Friday, March 15, 2013

I Declare That It Is Spring -- Let's Get To Work!

"Tommies" - Crocus tommasinianus  ©BDG
I know that it is still early March here in New England and we can get a foot of snow in a moment's notice (see last week), but temperatures in the upper 50s this week and a few not so cold nights may have given us our first Growing Degree Days.  And with the time change, everything just seems brighter.

With the weather developments, Snow Drops, Species Crocus, Rock Iris are up and budding or flowering on top of the wonderful Witch Hazels.  Of course the Snow Drops were here over a month ago but quickly disappeared. I have also noticed a bit of Snow Mold around gardens with the melting snow, more on this later.  

"Snow Drops' - Galanthus elwesii  ©BDG
With all the rain and recently melted snow, I don't suggest tromping through your garden beds, but a light raking of beds to expose flowering bulbs and to clean up debris that can harbor disease in the wet spring is a good idea.   All the leaves and debris on your lawn and in your beds can be magnets for disease in the spring with the cool temperatures and ample moisture.  If you do a little raking of your lawn this early in the season, do not scratch hard, just enough to pick up the debris and break up mold and matted down grass.  Save the hard raking and de-thatching for later when the soil is drier and the grass has started to grow.

"Barr's Purple Crocus" -
Crocus tommasinianus 'Barr's Purple'  ©BDG 
Now is also the perfect time to gather some soil from your garden beds for a soil test.  Before you potentially waste hundreds of dollars on the wrong fertilizers or soil amendments, take a look at the quality of your soil and the nutrients that may already exist.  With pH being one of the critical measures of your soil quality, a soil test will give you clear recommendations for proper care in the upcoming season.  Check out my post from last fall on soil testing with UMass.  This is simple, cheap and can yield some amazing results, and UMass provides excellent recommendations.

Snow Mold
Snow Mold ©BDG
There are a variety of snow molds: Pink Snow Mold, Gray Snow Mold, Cottony Snow Mold are some of the common ones here in New England.  The spores stay in your soil and present in the Spring when the conditions are right by growing on the grass under the snow.  The most critical component is that the soil be moist under the snow.  This years late snows have come after rain when the soil is wet, and this patch that I photographed yesterday on a property appeared as the snow quickly melted this week.

Snow Mold ©BDG
The molds disappear as the soil and grass dries and rarely causes any long-term problems, but if you notice mold on your lawn, especially in shady areas, I would suggest taking a spring rake and lightly raking the area to break up the mold and loosen up the matted down grass that promotes the mold and keeps the soil and grass moist.  Also, if you see areas of matted grass that have turned a light brown, use the rake to break up the grass and allow air and light to penetrate.

It might seem a little crazy, but any raking like this will make the molds disappear quickly and give your lawn a quick start.  Leaving big patches of mold will not kill your lawn but it will get off to a slow start and take some time to recover later.

If you have dogs, use these early days to clean up a winter's worth of dog poop.  If left on as the grass breaks dormancy, it can also lead to some early problems.

Spend an hour in the garden this weekend and see what is happening.  This is my favorite time of the year.   The promise of a new season to come, and the pledge to tackle those things I didn't get to the year before.  New ideas...everything just seems new and you have a chance to start over...again. 

Galanthus elwesii  ©BDG

Barr's Purple Crocus  ©BDG

Giant Snow Drop  ©BDG

Witch Hazel still going strong  ©BDG



  1. Love your witchhazel. We have snowdrops but no crocus yet.

  2. Thanks for the late winter/early spring raking tips. There's still some snow cover in my Maine garden, but I'm hoping to do some later winter pruning this weekend. -Jean

  3. Amazing to see your garden so much ahead of us here...still getting frigid temps and snow here and predicted to stay that way until the end of March. I hope to rake once we dry out...that 16 feet of snow has caused a bit of flooding.

  4. Really timely tips, but I have to wait here until later next week into the ten day forecast when we FINALLY get out of the twenties and low thirties. Nothing is showing yet here. Have you started designing yet. Last year I had jobs in February and the year before in January. Finally we are seasonal again and people are waiting until the snow leaves.

  5. Snow mold also makes people sick. My son was extremely sick when we lived in North Dakota. He developed an allergy to mold that was worsened by the snow mold that kept popping up as the snow melted. The daffs have started blooming here but we have snow on the way. What a weird March!

  6. Beautiful heralds of spring! So Hopeful! Still too early here though the green stems and closed flowers of snowdrops are up in places where the snow has melted. Happy Spring, Passover and Easter!