Spring is Here, Enjoy the Flowers!

Spring has officially begun. Things outside are beginning to turn green, some early season blooming plants are beginning to bloom, and the weather is warming up. Enjoy your spring weather and plants.

Daffodil Blooming
Daffodil Blooming

Daffodils are the bright yellow flowers that are just beginning to open up now. These are one of the two more commonly planted spring blooming bulbs, Tulips being the other. Both of these bulbs are planted in the fall, or in October, to bloom in the spring. They bloom in early spring, mid-spring, or late spring, depending on the variety. Once they have finished blooming for the year, leave all the foliage until it dies back in the fall. The foliage is still taking in sunlight to build sugars for the bulb to be able to bloom in the spring the following year.

Photo from: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org
Red Maple Flowers Photo from: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org

Red Maples are the silver barked trees with bright red small flowers on them now. These are some of the earliest blooming trees in our environment. I always think that the blooming of the red maples is a sign of spring. After the blooms fade, the tree will begin to grow leaves for the rest of the growing season to provide us with shade and beauty.

Crocus Blooming
Crocus Blooming

Crocus is one of the earliest blooming minor bulbs. Crocus blooms in March or early April with 2-3 inch flowers that range in color from white to purple to yellow and will close up on cloudy days and at night. Crocus has grasslike foliage that is very narrow and has a white stripe down the center. This plant will bloom before the foliage fully appears and then after only a few weeks, the whole plant is dormant again.

Flickr image courtesy of Richard Elzey per CC license
Forsythia Shrub Flickr image courtesy of Richard Elzey per CC license

Forsythia is the yellow flowering shrub that is blooming right now or are finishing up their blooming period for this year. Forsythia is another signal of spring coming. It is a large shrub that grows up to 8-10 feet tall and 10-12 feet wide. The small flowers are bell-shaped and are clustered along the branches of the plant. Forsythia grows fairly quickly and will need to be pruned, but pruning should be held off until after it blooms in the spring of the year. This is a shrub that will take to a rejuvenation pruning when it gets full of old, less productive and large canes. The rejuvenation pruning is when the entire shrub is cut off at about 6 inches above ground level. It will regrow back into a healthy, productive shrub.

Flickr image courtesy of Glenn Kraeck per CC license
Lilac Shrub Flickr image courtesy of Glenn Kraeck per CC license

Lilacs will soon begin to bloom with fragrant purple flowers. Lilac is one of my favorite spring scents, as the flowers are strongly, but sweetly, scented. This shrub will grow up to 20 feet tall, if you purchase the straight species. However, there are many dwarf varieties that do not grow so large. There are also new varieties that will rebloom to ensure a longer season of flower production for those of us who can’t get enough of the scent of the flowers. This shrub can be pruned after it blooms like the forsythia can.

Spring Preparations for Lawn and Garden

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We have finally reached March, and the beginning of spring is right around the corner. We don’t want to get out and do too many things in our yards and gardens too early in the year, but there are some things to bring you out of cabin fever. Here is a listing of our usually spring activities and when the best time to do them would be.

We can now begin to start our seeds indoors for transplants into our gardens later in the spring. Remember, we want to wait until Mother’s Day to plant most of our vegetables outside, unless they are cool season crops. You should start things like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and head lettuce indoors about 10 weeks prior to transplanting outside. Other plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants can be started indoors 6-7 weeks in advance of planting outdoors. Vegetables such as watermelons, cantaloupe, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, and beans should be planted from seed directly into the garden in May. Peas and other cool season vegetables can be planted in the middle to the end of March. The saying is that you can plant your peas and potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day, or some say Good Friday. Either day would be fine to plant your peas and potatoes from the middle to the end of March.

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Roses can also be pruned back at this time of the year. The best time to prune roses is February to March or in early spring. When you prune your roses, start by removing all the dead, diseased, or damaged branches.   If it is a dead or diseased branch, cut back at least one inch below the dead area and above a live bud. If there are no live buds, cut the entire cane out. After that, you should prune up to one-third of the older branches and canes.

Other types of shrubs can be pruned next month, in April. Things such as honeysuckle, ninebark, barberry, and burning bush should be pruned in the early spring. To prune these types of shrubs, we should cut out the older canes and ones that are dead. As with roses, we need to make sure that we are only cutting out one third of the plant. If it is a plant that blooms in the spring, such as forsythia, lilac and spring-blooming spirea, we should wait to prune it until just after it has flowered.

Turf can be overseeded or reseeded from the end of March through the beginning of April. Be sure that you are buying certified weed free seed. The best grass choices for eastern Nebraska are either 100% tall fescue, 90% tall fescue with 10% Kentucky bluegrass, 100% Kentucky bluegrass, or 100% buffalograss. Mixes are alright to use in Nebraska, but you want to make sure it is a good mix. If you purchase a mix, avoid any that contain annual bluegrass, ‘Linn’ perennial ryegrass, or ‘Kenblue’ Kentucky bluegrass. After you have mowed one time on the new seed, you can then put your crabgrass pre-emergent herbicide down to control crabgrass for the year. Wait to use 2,4-D products on your newly seeded lawn areas until after you have mowed at least three times on the new turf.