Arriving back home from a weekend away, my husband and I were surprised to see a Christmas tree lying in the snow in our front boulevard. “Who dumped their tree in our yard?” Gary asked with annoyance. Then, simultaneously, we both sighed, “Ohhhhh,” as we realized that it was, in fact, our own tree. The poor thing had been patiently waiting for curbside collection since the first week of January, but was so deeply buried in snow that we’d both forgotten it existed.
With snow and ice beginning to melt, the world outside is coming back to life. There is open water on the St. Croix River and our feathered friends are returning in droves. During a recent visit to the St. Croix Boom Site, I saw a great blue heron, hooded merganser, dozens of swans, and numerous eagles, hawks, vultures and gulls. Farther in from the water along the country roads, the sandhill cranes are back as well, strutting regally across the fields and through the roadside ditches.
Even as we celebrate the arrival of spring, I can’t help but notice that my own yard is in a state of complete and utter disarray. A full size tree lies in the backyard with a crushed fence and patio furniture beneath. It was just one of many victims in the April Fools tree massacre of 2023. Where the snow has melted enough to see the ground below, I’m also horrified to discover that my lawn has been replaced with a solid coating of dog poop that seems to cover every square inch of the backyard. Out front, Snoopy, two reindeer, and a small, lighted tree have re-appeared from beneath the snow as well. Meanwhile, an extension cord dangles from a glacier like a tail, reminding me that an inflatable penguin is still waiting for its return.
As you cast an appraising eye toward your own yard, here is some advice on which chores to tackle now, and which to delay for later.
Finish-up any tree cutting or pruning now before the risk of oak wilt and emerald ash borer increases. Oak wilt is a fungal disease carried by bark beetles that kills thousands of oak trees every year, while emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive insect that has devastated ash forests across the Midwest and eastern United States. Currently, the risk of both is low, making now an ideal time to trim branches and remove trees, as needed. Take ash bark and wood to the nearest disposal site before May 1. In Washington County, use the Northern Yard Waste Site at 5527 170th St N, Hugo, MN 55038.
When it comes to other yard cleanup, it best to wait for a few weeks until the ground dries and temperatures warm up. In these early weeks of spring, beneficial insects, including pollinators, are still in diapause, which means the adults and pupae are sleeping underneath leaf litter and inside hollow plant stems. Small animals like toads and salamanders are still buried underground and beneath the leaves as well. Wait to cut down stems and rakes leaves until the snow is gone and daytime temperatures are consistently above 50° to give these animals time to emerge and exit hibernation. If you simply can’t resist the urge to clear out stems in your gardens, try to spread them out at the edge of the woods or tie them into loose bundles to hang from a fence or tree until the insects emerge.
Last, but not least, I am sorry to report that now is the perfect time to gather and dispose of dog poop in your yard, before it washes into the stormwater system or a nearby lake. Please do not leave bags on the porches of your enemies.