During this blessed month of March, we participate in our traditional Lenten rituals. We keep our Lenten promises and contemplate good and evil. We ask ourselves, how can we be better neighbors, help others and help ourselves to grow closer to God? Is it a coincidence that, when Easter finally arrives, there is new growth, budding branches, green grass and new plant life emerging from the earth?
While there is still hope for snow and moisture, there are plenty of chores to tend to in the meantime. There are prayers to be prayed and seeds to be sowed. Pruning fruit trees, applying pre-emergents, and tuning up the mower are all things that can be done this time of year.
How blessed are those that have an established fruit bearing tree! Most of these trees will benefit from yearly pruning in late winter or early spring. Pruning when the trees are dormant or before they leaf out in the spring helps to prevent the spread of disease. It is also easier to see the branches to know which ones to prune.
If you use pre-emergent herbicides, now is the time to apply. While a pre-emergent won’t prevent weed seed germination or kill the seed, it will severely limit the development of roots on a young weed seedling. It is important to remember that pre-emergents will not control existing weeds, but will, if applied before germination, control seedlings of annual or perennial weeds.
After application, pre-emergents must be watered in or rained/snowed on for activation. Properly identify your weeds and buy accordingly. Check the labels; some work only on grassy weeds, others on broadleaf weeds. Some are effective for a few weeks and others up to three months. Do not use more than recommended! When too much is applied, some pre-emergents kill the lawn and perennials. A pre-emergent must be used prior to germination of the weed seeds. Side note: Don’t plant seeds in an area with active pre-emergent as they will not grow. If you live in the lower-elevation areas of our diocese, the best time to do this is March. For our higher elevation parishioners, April 1 to May 1 is better.
Tune up the mower now to avoid the long waits in May. Your serviceman will appreciate the early business and may even have time to do a more thorough inspection. Engine maintenance is important. If you are handy and can do it yourself, remember to use the gasoline and oil recommended by the manufacturer. Keep spark plugs clean and adjust the carburetor. Check air filters regularly and clean or replace them when dirty. Be sure to regularly sharpen the mower blades. Watch for shredded or brown tips of your grass blades. This is an indication that you may have a dull or damaged mower blade.
After each use, clean the underside of the mower with a strong stream of water. At the end of the mowing season, be sure to drain the gas and follow the winterizing instructions in the owners’ manual. If there is no manual and you are “mechanically challenged,” have a skillful person service and inspect your mower annually.
Now is the time to get ready for the growing season. As we celebrate these last few weeks of Lent, we trust at the end the Risen Christ at Easter brings us hope for a future filled with good — good that has triumphed over evil. The time when the new flowers spring up from the ground to let us know all is well in the world. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.
(Kerry Peetz is a master gardener and member of Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs.)