Rein in spring fever with yard clean-up before planting

I have spring fever. The snow has melted and I just saw all the daffodils I planted last fall poking their heads up. Yippee, spring is almost here! The days are longer and I don't get up in the dark or come home from work in the dark. I love it.

However, instead of going wild with planting - which is my first reaction, I'm trying to be practical and evaluate what yard tasks I should start tackling.

First, there is a lot of clean up after all the snow and wind damage. I have to do some injury repair pruning, cutting off broken limbs and branches. After these prunings dry out a bit, I want to chip them into mulch. Another project is to cut off all the remaining flower heads from last summer. I had left the flower stalks on the 'Autumn Joy' sedum and yarrow to add winter interest to the landscape. I've noticed that people with ornamental grasses have cut them back to within an inch or two of the ground readying them for new growth. This is important not only for aesthetics, but for wildfire defense. Grasses build up too much dead dry material if they aren't cut back each year. I also have to repair a trellis that bent under the weight of the ice dams off the roof and cut back the honeysuckle that was on it.

I have a lot of leaves blown up against my fence. I want to gather these up and put them around trees and shrubs to help maintain soil moisture and keep weeds down. Since the Master Gardeners always tell me to plant peas on St. Patrick's Day, I better dig compost into my garden soil and prepare the bed. I love peas. I saw kale, chard, lettuces and cabbages for sale at nurseries and home improvement centers last weekend. I'm more than ready to plant greens. They hold up pretty well in the cold, even in short freezes.

I had hoped to cut down two dying pine trees during the winter, but suddenly it is spring and not such a good time to prune pines and other evergreen trees. Pruning at this time of year sends out pheromone signals, which are chemical attractants to bark beetles saying "Come to this tree and its neighbors, they are stressed and prime food!"

Happy spring gardening!

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.


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