Archive for March, 2012
Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
Successful Container Gardening Basics
Container gardening is hot, and rightfully so! It allows anyone the opportunity to grow plants, just about anywhere, and anytime. So, let’s take a look at the basic materials you’ll need to get started with your container gardening. So here’s what you’ll need to container garden:
1.) A container. Any container will work, as long as it’s large enough to support the root system of the plants you intend on growing in it, and that it has excellent drainage holes. Size and great drainage are the 2 most important factors.
2.) A good grade potting mix. These mixes are what the professional use, and although there are many brands to chose from, including organic potting mix, the basic ingredients include sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, compost and sometimes fine pine bark. Remember, you can re-use your potting soil year after year.
3.) Plant food – many potting mixes are basically nutrient free so you’ll need to add plant food. Use a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote for all season feeding, and then supplement additional feedings as needed with good old Miracle Gro, Fish Emulsion, organic food like the Espoma line, or a fertilizer of your choice, and feed as needed depending on what you’ll be growing in your containers.
4.) And here’s a real secret to container gardening. Plants in containers will be depending on you for water. So make sure you have a good Dramm water wand. And to help cut down on your watering, add Soil Moist to your soil-less mix. These tiny polymers swell up and absorb water, then as the potting mix becomes dry, the Soil Moist releases water back to the soil, basically cutting your watering in half. Another option is coconut coir – lighter than peat, holds more moisture, but extremely airy and feels dry to the touch. Coconut coir is also proving to be an excellent soil (clay soils) amendment as well.
Okay, now you’ve got the basics for container gardening. The rest is up to you and your imagination. “If it grows in the ground, chances are it’ll grow in a pot. And if you aren’t doing some type of container gardening, you just aren’t gardening!” Unless you’re growing it in straw bales – we’ll talk about later!
Interested in our spring gardening classes and workshops? Click here to learn more and get signed up! www.natorp.com
Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
Problems in the Garden
Its spring, you’re looking at the weather forecast, and it looks like there could be frost in many surrounding areas. Whether your yard receives a frost will depend on weather conditions, your location, and even more specific, whether the area is protected by the house, overhead structures, trees, or even sidewalks and driveways. Nevertheless, do be aware that when the chance of frost is there, open flowers, tender foliage, tropical plants, annuals, etc. would be most susceptible to frost damages. And how cold it gets, how long it lasts, and temperatures previous to the frost are major factors to the amount of frost damages that may be incurred. We cannot predict how much damage, if any at all, will occur, or which plants will be okay or not. Plants amaze us every year with the hardiness, as well as susceptibility to environmental factors out of our control.
Containers: For tender plants growing in containers, move inside the garage, unheated porch, or inside the home. Even under a large overhang may help protect plants in some situations. NOTE: Tender plants include annuals, vegetables (not most cold and root crops), tropical plants, plants recently purchased from a greenhouse and not ‘hardened off’, plants with new tender foliage, etc.
In Ground: For tender plants in the ground, watering the soil during the day helps hold warmth in the ground around the plants and hydrates the plants (dried out plants are more susceptible to frost damages). Covering with grow covers, light sheets ‘tented’ over the plants, using upside down pots, cardboard boxes, glass jars, milk jugs or just about any solid structure, as well as tomato cages wrapped in protective covering, etc. will help. Do not lay plastic on plants – use plastic only if you can create a greenhouse over the plants, and the plastic does not touch the plants. Be cautious laying any material directly on plants, as rain or snow could weigh down the material and cause physical damages to the plants. ‘Tenting’ is your best bet, and make sure all coverings are secured. For larger flowering trees or shrubs, or plants taller than you, generally leave them be.
Uncovering: If the daytime temperatures (after the frost night) go into the upper 40’s, be sure to uncover the plants during the day (once into the mid 40’s) and be ready to re-cover the plants should they need protection the following night.
Can’t Cover Plants: For light frosts, where you can’t cover, or it was a surprise frost, try spraying your plants, before the sun comes up, with a soft stream of cold water. This has varying results, but worth the try with light frosts to help minimize frost damage.
Whether your yard will have frost depends on each location. Watch the weather and watch the thermometer to see if the temps dip below 40 degrees (upper 30’s can have frost). Not sure what to do? When in doubt, cover or put the plants away.
(Buggy Joe Boggs (OSU Extension) will be coming out of hibernation shortly!)
Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
Garden Questions of the Week
“My Boston and Kimberly Queen ferns made it thru the winter, but really look thin and no so attractive. What can I do to make them look better?” -Great question, as this happens to many folks and they just throw the ferns away. Get drastic and cut them off, totally, about 2 inches above the top of the pot. Water as needed, maybe even do a little water soluble fertilizer, and sit back. 99.9% of the time, they totally re-grow and you have a brand new fern! Yes, always a risk they won’t, but it’s the best way I know to get them looking better after falling apart over the winter. Give them time, but they will re-grow.
“I need to treat my boxwood to help control boxwood psyllid and boxwood leafminer, and I want to treat my ash trees to protect against the Emerald Ash borer. When do I apply the systemic insecticide?” -The systemic insecticide is imidacloprid and is found in Bayer, Fertilome and Bonide Tree and Shrub Insect control. For the boxwood, apply it now as a soil drench for the psyllids and leafminers – fall is a good time as well. For the ash trees, wait until they are closer to leafing out before application – .fall works as well. Don’t forget you can use this for rose slug protection on your roses as well.
“I know it’s too early for tomatoes and peppers, but what can I be growing in the garden right now?” -Early crops for the garden include potatoes, onions, garlic, beets, carrots, chard, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, peas, radishes, spinach, turnips, and don’t forget to plant rhubarb, horseradish and asparagus as well. AND YES, ALL OF THESE CAN BE GROWN IN CONTAINERS! I LOVE HORSERADISH IN CONTAINERS!
“I get confused on when to prune flowering plants? Can you help?” -There are exceptions to the rule, but the general rule of thumb is this…if it flowers in the spring, that means it flowers on last year’s growth, so prune it after it flowers. If it flowers in the summer or fall, that means it flowers on new growth, so prune it in the spring. And for most needled and leafy evergreens, get their pruning done before the new growth starts.
“How soon should I hang up my hummingbird feeders?” -Right now! The hummingbirds are early, and have already arrived in our area and will keep showing up over the next several weeks. So get those feeders going!
“I haven’t applied my pre emergent herbicide to the lawn yet! I was told with the early warm weather some weeds have started growing. What can I do?” -You have a couple options. One option is to go ahead and apply the regular pre emergent that you normally would have used. Remember, those weed seeds don’t all germinate at one time. They start in early spring and continue into July. So, go ahead and apply the pre emergent. For those weeds that may have already started growing, be ready to spot treat them with an all purpose lawn weed killer like Bonide’s Weed Beater Ultra or Fertilome’s WeedFree Zone. Your other option is to apply a pre and post emergent herbicide! These are typically applied a bit later into the spring season, and not only do they stop weed seeds from growing, they also have post emergent controls, meaning they also have the ability to kill young weeds that have already started growing. So you get pre emergent and post emergent control! A couple examples of the pre and post emergent herbicides include Bonide’s Weed Beater Complete and HiYield’s Turf & Ornamental Weed and Grass Stopper. As usual, read the labels before applications, and always follow the directions. And I would still have an RTU of Weed Beater Ultra or WeedFree Zone on hand just in case you need to spot treat here and there.
“Last year I had bagworms galore on my evergreens. What can I do to prevent them this year?” -There are no preventions for bagworms, besides making sure you’ve hand picked and destroyed any remaining bagworms still hanging on your plants. These little bags can have as many as 500 plus eggs in them, so pick and destroy before they hatch, which usually occurs late May. If they show up at that time on your plants, then spray with Bt or Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew. But not before you see the whites of their beady little baggy eyes!
“When applying my Preen, do I need to put it on top of the mulch, or underneath the mulch?” -That’s a great question! And the answer depends on the situation! -If its bare soil and you’re mulching for the first time, apply Preen to the soil first, then mulch. If your budget allows, a second application on top of the mulch will be helpful for weed seeds blowing into the mulch. -If you’re simply top dressing or freshening existing mulch, apply Preen before you add the new mulch. -And if you’re already mulched and ready to go, simply apply Preen to the top of the mulch. And in all cases, make sure that the Preen gets watered in! As a reminder for those of you interested in using organic or natural products in your gardens, both Preen and Espoma now have their all natural pre emergent made from Corn Gluten. It needs to be reapplied more often, but it is a natural alternative for you.
Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
From the Garden to the Kitchen
Yardboy, Easter is coming soon! Here’s a favorite breakfast/brunch casserole perfect for entertaining Easter Bunny and his friends! My daughter-in-law, Jess, loves this casserole that her Mom, Maggie, makes for special occasions. Here’s my adaptation. Yum!
HOLIDAY EGG CASSEROLE
1 package crescent rolls
1 pound sausage, cooked, drained and crumbled
2 cups mozzarella, or your choice of cheese, plus 1 cup extra for sprinkling on top.
4 large egggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
Salt and pepper
Chives for sprinkling on top (opt)
Preheat oven to 425.
Pat crescent rolls in a sprayed 9×13 pan. Sprinkle sausage on top. Beat eggs with milk, salt and pepper and pour over sausage. Bake 20 minutes or until set. Five minutes before removing from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with chives.
-Rita Nader Heikenfeld, CCP, CMH
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
Gardening with the Bees – Most of the time, when we see a bee, our initial reaction is to kill it. And if you’ve been stung before, you know it can hurt. So naturally you become defensive, especially if you’re allergic to bee stings! But as best we can, we need to change our thinking from defense to offense, as our honey bee (and other pollinators) populations continue to decline to alarmingly low numbers. Without our bees and their pollinating abilities, we wouldn’t have most of the food we eat. In fact, one bite of every three we take was dependent on a honey bee for pollination.
-What’s causing the decline? There are many factors including mites, viruses and other diseases, chemical exposure, lack of nutrition (limited supply of good pollen and nectar sources), and of course, Colony Collapse Disorder, which may be a combination of all of the above (still a lot of research going on).
-What can you do to help? Although most backyard gardeners can’t do anything about the mites, viruses, diseases and over all Colony Collapse Disorder, we can do in our own backyards to help increase honey bees , native bees, and other pollinators within our yards and neighborhoods.
1.) Buy local honey: Help support your local bee keepers by purchasing locally produced honey and other honey related products. The honey is often more fresh and will contain vitamins and minerals that some commercially produced honey may lack.
2.) Garden for the bees: -Plant nectar rich plants in your garden, patio pots, window boxes, etc. -Try to create bee areas that are in full sun, and protected from the wind. -Make sure there are plants flowering at all times for the bees to work on. –Many weeds are an excellent source of nectar and pollen (dandelions and clover are great!). When possible let them flower for the bees to use, then pull or get rid of the weeds. –Try planting both native and non native nectar and pollen sources. Flowering shrubs, perennials, annuals, vegetables and herbs can all be great sources of nectar and pollen. –Provide a source of water. (Bee favorites include lavender, milkweed, daisies, coreopsis, crocus, Alliums, chives, catmint, salvia, sage, gayfeather, Penstemon digitalis, sedum, goldenrod, lambs ears, thyme, zinnias, etc. Trees and shrubs include crab apples, edible peaches and apples, hawthorn, flowering cherry, spirea, butterfly plant, caryopteris, etc.) For a complete listing of plants and great pollinator gardening information, visit www.polinators.org (Pollinator Partnership).
3.) Build it and they will come: Install bee nesting boxes and allow space along the edge of your garden to encourage the native bee populations. The solitary bee species that nest in boxes, hollow stems and ground won’t swarm and don’t sting. These are excellent pollinators and are already in your yards and gardens. By installing their nesting boxes, you help increase their populations. 250 Mason (orchard) bees can pollinate 1 acre of orchard!
http://www.davesbees.com/ – has a link to 96 page how to booklet!
4.) Protect swarms: If a swarm of honeybees happen to visit your yard and garden, don’t panic! They’re usually not aggressive. Give them time to move on, or call your local Extension office or Police to get phone numbers for local beekeepers that will gladly come and remove the hive safely and transport it elsewhere. You can often find people on swarm lists for your county online as well. Bee clubs:
5.) Reduce the use of pesticides: -If you must spray, use targeted pesticides that won’t affect bees, and spray when the bees are least active (early in morning – before 8am or at dusk – after 6pm, when the wind is not blowing). -If possible, don’t spray flowering plants that attract the bees, or at least try to treat the leaves only, not the flowers. Treat only plants that are being badly eaten. –Use integrated pest management methods (mechanical and cultural ways to control pests as well as chemical, such as hosing off bad bugs, knocking them off into a bucket of soapy water, using grow covers, hand picking, etc. Apply Insecticidal Soap or Horticultural Oil before getting out the stronger insecticides. Note: Pesticides will vary in their effect on bees. Dusts and wettable powders are more hazardous to bees than solutions or emulsifiable concentrates. Systemics are a safer way to control many harmful pests without sprays, but ‘may’ contaminate nectar or pollen. Read the label. Many insecticides, like Sevin or Spinosad (an organic spray) may be very low in toxicity to humans and pets, yet are extremely toxic to bees.
