Sunday, March 21, 2010

Garden Talks March 21-Raking the lawn, Lawn spots, Let the soil dry! Uncover perennials

Good friend Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited sends out some very nice gardening information and this recent post came to my attention so I thought I would pass it on to you. This is extremely topical and VERY good advice for us gardeners in Skillin's Country. Plants Unlimited is a terrific garden center based in Rockport Maine. Hammon and I talk quite often and I always learn something about gardening and garden center business when we do speak. I hope he benefits some as well. Plants Unlimited is always worth a visit and they can be found at and also at 629 Commercial Street (Route 1) in Rockport ME. Any comments I make are shown in italics:

"Raking the lawn is a true test of how out of shape you are after the winter!

As soon as the snow has retreated and your lawn is dry, rake the old debris, sand, twigs and other foreign matter off. This will help remove thatch and debris that might restrain grass growth as well as aerate the lawn. Air and light will also trigger lush growth. All of this helps to get your lawn greening and growing.

Wait until the grass is dry – not spongy. Working on lawns that are too wet compacts the soil, reducing the air in the soil – not the effect you are striving for!" Folks we are getting to that point in many sunny well drained areas of the yard, but maybe not so in wet, darker areas. So, choose your spots carefully. BUT I am a firm believer in giving your lawn a good thorough raking each Spring. A good vigorous raking helps so much when it comes to pullling out dead and unproductive material and letting sun and air into the soil area of your lawn!

"Examine any dead patches that might be in your lawn. If they are round, (almost a perfect circle) and pale yellow edged in pink, you probably have snow mold. This is a grayish, stringy fungus that lives under the snow. You may have to treat this with a fungicide but a good hard raking and aeration will usually be sufficient to control this fungus.

Dead areas on a lawn are not always snow mold. There should be less damage of lawns this spring since there was not much snow and ice packed on lawns this season. Most of this is NOT fungus - but rather only winter damage that should come back with raking and aeration.. "

Yes, you're eager to get into your garden but make sure the soil has adequately dried before you try to do too much. Avoid walking on partially frozen or wet ares because the compaction from your weight is damaging to the soil structure. If you must get out, lay down some planks to walk on. These will help distribute your weight and lessen compaction. Nothing beats a few good windy and sunny March days to dry out the garden."

This advice about letting the soil dry is pretty important. Working in or walking on a wet garden will severely compact the soil of your garden and this compaction can cause the soil to clump and stick together. This really keeps light and air that is essential for a healthy soil to process nutrients and break down organic matter. Be patient! Don't work in a boggy garden space!

"Groom any perennials now as the snow recedes. Cut back any stems you missed last fall to within a few inches of the soil line. Remove any debris from around them like leaves and stems. The plants will have fewer obstacles as they appear in the spring." Yes, keep pulling the mulch off the plants. I have a couple of areas of particularly new plantings from last year that I am going to keep covered for another week or two but other more established areas are going to get uncovered very soon. Many of you have probably already done this!

If you left your ornamental grasses standing last fall to create winter interest, the beauty is probably gone now! Snow has probably flattened them and made them quite unsightly. When you can finally get to these grasses, cut them down to within an inch or two of the soil line. This will help make way for new growth this spring!"

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 21, 2010

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