Early spring weather! Don’t we all love it?
Living in Chicagoland, we all get desperate for warm sunny weather after our seemingly endless cold gray winters.
So of course we get excited when we get 50 and 60 degree days seemingly out of nowhere in February and March.
As great as it is to get some sunny outdoor time, there can be a downside to that extended early spring weather. No for us, but for some of our plants, flowers, and landscaping.
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How does early spring effect your grass, flowers and trees?
Early spring weather effects different organisms differently.
For some plants, the early spring weather means a chance to establish hearty, healthy growth.
For others though, the early weather can actually be dangerous to their health. This is Chicagoland after all, and we know that early warm weather does not always last. I can easily recall times in the past when it has been sixty degrees one day and then snowing the next.
How does early spring effect my grass?
Different varieties of grasses can be affected differently. Hopefully, your lawn has a cool season grass that is recommended for the Northern Illinois climate.
These grasses can naturally handle cold weather and will be dormant until the spring.
Related: How to get your lawn mower ready for spring
The threat is that an extended warm period during winter could stimulate grass into growing too early. This can stress the grass and cause it to pull too many nutrients from the soil too soon. When this occurs too early in the season, the nutrients cannot be replaced.
If this happens, you will need to do an early spring fertilization to replace them or you may see patchy or dead spots in your lawn.
Early spring can cause snow mold in years where there are cold, but not freezing temperatures, combined with wet spring weather. You can help prevent it by removing snow piles in problem areas. During spring, aeration and overseeding may be necessary to treat infected areas. If snow mold turns out to be an annual problem, you may need to consider lawn drainage solutions.
Related: Spring cleaning tips for your lawn
What are the most at risk flowers and trees?
Tulips and Daffodils
Flower bulbs are very resilient to cold weather. After all, they have to survive those long cold winters, freezing temperatures, and frozen ground. However, their flowers are at risk when they are blooming, or about to bloom.
Warm temperatures during the day and freezing temperatures at night are normal. What hurts them is extended cold bursts after the flowers have bloomed.
“Once tulip stamens start showing, the flowers become sensitive to prolonged frost and may be damaged by the cold.” says Steve Zwiep, Parks Department supervisor for the Tulip Time Festival in Holland, Michigan. He recommends covering areas of blooming flowers with a sheet (supported by plant stakes to avoid damaging stems) during the nights when extreme conditions occur.
Related: 4 Most common hydrangeas and how to prune them like a pro
The most at risk for early spring weather followed by cold spells are fruit trees. Apple trees, peach trees, and apple trees can all be damaged by early spring weather followed by extended periods of cold weather.
Heavy frosts during or just after blooming can kill young fruits. If severe frost is expected during the night, cover the fruit trees to help prevent damage. Young trees less than three years old are especially in danger.
Early Spring Allergies
This may not directly affect your lawn but it may affect your well being. Early spring can mean early onset of allergy symptoms. Trees are the primary pollen producers in the early stages of spring and an early spring can put them to work early.
“Tree pollen for some reason really bothers the eyes and it just drives people crazy,” says Dr. Robert Overholt of the Asthma, Sinus & Allergy Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. This is notable because most people don’t associate their allergies with trees. They mistakenly think that spring flowers are the cause of their allergies when the truth is that it is probably trees.
We hope you can use some of this information to help protect your landscaping.