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Did I Miss Spring & Time to Prune
March 28, 2011

Where does the time time go?

March slides out this week and we welcome April for the weekend.

Day light continues to grow longer (sunset is after 8:00PM) and some much needed sunshine,

Winter still refuses to let go..

Yes, temperatures are well below normal and this past week spent most of the time below the freezing mark.

A couple of warm days just before the official beginning of spring, followed by a quick and often harsh reality check.

Toss in a late winter/early spring storm last week and things got a bit interesting.

This time, it was mostly rain and ice for me, as the snow went north of here.

Just enough ice to make driving interesting for a short time, and enough to put a sparkle on the landscape.

(Ice hanging from the bird houses and a couple of pictures below of some trees sparkling in the sun.)

It does seem that most springs start this way.

This past weekend did however, offer some sun and temperatures in the mid 30's.

Enough sun to bring out another sign of spring.

Last week, I almost stepped on this 'Northern Ribbon Snake' as she was sunning herself.

Too slow to react to me, but still in need of the warming rays of the sun.

A healthy and good looking Garter snake don't you think?

Yes, she was every bit of 2 feet in length and too big to be a male.

After a few pictures, I was on my way.

Like you, I'm not a huge fan of snakes, but these snakes I welcome.

I digress.............................

This cool weather is actually healthier for our yards and gardens, as plants stay dormant a bit longer.

While length of day is the primary indicator for plants as well as animals,

The warmer temperatures do break open the buds and get the juices flowing more freely.

Many plants can be frozen off and can possibly die from too many of the warm and cold cycles.

While other bloomers like fall bulbs feel little or no effects from the cold temperatures.

Look at it like this.

Every time a blade of grass or a young tender leaf freezes, the water and juices expand within (just like ice).

Expanding cells, literally explode and die.

Dead and browning foliage that has taken energy from the mother plant.

When this happens it weakens a plant, and a
plant now has to start all over again.

Some plants and even trees may be stunted by this.

Anyone that has experienced a late frost or freeze can relate to the loss of annuals and die back on newly planted perennials and even the complete loss of foliage from your Japanese maples.

Flower buds on fruit trees are killed before they ever have a chance to open and get pollinated.

Oh, they will open, but the fruit bearing part is often dead.

Some years, bloom season may be thrown off or weak at best.

If this happens one too many times in one season, a given plant will no longer have the strength or energy to grow.

This is also another good reason to keep some mulch or leaf litter in place.

Though I want warmer weather as much as the next guy, I can wait.

Don't be in such a big hurry.

Migration north continues and will continue for the next couple of months as different species have different migration times.

We have our early birds like Red-winged blackbirds and robins, and all the way to the late May/early June migrators like Barn swallows.

Because most of our song birds migrate during the night, you may never see them come and go.

You may never see them fly through.

How many times have you had a case of here today and gone tomorrow and visa versa?

Turkey vultures are more common now, as I watch them slowly drift northward.

I expect the female robins any day now.

Fewer Cardinals and other song birds are feeding now, but I do enjoy the songs from every direction.

Right now, I have plenty of Red-winged blackbirds, Common grackles and Brown-headed cowbirds, if you are interested, I'll check into sending a few dozen your way.

The American goldfinches look like a 'Hodgepodge' of miss, matched colors as they are in full molt now.

Birds will molt a few feathers at a time here and there so it doesn't mess with their ability to fly.

I gladly welcome the vibrant yellows they will bring.

Male robins are everywhere and jockeying for territory.

They are singing from the tree tops and I also enjoy them as the hop
back and forth looking for food in last year's leaf litter I spread out in the gardens and beds.

Now it is time for territorial skirmishes to take place.

Time for the guys to make fools of themselves as they try to impress the gals.

You know, the wooing and courtship with a special girl(s).

See guys............................

Don't feel so bad, it happens in the animal kingdom too.

I keep saying it's a woman's world.

Okay, back to this letter.

Leaf litter not only improves the soil and mulches the plants, it also is home to worms, insects and other goodies for your feathered friends.

Other birds like Brown Thrush, Towhees, and others will scratch around looking for a meal.

It's a win, win situation all the way around.

Keep the dead and decaying foliage on your beds and you will notice some birds use it for nesting materials.

Speaking of which. you may want to offer some small (about 4") pieces of yarn or string. Get some raw cotton and use some pet hair etc for nesting materials.

