There's so much more to a great yard than just mowing the lawn.

Do and Don’t This Warm Valentine’s Weekend

Wow it’s warm for February! My daughter asked me why we didn’t own a convertible car. I answered, “Because we live in Colorado. It could be freezing next week.” In fact, it looks like President’s Day will be snowy. Talk about erratic weather!

columbine

Columbine is often one of the first perennial flowers to emerge from winter dormancy.

With the unusually warm conditions, it can be confusing to know what to do now and what to put off for later. While planning landscape maintenance work this week, I’ve noticed many plants emerging from winter dormancy already. Although it’s not common to see green so early, we experienced a very warm spring in 2012. Based on my experience taking care of landscapes during that time, here’s what I suggest tackling and putting off.

DO NOW

  • Be sure to winter water, especially your lawn. The warm temperature causes some plants to grow, especially Kentucky bluegrass. Growth means the plants are using the water that remains in the soil, which can ultimately lead to dehydration and death.
  • Direct your energy to spring cleanup and mulching. I’m a big fan of cutting back ornamental grasses and perennials during warm days in late winter. Many plants that naturally grow rapidly in spring have already produces several inches of growth, like columbine and blue oat grass. Occasionally, the tips of the new growth will get frosted after the old growth is removed, but the plants will rapidly outgrow it. It’s good to get spring cleanup done while the weather allows.
    Groundcovers in spring

    Groundcovers greening up beneath a red twig dogwood.

  • This is a good time of year to prune trees and shrubs. Here’s a video about using thinning vs. heading cuts when pruning shrubs. I’ve also posted an article for people who have relatively newly planted trees. It covers why it’s important to prune deciduous trees while they are young.
  • Protect precious plants from frost. Watch the weather and protect any especially important plants with a sheet or frost blanket when the temperatures dip below freezing.

PUT OFF FOR LATER

  • Don’t plant now. I have to admit I was just in my local home improvement store and felt a compelling wave of spring fever. What’s new in the garden section this year? I had to force myself to walk away. I can guarantee you we’re going to have more cold weather. So wait to plant so your investment won’t die from frost exposure. Any plant looking great in the garden center today was shipped in from a warmer state.
  • Don’t fertilize your lawn too early. Read more about this here.
  • Don’t turn on your sprinkler system for the summer. The upcoming cold weather can cause the components to freeze and leak. Use the spigot on the side of your house and a hose to water instead. Turn your system on in mid April.
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