6.) Learn more about bees: Take the time to learn more about not only honey bees, but our native bees as well. Educate the kids about the importance of the bees, and how to watch for and avoid bees. (Only female honey bees can sting, and it truly is used as a defense mechanism only.)
So let’s all do our part to invite and allow these honey bees to do their jobs in our gardens. And the next time you smack a honey bee, just think about the impact you’ve made on our world of bees. Can you imagine what the world would ‘bee’ like without our pollinators? (Thanks to Bar-bee Bloetscher / OSU / ODA for additional bee information.)
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
Garden Questions of the Week:
“Did you say mow the grass now?” -Yes, even as early as 10 days ago. The first early / pre-mowing (lower the mower one notch) removes the old yellow / brown tips of the grass blades, helps pick up debris laying down in the lawn, pulls the existing grass blades up, evens it up, and within a couple days after mowing, your lawn looks like a new lawn and like you just fed it. As we get into the spring, please promise to mow the lawn when needed, not when you are available to mow it.
“When should I treat to kill the dandelions in my lawn?” -Let them flower! It’s the best early source of food for the bees! If you need to spot treat them later, do it after they finish flowering and are going into the puff-ball stage. Best time for control is mid to late fall – second is puffball stage in spring. And yes, spot treat as needed, not spraying the entire lawn. Feed the lawn when needed – spot treat for weeds when needed (and most effective time).
“With this warm weather, is it too late to apply pre emergent herbicides?” Not at all! Let’s get the lawn pre emergent in place as soon as you can. You can do the landscape beds next, and then the garden as needed. Please make sure you have the right pre emergent for what it is you’re using it on, trying to control, etc. Not sure which to use? Ask our garden pros at the garden stores!
“I applied my pre emergent in our lawn and now need to do some seeding. When can I do that?” -Probably next fall. Unless you used a pre emergent that allows grass seed to grow, it’s no seeding until fall. Both Greenview and Scott’s has a pre emergent with a starter fertilizer for lawns that need to be seeded if you need to sow seed this spring, or dormant seeded over the winter.
“Can I prune my Knock Out roses now?” -Yes, go ahead. Under normal weather conditions, we could have waited until early April, but the way it looks now, go ahead. I will be pruning mine this coming weekend / next week. No hurry, even though they have started to grow. By the way, I would hold off applying rose food. Let’s give them another couple weeks and see where the weather is, and then start out at ½ rates. Don’t want to push them along too quickly!
“I didn’t get my dormant spray on the fruit trees! Now what?” -In most cases, the warm weather caught us and fruit trees are no longer dormant. If not dormant, then you go to the regular in-season spray program, as they usually start at bud break.
“What can I start planting in the garden now?” -Before we look at that, one note of caution please. Do not try to till the garden too early! If the soil is too wet, you’ll create clumps of soil that will not break down for the rest of the year. So don’t be too anxious to till if the soil hasn’t dried out. And if it stays wet and you’re delayed a bit, don’t forget planting greens in containers early. That’ll get you those early crops growing while you wait for the soil to dry a bit. Cole crops (planting soon) include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards, spinach and lettuce, bok choy, onions, potatoes, peas, radishes, and more. Looking for early colors? Plant pansies – and yes, you can eat the flowers!
“I have wild onions coming up in my lawn. Besides digging them out, is there a weed killer that is safe for the lawn that will take out onions?” Digging them out is a good option (make sure you get roots and all), but there is a spray as well – Bonide’s Weed Beater Ultra. Granted it will take a couple applications, and make sure you bruise the foliage before you spray for better absorption thru their waxy foliage. The neat thing about Weed Beater Ultra – its one of the only lawn weed killers that works at colder temperatures – as low as 45 degrees, so you can go after these early weeds, earlier in the spring, and of course later in the fall. And you can reseed about 2 weeks after using it!
