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The Journal Gazette

Friday, March 10, 2017 10:01 pm

It's still bit early to spray, fertilize

Ricky Kemery

Q. There are weeds coming up on my yard and on my driveway. I know it’s early but can I take care of them now? The weather has been so warm; can I get ahead of the game with spring spraying, fertilizer and planting?

A. It is true that our winter has been unusually warm because of La Nina conditions that have set up over the past several months. The forecast is for a cooler early March; followed by warmer-than-average temperatures predicted for spring into summer.

I think it is a bit early to consider weed control measures with traditional herbicides. Most herbicides need temperatures reliably into the higher 60s and above to work well. For now I would tackle weeds in the driveways and sidewalks either with vinegar or the careful use of boiling water. I would wait until at least mid- to late March to apply crabgrass control and or broadleaf weed control to the lawn.

It’s really about being observant and looking at long-range weather forecasts. If the forecasts show temps above 65 degrees for a good spell in mid-March, then go ahead and take care of weeds in the lawn with traditional herbicides. As long as the ground is not frozen, it really is never too early to apply crabgrass controls.

Transplanting or even planting trees and shrubs early (as long as the soil is not a goopy mess) is a good idea. The longer one can give trees and shrubs time to establish roots in the spring, the better the plants will do in the heat of the summer.

One must wait to apply fruit tree sprays until there is a half an inch of growth on the tree. Who knows when that will be this year?

Turf grass begins to actively grow when daytime temperatures are reliably above 60 degrees, and soil temperatures are above 55 degrees. Slow-release fertilizers for the lawn should be used this spring, and it helps (in my opinion) to apply when the lawn actually begins to grow.

I believe that pruning grapes should be done soon. Remember to try and prune back to about 80 to 100 love buds on the plant. Also remember that canes that produced grapes last year can be totally removed.

Dormant pruning of fruit trees would be fine to do now. Remember to prune no more than a third of the tree in any one season. Prune straight up, crossing and branches that grow to the interior of the tree; and you will have better fruit production.

Deciduous trees can be pruned anytime. Maple trees are probably running some sap now, so it would be better to wait to prune until later in the spring.

Gardens can be tilled anytime as long as the soil is not frozen, and one cannot squeeze water out of a ball of soil.

Gardeners can take advantage of early warm spring weather as long as they don’t try to get too far ahead of the game.

The Plant Medic, written by Ricky Kemery, appears every other Saturday. Kemery is the extension educator for horticulture at the Allen County branch of the Purdue Extension Service.