JoAnne Skelly: Timely spring tips |

JoAnne Skelly: Timely spring tips

JoAnne Skelly

With Tax Day gone, it’s safe to prune roses now. Fertilize them lightly with an organic fertilizer, which will feed them gently without encouraging tender growth susceptible to the last few freezes.

Fertilize your lawn. Put half the dose recommended on the bag in your spreader and go one way, such as east to west, on the entire lawn. Follow this with the other half and go the other way, north to south for example. Fertilizing in this “plaid” pattern will avoid the striping that often occurs when you miss an area while making your passes with the spreader. I prefer ammonium sulfate, 21-0-0 plus sulfur, at this time of year, because the lawn needs primarily nitrogen, the 21 number. Be sure to water thoroughly after fertilizing.

Some people will plant tomatoes and other warm season crops in May. If you do, be sure you protect them on cold nights or you could, at the very least, stunt their growth for the season or, at the worst, kill them. Cold protection might be “Walls-of-Water,” those plastic plant sleeves that have compartments you fill with water. Or, you might use row covers, which are lightweight blankets designed for plants. I have seen gardeners use paper shopping bags over plants, anchored with rocks on the handles. Even upside-down buckets or trash cans can offer some protection. Plastic sheeting provides no freeze protection. No matter what you use, be sure to uncover your plants during the day to receive the sun they need.

Other gardeners won’t be starting warm season crops until late May or, in my case, the first week of June. The microclimate here is colder than many areas. It definitely pays to be aware of the individual climate on your property, which can vary from spot to spot in your yard. Plant accordingly.

Be sure your irrigation system is in top-notch working order with no leaks or clogged heads. This applies both to in-ground systems and to drip systems. I highly recommend drip systems because they are so much more directed and efficient than hand-watering or overhead watering, even when a timer is used. Trees need deep watering from multiple (four or more depending on the size of the tree and the size of the emitters) emitters rather than overspray from lawn watering to encourage roots to go deep into the soil. Shrubs and flowers thrive with their own emitters, too. Drip systems reduce weed problems and water waste.

Happy spring!

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at