back to the plant crown. Be careful to avoid newly emerging shoots.

Once the soil thoroughly dries, work compost or other organic matter to vegetable and annual flower gardens.

With the following exceptions, prune shade trees as needed.  Elms and oaks should be pruned only during the dormant season.  Birch and maple will bleed or leak sap from new cuts if pruned in spring.  Bleeding is not harmful to healthy trees, but if you wait until they fully leaf out, they won’t bleed.

Before the buds begin to swell summer flowering shrubs, like pink spirea and Annabelle hydrangea, may be trimmed to four to six inches tall.  For maximum number of flowers, wait to prune spring blooming shrubs, such as forsythia, lilac, dogwood, white spirea, until immediately after they bloom.

Prune raspberries before buds start to swell.  If you have red or yellow raspberries, remove all short and weak canes.  Thin remaining vigorous canes to four to eight inches apart by cutting off extra canes at ground level.  If the canes are not supported, top at three to four feet to keep them from falling over.  For black and purple raspberries, select four to five vigorous canes per plant and remove all other canes at the ground level.  Thin out weak and diseased side branches on each cane.  Shorten the remaining side branches to 10 to 12 inches.

Late February and early March is the best time to prune fruit trees.  Grapes should be pruned before the buds swell, so check carefully before cutting.


Barb Larson is horticulture educator for Kenosha County University of Wisconsin Extension. Barb has a Master’s of Science in horticulture from UW. If you have a plant or gardening question, contact Larson at barbara.larson@kenoshacounty.org  or 262-857-1942.