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Maintenance by The Season

Spring

prunePrune off remaining perennial debris from last fall down to the level of the mulch.
wheelbarrowApply slow release fertilizer pellets to planting beds and gardens.
wheelbarrowApply a soil pH adjuster such as aluminum sulfate or disintegrating sulfur pellets to acid loving plants to keep them healthy in our alkaline soils of southern MN. Plants that will require this are all your evergreens, plus broadleaf evergreens like Rhododendrons, Boxwood, evergreen creeping Euonymous, Pachysandra, Vinca and also acid lovers such as Blue macrophylla Hydrangea, Azaleas, Ilex winterberry, and ferns. Blue Hydrangea will require re-application bi-weekly to keep the blossoms blue instead of pink.
sprayApply a pre-emergent herbicide (such as Preen) on planting beds and gardens. Keep in mind that this works by preventing germination of seeds, so this will kill not only weed seeds, but flower and vegetable seeds too. Do not use Preen in an area where you want seeds to grow. This generally is effective for 4 weeks, at which time you can re-apply as needed.
wheelbarrowApply a fresh layer of mulch once the ground has thawed to maintain a 3” average depth for optimum weed control.Doing this before the perennials emerge makes the job much easier.
fully emerge.
pruneTrim other vines for size control as desired.
prunePrune dead tips or branches off of roses when the bud out with the first signs of growth. Some top-hardy varieties may die back to the mulch completely if there was no snow cover to protect them. If you see them coming back from the base and they are a hardy rose, simply cut all of the dead branches off and watch them grow and bloom by June anyhow.
prunePrune dead or broken branches out of evergreens from winter snow damage and prune to shape or control size as well.

This list includes: Arborvitae, Boxwood, Chamaecyparis, Evergreen Euonymous, Fir, Hemlock, Juniper, Larch, Microbiota, Spruce, and Yew. Pines need only be bud pinched if at all possible as the buds emerge to control growth. Only prune back on the branches if the pine has been neglected.

prunePrune summer flowering shrubs for shape or size control before they leaf out. This list includes: Barberry, Diervilla, Clethra, Cotoneaster, Currant, Dogwood, deciduous Euonymous (burning bush), Honeysuckle, Hydrangea arborescens (white Annabelle type), Hypericum, Ilex (winterberry or Holly), Maple, Ninebark, Potentilla, Sambucus (Elderberry), Smokebush, Snowberry, Sorbaria (false spirea), most spireas, Stephanandra, Sumac, Tamarisk, Viburnum, Willow, and Witch Hazel.

As new growth appears after the flowers fade on the azaleas and rhododendrons, pinch the new growth back by approximately half so the shrub develops more thickly and as a result has more flowering branches next spring.

wheelbarrowApply a crabgrass preventer/ fertilizer combo on the lawn areas as the lilac bloom buds are emerging when the soil temperature is at least 50 degrees. Do not apply this for 2 weeks if you have put down grass seed and for 30 days after application, do not apply any grass seed asn the crabgrass preventer is non-selective and kills all seeds.
Plant your annuals, vegetables, and summer flowering bulbs such as gladiolas and dahlias after danger of frost has passed. Generally this is May 20th or later in MN.

SUMMER

prunePrune spring blooming shrubs for shape and size control within 3 weeks after their blossoms finished. These shrubs set their next year’s bloom buds about 4 weeks after blooming and so pruning in this window prevents cutting off next spring’s blooms. This list includes: Andromeda, Azalea, Chokeberry, Cotinus (smokebush), Daphne, Forsythia, Fothergilla, Blue macrophylla Hydrangea, Lilac, Magnolia, Mockorange, Prunus (sandcherry, plum & almond), Quince, Rhododendron, Serviceberry, spring flowering spirea types such as Snowmound or Bridal Wreath & Renaisssance and Weigelas.
prunePrune Japanese Tree Lilac, Magnolia and Cercis (redbud) trees only for shape shortly after blooming as they are spring blooming trees and set bloom buds about a month after blossoms finish.
prunePrune any of the evergreens from the spring pruning list again for size control if desired.
wheelbarrowApply a 2nd lawn fertilizer application roughly 30 days after the first one, but no later than June 21st as the weather will get too hot and the fertilizer may burn your lawn. This is not necessary if you spent extra for a premium slow release fertilizer the first time in May as it will last more than 30 days. If you have dandelions or other broad leaf weeds, use a weed killer/ fertilizer combo.
sprayMaintain your lawn with 1” of water per week preferably with natural rain, but with sprinklers if necessary. Water established trees and shrubs only if we get drought conditions or if they show water stress.

