The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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May 28, 2014

Market Corner: Tips for spring 'yardening'

Get your gardens growing — but don't overlook the rest of your yard this spring:

1. Prune your non-flowering, deciduous shrubs back before new growth starts. Flowering shrubs should be pruned back soon after their own flowering period, like lilacs.

2. Any trees that were girdled (bark chewed off all the way around) by cute little rabbits, should be replaced. Nearly every fruit tree is grafted, so growth from the stump is not an apple or cherry tree — but just the rootstock.

3. This year we have had plenty of rain, but when we have a dry spring, don't let your shrubs and trees (especially the young plants) suffer. Get them off to a good start: Apply 1 inch of water per week if no rain falls. Your trees and shrubs are your most expensive plants, take care of them.

4. Best not to "tip prune" your evergreens like spruce. Rather, let them be natural (or in 15 years, you'll have a compacted mess at the top and loose au natural on the bottom).

5. Remove any plastic rings from around tree trunks before they outgrow them. Plastic rings can become embedded in the tree. Also, remove any paper or protective wrap. Insects love to hide under the wrap and can damage the bark.

6. Gently rake the spring lawn. Do your tougher raking in the fall when the grass is fully grown and tough. Hard spring raking rips up tender new grass plants.

7. Ways to turn turf into a garden area: One method is to use a non-selective herbicide to kill off the top growth. Once it is dead, use a flat bottom shovel to cut the top vegetative layer off and remove. You can till it in, but you will have clumps of turf material everywhere – which makes cultivation with a hoe more difficult. A non-chemical method would be to solarize the area using black plastic for a few weeks or until the plant material all dies back. Then, remove the dead layer in the same fashion.

Stop by the Mankato Farmers Market and bring your questions for our Master Gardeners booth, available 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at the new location in the Best Buy parking lot.

Diane Dunham Selly, Mankato Farmers Market

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