By Anita Gail
Nebraska Extension Master Gardener 

Master Gardener Tips for the Panhandle


Here is the weekly crop of Master Gardener tips from Nebraska Extension in the Panhandle, relevant to local lawn and garden issues in the High Plains and consistent with research-based recommendations.

Tread carefully to avoid soil compaction: As you venture out into your landscape and planting beds, be mindful of how wet the soil is. Kids, pets and people walking on soil that has excessive moisture can cause compaction. A compacted soil can continue to cause plant stress throughout the growing season. Walking on wet soil breaks down the soil aggregates, making it hard for plant roots to penetrate and for water and air to infiltrate or move through the soil pores.

Wait to prune shrubs that bloom in the spring: As the temperatures start to warm, we often get excited to get out into the yard and enjoy spring! This would be an excellent time to start to prune and cleanup shrubs. But don’t prune shrubs such as forsythia, lilac, and some spirea, as these shrubs bloom on old wood and pruning off any branches at this time would take off blooms. If you are unsure, remember shrubs that bloom in the spring bloom on old wood and you won’t prune them until after they bloom.

Later-blooming shrubs can be pruned in spring: When venturing out into your yard to start some of your spring cleanup, think about cutting back summer flowering shrubs such as potentilla or Japanese Spirea. Shrubs that bloom in the summer to late summer bloom on currant years wood and early spring is the time to prune them. Remove one-half to three-fourths of the stems. Dogwoods will need one-third of the old stems removed down to the crown in order to maintain their bright colored stems.

Planting a tree? Check the site: Spring is a great time to plant a tree, before purchasing take a close look at the area. Look up – are there overhead wires? If so, select a tree that at maturity won’t grow close to the wires. How much space do you have? Continual pruning on a tree to keep it in a small area will have a negative effect on it’s over all health. What is the environment, shady, wet, dry or sunny? Check the tag to make sure the tree you have selected will fit your site.

For planting date, look to a soil thermometer: An overlooked tool to help with gardening is a soil thermometer. Believe it or not the soil temperature is a better measure of when to plant than the calendar or the air temperature. Planting when the soil is too cool can result in, some seeds to rot and transplants just sitting there. Take the soil temperature a couple of times during the day and average the temperature, the reading needs to be consistent four or five days in a row.

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