By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

Bunkey’s lawn is a mess. The neighbor’s dog has used one corner of his lawn as a toilet all winter. He also likes to leave his used bones in another corner. There are twigs and dead branches scattered here and there from the strong winter and spring winds and horrors, snow mold. Luckily it is the gray kind and not the pink stuff.  It looks like a thin gray blanket on the grass. Since the ground is wet, he should not go stomping around on it yet. The only thing he can deal with right now is the snow mold.

If you have snow mold, put on one of the masks we have been wearing the last 2 years and simply rake it off. The grass will be fine.  If it is the pink variety, it will most probably have killed the grass under it. Snow mold is the result of leaving the grass too long in late fall or having leaves piled up on the grass all winter.

If you let your flower garden go into the winter messy, insects are still hibernating in the stalks and under the debris. Don’t start cleaning it up until we have had at least a week of 50 or warmer nights. If you see lumps in the mulch where the tulips and daffodils are poking through, take a fork and gently lift the mulch off them. Leave the rest until it is consistently warm, and the soil has dried out a bit. If you go stomping through wet soil, you compact it and may step on plants just under the soil. Stepping on a lily sprout can lead to a deformed plant. 

A thick layer of mulch on the flower bed, put on in the fall, will reduce weeds, hold moisture on dry days and keep the roots cooler during the hottest weather. The leaves you raked up last fall are ideal for mulch as they have no weed seeds in them. Don’t remove mulch in the spring. Your flowers will come up right through it. Don’t add mulch in thin spots until the soil has dried a bit.  Wet soil can lead to mold, mildew and fungi for you to fight all summer.   You will discover that after a few years of mulching that about mid- July, you need to add more leaves. Your soil is so active with various critters that they have eaten all the mulch loosening the soil and adding fertility to it. This is why Bunkey has a huge pile of leaves hidden behind a lilac hedge. Oak leaves are just fine for mulch. They have a waxy coat, so they don’t break down as fast as other leaves.

Wait to fertilize your grass until you see colored daffodil buds. Too soon won’t help the grass and may hurt it.  Plants tell us When the soil is the proper temperature for grass and annual weeds to start growing. Lawns that are fertilized too early can’t properly make use of the applied nutrients. They could start growing leaves instead of spending their energy on root development. Premature growth may be discolored or yellow.  Good roots help grasses make it through summer drought.

Never rake a wet lawn. All you are doing is tearing up grass and leaving bare earth for the weed seeds to pop up. Now you are fighting weeds all summer. Don’t walk on it either if you don’t need to. It just compacts the soil. To discover if the lawn is wet, sit or kneel on it. If you get damp, it’s too wet.