By Barbara Kozlowski, Master Gardener Cattaraugus County

Spring has finally arrived! Maybe a little too warm to start, but I’m not complaining and my garden is growing by leaps and bounds. I have been cautious in my cleanup work not wanting to disturb emerging plants. I basically know what is growing where, but I still want to be sure that I can see the returning plants emerging.

The weeds are also growing, even faster than my plants. It’s time to stop them now. Identify the weeds (some weeds and plants look similar) and use a weeding tool to rid your garden of them before they take over. After you complete the weeding process, mulch your gardens for additional protection.

Although it’s still too soon to plant tender annuals and vegetables in your garden, planting in containers may be a temporary answer. If you can use containers, tender annuals and vegetables can easily be protected should a late frost occur. In our area, the last date for a frost is around the end of May, although some have occurred in early June. Many annuals can withstand a mild frost — just check the tags when purchasing them or if you prefer to start annuals from seed, check the package for more specific directions.

Spring also brings the return of lawn mowing. Take the time, if you didn’t do in the fall, to have your mower blades sharpened and balanced if using a rider mower. Cut no more than one-third of the height of the grass, setting the mower to cut from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches high. Cut your lawn frequently and check for thatch buildup. This is also a perfect time to fertilize with organic fertilizer. Another important reminder is to check for lawns pests like grubs. Also, apply controls for the larvae that become chinch bugs, rose chafer, and Asiatic, Japanese and other beetles.

As your spring-flowering bulbs begin to die back, allow the foliage to die back also. This will allow the bulbs to receive nourishment for next year’s flowers. Binding the foliage cuts off the light and oxygen needed to nourish the bulbs. If you have too many daffodils or other flowering bulbs, once they have bloomed and the foliage has almost completely died back, dig out the bulbs and separate them, let them dry in a cool, dark place and replant in the fall. Daffodils are usually very prolific and should be divided every few years to keep the bulbs healthy and to encourage large flower production. This is also true for other spring-flowering bulbs that seem to multiply every year.

This Saturday, May 17, the Master Gardeners of Cattaraugus County are sponsoring their Gardening Day from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Cooperative Extension, 28 Parkside Dr., Ellicottville. The programs will include Square Foot Gardening, Containers & Hanging Baskets, Companion/Succession Planting, Season Extenders for the Garden, Soil improvement – Listen to Your Weeds, Vermicomposting/Composting, and Pest & Disease Management. This is a free event. Call (716) 699-2377, ext. 127, to sign up. Refreshments will be served.

Also on Saturday, the Master Gardeners will sponsor a Plant Exchange. Bring a plant, take a plant home — bring 10, take 10. This is the perfect time to divide plants and pick up new ones.

We’ll look for you there!