By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

We all know one; the guy who cuts his grass so perfectly that it looks like he used a razor and a ruler.

Who trims his hedge with a T S square and if he could, would vacuum the leaves off his trees in the fall so they wouldn’t fall on the grass and make a mess. He’s out there now with a wheelbarrow or cart picking up the twigs that fell this winter. Next, he will rake up any trash left on the grass. Later this summer, he will dethatch, aerate and fertilize the lawn because the grass isn’t thriving. 

Unless you really enjoy all that work, just stay off the grass for 5 minutes. Either kneel or sit on the grass, depending on your flexibility. If you get up with damp clothes, it is too early to be on the lawn. 

Walk on the grass too early and all you are doing is compacting the soil. Also, raking wet soil just invites weeds. It tears up the grass allowing the weed seeds that have been dormant to sprout.

Sure, it looks yucky, so does everything else this time of year. Hang tight. The lawn will eventually dry out. When it does, rather than raking, save your back. Set the lawn mower blade as high as you can, put on the grass catcher and vacuum the lawn. It is much easier on the grass and the gardener. The resulting “hay” is a candidate for the compost pile. It will start to decompose quite rapidly as we got a lot of North Dakota’s fertilized soil blown on the snow that will be picked up with the grass.

If you or the neighbors have a dog, check for bones, the neighbor’s door mat and other assorted “treasures’ he may have liberated during the winter. It’s a good idea to remove any of the dog’s droppings as they shouldn’t go in the compost and when mowed, tend to paint the nearest buildings or vehicles. Tough to scrub off too.

Most mowers will pick up and grind up small twigs. Added to the compost, they make air pockets helping to increase composting activity. Pick up the bigger sticks by hand as they may jam the mower.

This is a good kid chore as they are closer to the ground and don’t have to bend so far.

Don’t be in a hurry to uncover your flowers. If you see lumps in the mulch where tulips or daffs are trying to poke through, just grab your potato fork and gently lift the mulch. If it gets cold and you have removed all the mulch, snow, if we have any, will help keep the soil cold and keep the plants from popping up to soon. Remove mulch a little bit at a time can keep it handy. This is Minnesota where the weather can turn on a dime. 

If you hate to weed, leave at least 3 inches of mulch on the flower garden, adding more as it decomposes. If you feed the birds this winter, you probably have a mess under the feeder. While the soil is still frozen, simply sweep it up with a stiff broom. This is more effective than raking. If left on the ground, the rotting seeds can kill a bird if eaten. To make cleanup easier next spring, lay some weedstop fabric under the feeder. In the spring you can just roll it up and dump the stuff on the compost pile. It is probably fertilized already.

This spring, use all the back savers you can. It will save you a trip to the chiropractor to get you upright and in working condition again.