“My liriope looked great all winter, but now its browning and flattening out. What happened and what do I do?” -Actually can be pretty common with liriope – as the spring weather warms, it browns and flattens out just before the new growth appears. So your goal is to remove all the old foliage just before it starts to re-grow. If it already has started re-growing, just cut the old foliage above the new growth, leaving the new growth alone. By the way, make sure you have removed the dead grass on the ornamental grasses as well as perennials. These warm temperatures have everything coming along quicker than usual!
“Why am I seeing so many weeds in my beds so early this year?” -Those are winter annuals that started growing last fall from seed. Henbit, chickweed and hairy bittercress; the goal for control – get rid of them before they flower and set seed. Simply pull them out. Once they flower and seed, they are set to start growing again next fall. If that’s the case, next fall, apply a pre emergent herbicide in those beds to help stop the seeds from growing in the fall.
“When do I apply the systemic insecticide to control those bugs on my boxwood?” -Assuming you are referring to boxwood psyllids, which cause the new growth to curl, or boxwood leaf miner, which cause the leaves to blister and brown in the spring as they feed inside the leaf – the best time to apply the systemic is in the fall. But, it can be applied now, to help control the next generation of these two insects. Read the label and follow the instructions.
“I was just told to not put cut daffodils in the vase with other flowers. Is that true, and why not?” -Yes it is true – cut daffodils can secrete a substance in the water which can shorten the lives of the other flowers. So when using cut daffodils, place them in a vase for a day by themselves, and then put them with other flowers, or simply keep them in a vase all their own.
[Visit our website at www.natorp.com to view many tip sheets that may help answer some of your gardening questions.]
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
Problems in the
With the early
warm temperatures and warmer winter weather, one question has been “does that
mean more bugs this year”? Although time
will tell, the probable answer is yes and no. J “What kind of an
answer is that”, you ask? Well, bugs
like bagworms may benefit from the warmer weather as some could be lost due to
extended extreme cold temps, but also remember these insects (as most are), are
programmed to deal with the cold weather.
So bug populations won’t explode because of the warmer weather; but what
can happen is that we may be dealing with insects earlier (starting out earlier
due to the warm weather), and maybe longer into the season for those who have
multiple generations during the year.
Where they may have had 2 or 3 generations, starting earlier, they may
now have 3-5 generations. But again,
time will tell.
bugs, there is something we would like to ask you to do as we get into the
gardening season. If you experience
insect, disease or weed problems in your yard, promise that you will have the
potential problem identified, determine whether or not it can be or should be
treated, amount of damage caused if not treated, what are the alternatives for
control, looking at synthetics, natural, organic, or cultural controls, and
that you will always read and follow the directions on the label, saying to
yourself, “more is not better.” Promise?
[Buggy Joe Boggs
will be back in 3 weeks!]
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
From the Garden to the Kitchen
Yardboy, I was buying crabmeat for a stuffed crepe recipe I was making and wound up with an extra can. I had to take an appetizer to a party and decided to make this tried and true crabmeat dip with that extra can of crabmeat. Nobody could resist this oldie but goodie – it was gone in minutes. It looked attractive garnished with salad burnet from my herb garden.
HOT CRABMEAT APPETIZER
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 cups/7-1/2 oz (approx.) can flaked crabmeat, drained
2 tablespoons finely minced onion
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon cream style horseradish
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish: 1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
Preheat oven to 375. Put mixture into sprayed shallow casserole or 9” pie plate. Sprinkle with nuts and bake 15-20 minutes. Makes 2 cups
To serve: Crackers, chips, or raw veggies
-Rita Nader Heikenfeld, CCP, CMH
Tuesday, March 6th, 2012
March Gardening Checklist
-Visit the garden stores to see what’s new for 2012.
-Spring cleanup! Rake debris from beds, re-edge, and fluff up existing mulch.
-Cut back ornamental grasses, grind and toss into the compost pile. No compost pile? Get one started!
-Rake or pull Henbit, Chickweed, Purslane and Hairy Bittercress from beds and bare areas in lawns before they flower and go to seed.
-An excellent month for transplanting trees and shrubs, digging and dividing perennials, as well as planting new trees, shrubs and perennials.
-Add spring color by planting pansies, violas, primrose, and other cold hardy bloomers. -Dormant spray fruit trees and other plants as needed with Bonide’s ‘Horticultural Oil’. Continue seasonal spraying as needed with “Fruit Tree Spray”. Dormant prune as needed.
