Eastern Nebraska and western Iowa are famous for being teased with beautiful warm weather only to watch the snow and cold return, says Nebraska Extension’s Scott Evans.
Thankfully, it’s usually only for a short time.
So what can be done in your yard and garden right now?
Nothing, says Evans, horticulture program coordinator at the Douglas-Sarpy County Extension.
“We should wait on pruning any of our woody plants until we move deeper into spring, ideally mid- to late April,’’ he said. “Our spring flowering shrubs: lilac, forsythia, fothergilla, viburnium, weigela and others should be pruned once they finish blooming.’’
Are you seeing white, cobweb-like patches in your lawn? Evans said it’s something called gray snow mold.
“Typically, we do not see a lot of damage from gray snow mold, but on rare occasions, it could stunt the turf,’’ he said. “Gently rake the webbing out of the lawn to help facilitate recovery.’’
The extension office is also receiving calls about tunnels in and on the surface of lawns.
Voles will use snow as cover, tunnel under it and feed on the crowns of the lawn along with other plant material. Again, the lawn should recover without any intervention.
Dog spots on lawns is another issue.
Because of all of the snow, many furry companions had limited options outdoors.
“The best option is to flood those spots with water to help dilute the urine,’’ Evans said. “There are no magical elixirs on the market to make them disappear.’’
Like with shrubs, Extension’s John Fech said, the word with lawns is wait.
Other than a little pickup of tree leaves and debris, the main activity is to walk around the yard and make notes on your observations.
Dead spots and thin patches should be placed on the “to-do calendar” for overseeding in mid-April.
“The word is certainly wait on fertilizing,’’ he said. “Late April would be a good time to apply a very light dose of fertilizer if the lawn is thin and yellow, but if not, waiting until late May is best.’’
A good March activity is to address the compost pile, Fech said.
“After a snowy February, the pile is probably soggy and ready to be turned,” he said. “This step will introduce air into the mixture of leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps and renew the decomposition process.’’
Turning the pile every two to three weeks will yield the dividend of great organic matter for the garden.
Fech’s to-do list for March:
Late winter evaluation: walk and look.
Pick up blown-in leaves.
Spy gray snow mold? Rake lightly and plan to overseed and apply a light nitrogen application in mid-April. If there’s no evidence of snow mold, there’s no need for fertilizer until late April, and maybe not even then depending on how the lawn greens up. Late May is more likely.
Apply a preemergent in mid-April if crabgrass was a problem in 2020.
Sharpen the mower blade.
Plan for aeration in mid-April.
Big goal for The Big Garden
The Big Garden is hoping to raise $50,000 during a monthlong fundraiser in April.
The money will help The Big Garden continue its work to increase community food security and provide emergency food assistance during the pandemic. Funds will help The Big Garden:
Build more community food gardens.
Plant more mini-orchards.
Teach more gardening classes.
Grow more food for the community.
In 2020, The Big Garden built 11 gardens and planted nine mini-orchards in Nebraska and Kansas. Staff and interns also maintained 40 school and nonprofit gardens in the Omaha area, growing about 15,000 pounds of nutrient-dense produce that was donated to local pantries and food distribution programs.
“During 2020, we took our educational programs virtual and will continue to offer new and fresh learning videos until we are allowed back into schools,” said development manager Cami Cavanaugh Rawlings. “We work with Omaha Public Schools and have lots of school gardens and orchards and really look forward to working with students in person again.’’
To donate, visit biggarden.org/aprilshowers.
The Big Garden’s spring plant sale starts April 15 and runs through May 15 at 5602 Read St. All seedlings are organically grown.
Spring Affair’s focus: Herbs and edibles. The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum recommends planting native and multi-season, multi-purpose plants that lend beauty, habitat and longevity to landscapes.
A year of limited grocery trips has many gardeners also focusing on kitchen gardens that can add flavor, freshness and versatility to their tables.
More than 40 years ago, the first Spring Affair focused on herbs, and in 2021, the garden event returns to its roots with a large offering of herbs and other edibles.
Spring Affair will again be safe and doable with online shopping. Gardeners can put plants in a shopping cart in late March at plantnebraska.org/spring-affair for pickup April 29-May 7 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln greenhouses on the north edge of East Campus. Signing up for the virtual Preview Party on March 26 gives you first choice of plants and pickup times.
Regardless of your experience with gardening, there are lots of resources to help you make the best plant selections for your enjoyment, as well as for broader environmental benefits like helping pollinators, conserving water, feeding wildlife, reducing chemical applications and more.
Lists of recommended plants, guides, publications and monthly tips can be found at plantnebraska.org/plants.