Curt Swift, Ph.D.
Grand Junction Free Press Gardening Columnist

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April 24, 2013
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SWIFT: Spring clean-up at the Swift's

Islamabad, Pakistan, was warm with temperatures between the mid-80s and the mid-90s. It never freezes there. The Grand Junction area, however, suffered a number of freezes while I was out of the country and another freeze was expected April 23.

Since our average last spring frost is somewhere between April 15 and April 23, a frost this week should be considered normal for our area. Hopefully, this will be our last frost until real cold weather returns this fall.

My Kentucky bluegrass lawns are putting on growth and I'll need to run the lawn mower over them in the next few days to keep them from getting too long. The bluegrass lawn in the front of my home could use an application of nitrogen to stimulate growth so I'll apply no more than one-half the rate recommended on the fertilizer bag. My backyard is growing much faster so I'll skip fertilizing that portion of the lawn until at least mid-May to avoid excessive growth and the diseases related to rapid growth.

I sprayed my buffalograss lawn with Roundup on April 9 as bluegrass was starting to encroach into the lawn and I wanted to kill that grass prior to the buffalograss starting to green up. When I looked today, the bluegrass had disappeared. The buffalograss is just starting to green up. Since I naturalized masses of spring flowering bulbs in that lawn, I'll wait until the tops of those bulbs have died down before I mow that section of turf, and in mid-summer I'll start to fertilize. Fertilizing buffalograss now is not recommended unless you can apply a fertilizer that won't release its nitrogen until mid-June and I don't know of such a fertilizer.

I have to admit I haven't been a good gardener, at least in my own yard, for the last several years. I also know I could not tackle all the tasks needed to get even the front yard respectable for the summer. Consequently, I hired Merilee Shields (970-640-7082) to spend two days grubbing out the weedy elm trees and buffalograss that had invaded my flower beds. She and Scott also rebuilt my brick walkway, dug out the Arundo grass that had grown underneath and pushed the walk aside, and had her take care of the Virginia creeper that was tearing down my fence and over-growing my Allegheny viburnum. I'm not ashamed of asking for help in this endeavor (she charged me appropriately) and I'll request her services again if I need to. The pile these industrious workers created curb-side was more than I thought would fit in one of the city's dump trucks, but since the driver did not mention anything about billing me for an extra truck, the pile must have fit.

Within the next day or two I'll have to check to ensure all my sprinklers and microsprays are working properly. Some of the microsprays, stick-like sprays on spaghetti tubing, have been broken so I'll have to take the time to replace a number of them. I know the microsprays in one of my planting beds work as Susan could hear them running under the snow when I was gone. I had turned the main controller off to prevent the system from running but neglected to turn off the Hunter Node (SVC) controlling that one zone. I should have turned off the water at the back-flow prevention device and shut down the complete irrigation system. Next time!

In early April the city sent me a reminder to have my back-flow device tested. Neglecting that state requirement can result in the domestic water supply to my home being shut off and I do like to take a shower, drink a cold glass of water, and do other things water requires so I called Lori at WD Yards to have their staff take care of that task.

Dr. Curtis E. Swift is a retired horticulture agent with the Colorado State University Extension. Reach him at or check out his blog at He owns Swift Horticultural Consulting and High Altitude Lavender.

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The Post Independent Updated Apr 24, 2013 03:55PM Published Apr 24, 2013 03:54PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.