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Getting ready to grow


Debbie Johnson
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 573-882-9183

Photo available for this release:

"I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose, I would always greet it in a garden." ~ Ruth Stout, author of “No-Work” gardening books

Credit: Eric Hill

Description: Flower buds beginning to open

Published: Friday, March 29, 2013

Story source:

Jennifer Schutter, 660-665-9866

Your Show-Me Garden: MU Extension brings you gardening tips from experts around the state.
Related radio news story by Debbie Johnson. For downloadable broadcast-quality audio, contact Johnson at 573-882-9183.

KIRKSVILLE, Mo. – Winter is the time when Mother Nature slumbers. Spring is when plants, trees and gardens begin to wake up. So as the greenery rubs the sleep from its eyes and readies for the growing season, there are chores you need to do.

Even with the recent snows, signs of spring are all around. Robins are hopping through yards, Canada geese are honking through the sky and the days are getting longer. Once the snow has disappeared and your grass, gardens and flower beds are no longer seas of mud, garden cleanup can begin.

“Rake your lawn to get rid of dead growth,” said Jennifer Schutter, horticulture specialist for University of Missouri Extension. “Removing leaves, twigs and winter debris will let light and air reach the soil, encouraging the grass to grow.”

While removing the debris from the lawn and garden is a good place to start, hold off on removing winter mulches until reliably warm temperatures arrive, Schutter said. You can use this time to prune ornamental grasses and hardy perennials, but you’ll need to wait for warmer weather before you start pruning roses.

“A Macon County Master Gardener, who is rose grower, once told me that you should wait until April 15 to do any major pruning on roses,” Schutter said.

While taking care of these cleanup chores, you may notice some plants have heaved up out of the ground. Freezing and thawing cycles can sometimes uproot plants. Shutter said this is the perfect time to correct that, as long as the soil is ready.

“Resist the urge to start digging in your flower beds too early. You can damage the soil structure,” Schutter said. “If you pick up a handful of soil it should fall apart, not stick together like glue.”

Once the soil is dry enough, you can start to work beds and add compost or decomposed manure to prepare the soil for planting. This is also a great time to get a jump on weeds.

“Weeds start growing vigorously early. So when you spot them, yank them out because they’re easier to pull out when their roots are still shallow in the early spring,” Schutter said. “Chickweed and henbit are the earliest weeds that you’ll see in your garden and in your flower beds.”

Don’t forget about your trees and shrubs. Remember the wraps you added for winter protection. It’s time to take them off.

“Remove tree guards, wraps or burlap protection from young tree and shrubs. They don’t need them during the warmer months, “Schutter said. “They don’t allow enough air movement around the base of the trunk and that can promote bark rot.”

Flowers are another sign of spring. Spring bulbs will begin their show as warm temperatures arrive. Shutter said tulips daffodils, hyacinths, peonies and iris will bring their beautiful display to your garden. So just sit back and enjoy these early bloomers in all their glory.

For more information:

Sampling and testing garden, landscape and lawn soil:

Preserving good soil structure:

Making use of compost: