DARREL KOEHLER: The Prairie Gardener — A Spring Gardening Checklist

Spring has indeed sprung as gardeners prepare for another season.

However, it may be a difficult year with hot, dry conditions expected by many weather forecasters. We will see.

We are enjoying a very early spring with lots of wind, which sucks up the little soil moisture we had over the winter. So have a hose ready.

Lawn chores lead the “to-do” list — the first steps include getting the mower checked out. Major lawn chores such as dethatching, aeration and fertilizing can be done after two mowings, usually around Memorial Day. If done early, you may damage the lawn more than aiding it.

Tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs will take the cold and snow, so don’t get alarmed if we get a late snow.

Roses and other tender plants can be uncovered as well. If white plastic cones used for covering plants are left on too long, mold and rot can result. But keep those cones and mulch handy in case real cold weather and snow return.

As far as gardens are concerned, you can plant hardy plants now. These include onion sets and seeds, spinach, radishes, leaf lettuce, potatoes and peas.

Other vegetable crops can be planted at midseason, with vine and other real tender crops planted around Memorial Day. This would include beans, sweet corn and melons.

Check trees and shrubs for moisture. If they appear to be dry, get the hose out. These plantings should be carefully monitored for the first five years or more after they have been planted. It will be especially important this year if we have a dry, hot summer.

Apple trees can be pruned until they leaf out. Remove more than one-fourth of the branches as well as any broken, dried and weak ones. Lilacs and some other plants that bear blooms or are wood shouldn’t be pruned until after blooming.

Now is a good time to visit garden centers to purchase seeds and plants before they get picked over.

With a little bit of luck in terms of rainfall, it will be a good year!

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