-Clean containers to prepare for container gardening. In March, start with cold hardy greens, as well as potatoes, peas, and many root crops as the soil warms.
-Late March / early April, begin to uncover plants that have been mulched and protected against winter damages. Look to move container plants being over wintered in the garage back outside.
-Get the mower serviced! As the lawn begins to green, go ahead and give it that first mowing of the season (usually late March).
-Feed the birds, and get those Hummingbird feeders out as they begin to move back into our yards.
-Use Deer repellents now to keep those deer moving on. ‘Deer Scram’, ‘Repels All’, “Liquid Fence” all can help. For repelling moles try using ‘MoleMax’ or ‘MoleScram’. -Make sure you soil is dry enough before tilling. Tilling wet soils will cause clumping which may not breakdown until fall.
-Gardening with straw bales? Get them in place to begin their “cooking” process, so they’ll be ready for May planting (or earlier if growing greens).
-Depending on the weather, mid to late March may be time to get weeds under control before they get started. Apply ‘Preen’, ‘Preen Organic’ or ‘Espoma Corn Gluten’ for pre emergent weed seed control in the landscape beds. Also apply a pre emergent to lawns for crabgrass and other weed seed control. If you’re spring seeding the lawn (or dormant seeded), use a pre emergent specially formulated for ‘newly seeded lawns’, or apply a pre emergent later in the spring after the seed is up and growing. Crabgrass and other weeds will ‘start’ germinating when the air and soil temperatures become 50-55 degrees consistently. So watch the weather and soil temps when judging times to apply pre emergent herbicides.
-Make your landscape plans now. Need a landscape design; maybe professional installation or maintenance? Call Natorp’s Landscape today – 513-398-4769 – or visit www.natorp.com!
Tuesday, March 6th, 2012
Garden Questions of the Week
“I want to grow some of my annuals from seed this year. Have any suggestions how to get started?” Do I! Here are a few tips to help you along: Make sure you have the right seed starting supplies. Top grade potting mix or seed starting mix. Don’t go cheap here – use the good stuff for better results. And remember to pre-moisten your seed starting mix before you plant the seeds. -You’ll need something to grow them in – small clay or plastic pots, peat pots, Cow pots, or seed trays all work well. Make sure they have good drainage. -A misting bottle works great for watering the new seedlings – not so invasive and east to control the water flow. Also used when applying water soluble fertilizers.
-Regular florescent lights work just fine for growing seedlings indoors (use one warm and one cool). Make sure you keep the lights within 3-6 inches of the tops of the seedlings, and keep the lights on for at least 12-16 hours each day. -And here’s an important tool for starting seeds indoors – a small fan placed away from the plants. Very important to keep the air moving around the plants to help reduce disease, rotting, and it actually helps promote stockier plants. -And make sure you don’t start your seeds too early. Check the seed packs to see how long it takes from germination to planting outdoors. Count backwards from our frost free date (May 15 or so) and that’s when you start the seeds indoors. For example, tomatoes take about 6-8 weeks, and that means starting the seeds mid to late March. Always better to start a bit late rather than too early.
“Can I apply a pre emergent herbicide now?” -You can, but personally, I would wait a bit longer. Crabgrass and other spring germinating weed seeds start to think about germinating when the air and soil temperatures reach 50-55 degrees consistently. According to my soil thermometer, the soil is at 41 degrees. So you have time. And if you’re using pre emergent herbicides that last 45-90 days, I’d wait a bit just so they’ll last longer into the season before I’ll need to re-apply.
“My spring bulbs are showing lots of foliage now. Should I mulch them over to help protect against a cold snap?” -Nope, let them be. Adding mulch could make things worse. They should be fine.
“When is the best time to cut back my Japanese yews and Boxwood?” Do your pruning before they leaf out in the spring, and don’t be too anxious to do it while it’s really cold. After they put out the first flush of new growth, and that ‘hardens off’, then feel free to come back with a light second pruning by hand to even-up and longer branches as needed.
“Can you tell me your golden rule of pruning flowering plants again? I always get that confused.” Sure! As a general rule of thumb, for the interest of the flower, prune spring flowering trees and shrubs after they finish flowering (yes, there are exceptions to the rule, including fruit trees, etc). If the plants flower in the summer (after June 1), prune in the spring. If you are not concerned about the flowers on spring flowering plants, they can be pruned early spring before they leaf out.