flowerDeadhead perennials as they go out of bloom to force re-bloom if you would like more blossoms. This technique can also be used to neaten up a flopping plant or unattractive spent blooms or dead ends. This works on the following perennials: aconitum, alcea, aquilegia, armeria, asclepias, astrantia, bergenia, buddleia, campanula, centaurea, centranthus, chelone, cimicifuga, coreopsis, delphinium, dianthus, digitalis, echinacea, gaillardia, geranium, gypsophila, hemerocallis, heuchera, iris, lavender, leucanthemum, limonium, lobelia, lychinis, malva, monarda, nepeta, oenothera, penstemon, phlox paniculata, platycodon, polemonium, salvia, scabiosa, tradescantia and veronica.

FALL

wheelbarrowAfter the scorching summer heat breaks, usually the last week in August or first week in September, apply a lawn fertilizer.
Four weeks later, apply a winterizer lawn fertilizer.
shovelDig those summer flowering bulbs out (they aren’t winter hardy) and store them in a cool dry and dark location for the winter.
spadePlant winter hardy spring flowering bulbs now such as crocus, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, scillia and squill. You may leave them in the ground permanently although they often don’t flower as well in subsequent seasons. Some varieties, however, do very well and prosper and even naturalize with age.
wheelbarrowIf you prefer not to wait until spring, you may apply a fresh layer of mulch now to maintain a 3” depth for optimum weed control. Especially if your mulch is thin now, this will protect your perennials from winter dehydration and damage.
pruneCut off most of the perennials down to the level of the mulch once a killing frost has occurred and their foliage has turned brown which is a sign of dormancy. Leave those which provide winter interest from their tall thick stems or interesting seed heads. The perennials you may consider leaving until spring because of their winter beauty are: all ornamental grasses, achillea moonshine or coronation gold, aconitum, actaea or cimicifuga, aquilegia, asclepias, astilbe, astrantia, aster, baptisia, centaurea, chelone, fall blooming clematis, coreopsis grandiflora, dendranthema, dictamnus, digitalis, echinacea, echinops, epimedium, eupatorium, filipendula, gaillardia, gypsophila paniculata, heliopsis, hibiscus, liatris, leucanthemum, lobelia, lupinus, papaver, penstemon, perovskia, phlox (upright types), rudbeckia, sedum (fall blooming types), tanacetum and veronica.
flowerSome perennials are evergreen and semi-evergreen and should not be cut back at all, although you may remove any damaged tissue in the spring. These include: armeria, asarum ginger, bergenia, cerastium, creeping phlox, dianthus sweet william, gallium sweet woodruff, hellebores, heuchera, iberis, lamium, pachysandra, stachys, lavender and vinca minor.

prunePrune summer flowering shrubs once leaves have dropped as desired to save time in the spring. (see the list in the spring section) Avoid pruning roses as they are subject to winter damage on the pruning wound.

WINTER

prunePrune oaks in January or February as it is the only time when they can be pruned safely without a chance for spreading diseases.
prunePrune Maples and crabapples in March.
prunePrune most deciduous trees in late winter (February-March). Do not trim Magnolia, Japanese tree Lilac or Redbud until summer.
pruneGet a head start on spring by pruning the summer flowering shrubs on a nice winter day. See the list under the spring category.