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Cleanup and preparation for growing season
• When the bright yellow forsythia bush (pictured at left) is blooming, you can apply a preemergent weed killer, such as Preen, to your flowerbeds and borders. This prevents seeds from germinating and dramatically cuts down on weeding chores later in the season.
• Continue to cut back any perennials still standing. In larger gardens, this can be a big job. (A lightweight electric power hedge trimmer is excellent for this!)
• Avoid significant pruning on any spring- or early-summer-blooming trees or shrubs. You'll trim off developing flower buds. However, you can cut out damaged or diseased wood now or nearly any time of year.
• In the northern Midwest, spray fruit trees with dormant oil when the temperature is above 40 degrees. Dormant oil prevents scale insects, spider mites and other pests later in the season. You can also spray dormant oil on roses and other trees and shrubs that have been troubled by pests in the past.
• Delay mulching with wood chips and other weed-suppressing mulches until May and June, when the soil has had a chance to warm up. This is especially true in the northern Midwest.