GARDENING: Time for lawn and garden chores

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

I am beginning to get calls regarding damage to plants from the cold temperatures in December 2022. People are asking about roses and English ivy primarily.

In 2014 we had temperatures drop below zero and had similar damage. In 2014, there was also quite a bit of damage to weeping cherries. I have not had too many calls on cherries as of now.

By now, if your roses aren’t showing green leaves, it’s likely that those stems are dead. Green stems should be sprouting leaves while brown stems are dead.

In some cases, you may have a stem that has dead areas along with green areas. I recommend that you remove these completely as well. These tend to end up dying eventually.

I haven’t seen roses completely killed, but there is significant dieback. Prune out the dead and then depending on the species, shape up the plant by pruning stems to outward-facing buds. This prevents the center of the plant from getting crowded.

In the case of English ivy, cut out as many dead stems as possible. New growth should resume unless, of course, the entire plant is killed.

There are other perennials such as hardy hibiscus and butterfly bush that are late to leaf out. Don’t give up on these until later in May. They take a long time to emerge in the spring.

Another common question I have been getting is about lawns. People are noticing clumps or tufts of turfgrass in the lawn.

This happens every spring and you may not even notice it. If you have a lawn that contains a blend of species or a mix of species, you will see different growth habits in the early spring as they emerge from dormancy.

These clumps are simply new growth in one species that is more robust than the other species. After a few times mowing, you will not even notice the clumps.

On the other hand, if you still see these clumps after mowing, you may have a patch of fescue growing in a bluegrass/perennial ryegrass lawn. These are wide-bladed grasses and tend to stick out in a lawn consisting of fine grasses.

In the perennial garden, it’s OK to cut back all the perennials if you left the foliage up over the winter. Cut them back before new growth begins. It won’t hurt the plant if new growth has started, but it might be a challenge to get all the dead wood out easily.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

If you like to fertilize your perennials, now is the time for the first application. Perennials like about one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet for maximum growth.

I don’t fertilize my perennials as my soil has sufficient phosphorus and potassium to support growth. They get their nitrogen from lightning, rain, or they are nitrogen-fixing plants.

Finally, if you want to thicken up the lawn, apply fertilizer now; you may be past the time to use crabgrass preemergent. According to Michigan State’s Growing Degree Day tracker, we are past the prime time for preventing crabgrass with a preemergent.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

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