Place it in a clean or new suet basket, wrap some string loosely around a twig and watch the birds work it free.

Cheap entertainment that is good for at least one chuckle.

As you know, I make attempts from time to time to get reader involvement.

This time around, I would like to hear a couple things that you might consider favorites about spring.

Now remember, this can be something that includes April and May as well.

It can be flowers in bloom, other sites and so on.

Now here is an example from me.

As much as I love the sights and sounds of spring, (Flowers, birds, butterflies. green grass and blue skies). I think smells are what I really enjoy.

Yes, I do march to a different beat.

There is the clean fresh smell in the air of early spring. We have the intoxicating smells of certain flowers like Lilacs and Hyacinths.

For me, some of the true smells of spring are the smells of freshly dug earth (Any gardener knows what I'm talking about).

The smell of the first few times you cut your lawn. And for me............. the smell of a spring rain and worms during and after a spring rain.

Not that the smell of worms is so great, but it is a smell that reminds me of spring.

There you have it friends.

Come up with a single sentence or a paragraph that shares some of your favorite things about spring.

Send your favorites along with your:

First name (last optional).

City or region you live near.

State or province.

If we get enough participation, I would like to keep this going for a few weeks (spring does go into June).

Thanks for participating.

One spring task you can get started on if the ground isn't too wet...............

You can get to your spring pruning and trimming.

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned on on cutting back you grasses.

I assume you cut back most of your perennials last fall, if not, cut them back too.

This week, I'll touch on cutting and pruning your shrubs and trees.

I know, I am often preaching to you on loosing your pruners.

However, there are times when plants do need a little work.

If you weren't out there in the dead of winter (ideal time) then now is the time before things really get going and growing.

Pruning Time.


Wildlife Gardens are all about habitat.

Flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees offer food, protection and a place to lay eggs or raise a family.

Plant flowers to attract bees and butterflies.

Plant seed and berry (Mast) producing trees and shrubs to help attract various species of birds (not to mention pollinators).

Its all about habitat...............

Healthy Habitat.

Now, what is important to healthy habitat, is some maintenance and good judgment.

My friends in the deep South have a good start on gardening and clean-up.

Yet, if you are like me here in Michigan, you still may need to do some selective pruning and other up keep.

Using the right tools is essential.

Not only does it make the job go faster, but it is better for your shrubs and trees.

It is best when plants are naked, you can see where two branches are rubbing together.

Now is a time to remove one of them.

Any dead branches, remove now.

Does a shrub or tree need some thinning?

Maybe a young tree has 2 main branches going up from the trunk.

Remove one of them now or pay later when it splits during a wind or ice storm.

Trees in the wild don't have that benefit and many will split.

This sometimes add to "Nature"s"
habitat, but you don't want that in your yard or on your house some day.

Some shrubs can benefit from a complete cut down to within a few inches of the ground.

Red-twig dogwood and Spirea come to mind.

Still, total cut backs can be performed on any deciduous shrub (one that loses its foliage).

do avoid simply topping off your shrubs.

When you hack off all the branches (or buzz them off close to the same level as all the other branches), you will end up with what is called a 'witches broom' look by next fall.

Witches brooms are not very attractive.

Be selective and maybe to some thinning here and there.

You will eventually learn what side of the branch you want the new buds to grow on for shape and form.

For spring blooming shrubs, you will want to trim right after bloom. If blooms aren't that important this year, feel free to cut away right now.

When cutting dead wood, you can use either Anvil or Bypass pruners.

When cutting live wood or live plants, always use a good sharp pair of Bypass pruners or loppers.

Bypass cutters, make a nice even cut allowing for the plant to scar and heal faster.

Dull blades and Anvil cutters will smash the ends and may cause more problems as the healing and scar time is much longer.

Not to mention it looks ugly.

No need to put any kind of a sealer on cut or broken branches.

Research shows that plants do indeed heal then selves and can heal open wounds quicker without our help.

Almost like having a brain, a plant knows when it has been injured and knows to rush healing agents and slow down sap flow where the wound is.

Our 'Creator' is pretty special.

Now, if you have the land or area to do so, make a brush pile for wildlife.

Brush piles are protection for birds and small mammals as well.

If you have a snag (dead tree) that is out of harms way, leave it.

Dead trees offer food and homes to many a creature.

Remember, this is a Wildlife Habitat so go easy on your plants.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

Hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength.


Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6-8 (NIV)

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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