While the cold and dark days of winter may seem to drag on forever, we should be looking forward to the time when early signs of Spring will appear. This list of Spring gardening tips is all concerned with preparation, but the first on the list reminds us not to jump the gun and then be caught out by late frosts. Other tips remind us that tree pruning, spoil prep and lawn care should all be on our to-do lists at this time. I found this article by Ron Wolford on the U of I Extension website.
Winter storms and cold seem to go on forever, but eventually that first crocus will pop, grass will green and spring rains will fall, said Ron Wolford, U of I Extension horticulture educator.
“So grab your trowel, rake and hoe and get ready for spring with the following tips,” said Ron Wolford
Prepare for Frost
The frost-free date for the Chicago area is around April 25 near the lake and May 15 away from the lake. The term frost-free means that there is still a 50-50 chance of frost on the frost-free date. Be prepared for late spring frosts. Cover tender plants with row covers, cardboard, blankets, hot caps, or newspaper. We have had frost as late as Memorial Day.
Prune Trees and Shrubs
Spring is a good time to prune trees and shrubs while they are dormant. Without leaves; it is easy to see the framework of the plant. Complete pruning before buds break. For general pruning of trees and shrubs remove any dead or diseased branches. Remove all water sprouts and suckers. Water sprouts are stems that grow at right angles to the branches. Suckers grow from the base of the tree. Prune out crossing or rubbing branches. Prune back to a bud or a branch. When cutting back to a bud, make sure the bud is facing outward. This will cause new growth to grow to the outside of the plant.
Shrubs that bloom in the spring like lilacs, spirea and forsythias should not be pruned in early spring. Pruning would remove flower buds. Prune after they finish flowering.
Never work your soil when it is wet. Digging or tilling wet soil will compact your soil turning it into clumps as hard as concrete. It will take several seasons of adding organic matter to the soil to rebuild its structure. Use the “squeeze” test to check if your soil is dry enough to work. Take a handful of soil and squeeze it. If the soil crumbles through your fingers, you can work your soil. If it stays in a ball after squeezing, the soil is too wet to work and you should give it a few days to dry.