PHOTO: Daniel Johnson
Good news! Spring officially began on last week on March 20.
And while the weather that most people recognize as “spring” starts a bit later on my northern Wisconsin farm, the longer (and sunnier) days are already making a big difference, rapidly melting the extensive snow and ice left behind by a massively challenging winter.
This means it’s time to start preparing for the seasonal farm activities that will soon rev back up again. When the snow thaws and plants start awakening from hibernation, there’s a lot to consider as seemingly dozens of tasks demand your attention.
Need some help deciding where to start? Here are a few projects that you should consider tackling right away in the spring.
1. Prepare Your Machinery
Even before the snow is done thawing, you can get started on machinery-related spring maintenance tasks. Check your manuals and see whether your machines are due for oil changes. Then proceed with checking fluid levels, cleaning air filters, checking tire pressure and more. We covered all that and more here.
2. Get Out Your Leaf Rakes
Wait, raking leaves is an autumn activity, right? Yes, that’s the theory, but if you’re like me and spend the final weeks before winter wrapping up summer projects, putting the garden to rest and getting machines under shelter, then it can be easy to let leaf cleanup slip through the cracks.
Some types of leaves (maple come to mind) are quick to disintegrate and won’t be much of a nuisance in the spring, while others (oak leaves, I’m looking at you) can be remarkably resilient and emerge from the snow with little to no signs of breakdown. Because they can choke out flower beds and prevent water from draining in low areas (creating standing puddles and mud), I recommend raking them up as soon as spring comes, so that the fresh plants of a new growing season have the best chance to thrive.
3. Start Cleaning Up Fallen Branches
Last year’s leaves aren’t the only tree-oriented spring cleaning you should tackle. There are more arboreal spring projects at hand.
Long winters produce a lot of casualties in tree branches, particularly if you have evergreen trees such as pines, spruces or firs. Up here in Wisconsin, a day of freezing rain in February proved particularly damaging to the evergreens, and I’ll have a lot to clean up when the snow melt is done.
In all likelihood, I’ll use a lawn mower and my trusty red wagon to handle the task. Why not a bigger tractor and a bigger wagon? Well, if I tackle cleanup right away, the ground is still pretty wet, and larger equipment would (at best) rut the ground and possibly get stuck, too. I don’t need a repeat of the hay-wagon-stuck-in-a-field incident from a few years back.
4. Start Cutting Firewood
It’s never too early to start stocking firewood, whether for your own use or to sell. While it might seem like a good autumn activity, it’s actually better to cut firewood in the spring, which will give the wood a good six months to dry and become ideal for burning. That means it’s time to prepare your chainsaw (prep the engine, perhaps replace the chain, gather your safety gear) and fire up the log splitter (or a good old-fashioned ax) for some hard work in the forest.
Even though spring projects await, warm weather can’t come soon enough for me.