Spring Yard Maintenance | Minnesota

April No-nos and To-dos

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Feeling the urge to get out in the yard?

Fall-planted bulbs are already pushing up through the mulch, golf courses are opening, and temperatures are rising steadily. Spring is an exciting time in Minnesota. The melting ice and bright rays of sunshine serve as a welcome sign that it's time to put away the mittens and winter boots and prepare for another beautiful Minnesota summer.

Minnesotans are ready, even eager, to tackle yard chores. But not so fast! It is still a little early to get down and dirty in the yard. Here are a few don'ts and dos for early spring chores.

Before: A warm April spring day

After: Days later, snow on the ground and freezing temps

Late April Backyard No-Nos

Most backyard chores should be put on hold until the threat of snow has passed. As you may be aware, early spring often comes with highly fluctuating weather patterns.

  1. DO NOT RAKE OR MOW. You will shred the still-tender growth. Your lawn has just started growing. You will have a stronger, healthier lawn if it is allowed green up on its own. Leave the mower in the shed until May. And wait another 5-6 weeks until the end of May to fertilize. De-thatching is a chore usually done in the fall.
  2. DO NOT WATER. Even if your irrigation system has been turned on, wait until late May to water your lawn. It is not necessary or recommended to water your lawn during the month of May unless it remains dry and/or the temperatures climb into the 80s or 90s for long stretches at a time.
  3. WAIT TO PRUNE LILACS OR VIBURNUMS UNTIL AFTER THEY ARE DONE BLOOMING. Don’t wait too long after blooming. They will start setting buds during the summer. The best time to prune them is within two to three weeks after the bloom.
  4. WAIT TO PLANT ANNUAL FLOWERS AND CONTAINER GARDENS until the threat of frost has passed, usually around Mother's Day and the Fishing Opener in mid-May.

Late April To-Dos

If you're still compelled to work outside, you can do a few things.

  1. First, you can clean outdoor furniture and get the grill ready for summer. Washing away the winter muck can be very satisfying! If you're on a roll, you can also sweep sidewalks, clean the garage, and organize your gardening gear.
  2. If it's brown, cut it down. You can cut back grasses and other perennials, opening the crowns to the sun's warmth and early spring rains.
  3. Gardeners can get a jump-start by planting vegetables and perennials in containers indoors before planting them outside in May.
  4. If you have paver patios, walkways, or driveways, a little spring hardscape maintenance may be necessary. Check the joints. Do you see spaces between the pavers where the sand should be? Fresh sand should be swept into the joints before wind-blown seeds take root.

hands holding mulch

A Few More Areas to Tackle

FIX DRAINAGE ISSUES. Did you happen to notice puddles where they shouldn't be during the spring thaw, such as walkways and driveways? Drain tile and catch basins can be installed to encourage water to go where you want it to go – away from steps, walkways, foundations, and hardscaping.

MULCH AND TOP DRESS. First blow leaves and other debris out of the plant beds. Fluff the existing mulch lightly to see how much remains. A mulch depth of 3 inches is ideal. Top-dress the mulch if necessary. Remember to pull mulch back from the bases of trees to prevent mold and decay.

TREAT APPLE SCAB. Did your crabapple tree turn brown and drop its leaves suddenly mid-summer last year? If so, apple scab was likely the cause. Apple Scab can be managed with a foliar spray or trunk-injected fungicide - but these applications need to happen in early spring, right as the buds are breaking. If you have concerns about your crabapple trees, contact a certified arborist.

snow mold

Early-Spring Lawn Repair

No matter how carefully we put our gardens and landscapes to bed for the winter, winter always manages to win out. Here's what you can do now to fix damaged spots.

SNOW MOLD. Deep snow insulates the ground and often creates conditions where fungus, or snow mold, grows over the winter months. Gray snow mold (also called Typhula blight) is caused by Typhula spp., while pink snow mold (also called Fusarium patch) is caused by Microdochium nivalis. The best way to tackle snow mold is to let the lawn dry, then rake the areas before any fertilization is done. You can read more in-depth, but the short version of how to fix is to apply new grass seed over the patches. That's it. Easy.

DAMAGE FROM PLOWS AND ICE MELT. The damage done by de-icing materials and snowplows should be taken care of as soon as the warmer temperatures of spring arrive. These areas will require a little TLC, fresh soil, and seed or sod. Don't just throw down seed or sod and call it done.

  • Remove the dead grass and any debris.
  • Level the area.
  • Add fresh black soil then seed or sod.
  • In the seeded areas, don't use pre-emergents or strong fertilizers. A starter fertilizer is recommended. Don't forget to water the new areas regularly.

There will be plenty of time to get your spring chores done. Temperatures in the 60s and 70s this time of year are like found money. Just enjoy the time guilt-free, and spend it walking or biking around the lakes or along our trails.

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