Late spring results in some creative measures by gardeners to get ready for planting

By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

This is a miserable time of year for gardeners. The only green you see is in your house plants. You have repotted them, given then their spring tonic, fertilizer and your fingernails are clean. Now what?

Here are a few things you can do now to keep your hand in.

Take a tour of your estate. Check the lawn. If most of the snow has melted and the temps are getting warmer, you may see snow mold on your grass. This typically appears as a round straw-covered patch.

The grass is usually matted and can be covered with a white, pink, or gray fungus. It may even have some small mushrooms popping up in the area. It really looks gross, but the cure is quite simple. Simply rake lightly to encourage faster drying, and next year, cut the grass just a bit shorter in the fall, 2 ½ inches rather than the 3 to 3 ½ you cut it in the summer. 

Needle cast diseases look very similar, but winter injury will start where the snow line ends. Needle cast is a fungal disease and starts on one side of the trees and works its way up. if you are sure the damage is from the winter, don’t be in a hurry to prune off the affected branches. Wait until budbreak. It is easier to see the damage then. 

If you wrapped your thin-barked trees last fall, don’t wait too long to uncover them. 

If moisture has collected between the wrap and the bark and the temps rise, the bark can split. Dark wraps can heat the tree’s sap causing the bark to split even if there is no moisture inside the wrap.

Winter injury on trees can be difficult to diagnose. If there is root damage, from compaction for instance, or stem damage, the tree may leaf out very early or not at all. It is now firewood. Losing a favorite shade tree is almost as bad as losing a pet. To prevent this heartbreak, only plant zone hardy trees. Keep them well-watered for the first 5 years. Mulch them heavily with wood chips being careful not to have the mulch touch the bark. This not only keeps the roots cool, it reduces moisture evaporation and the competition for food and water from grass. It also keeps the deadly weed wacker and lawnmower from damaging the trees’ tender bark. Many young trees are permanently damaged by bark injury. Renew the mulch as it rots.