Last year at this time, some Quad-Citians had already mowed their lawns three times.
We had photos in our April 1 edition of rhododendrons and bleeding hearts in full bloom. Many spring bulb plants had already finished. At one point in March, the soil temperature at a depth of 4 inches had warmed to an incredible 60 degrees before backing down to 48.
This year, as they say, is more normal.
Lawns are still brown and little heaps of snow remain in sheltered areas. The 4-inch soil temperature is about 33 degrees. Virtually nothing is blooming.
But yard waste pickup begins in most of our Quad-City communities on Monday, so raking and pruning are two yard chores that can be done right now.
Trees also can be pruned, except for oaks. Late-season wounds in oaks risk the spread of the oak wilt fungal disease by sap-feeding beetles.
Because the area went into the fall and winter so dry — about 10 inches below normal precipitation — many gardeners likely are wondering what the situation is now. With the snow and rain over winter, has soil moisture been replenished?
The only way to know for sure is to go out in your yard with a trowel and dig down, said Duane Gissel, horticulturist with the Iowa State University/Scott County Extension.
Moisture will vary in different parts of the community and even in different parts of the same yard, depending, for example, on whether the ground is sloped or south-facing.
Overall, though, moisture conditions have improved.
The Iowa Quad-City region and the counties of Rock Island and Henry in Illinois have improved to “abnormally dry,” while Illinois regions to the south are almost normal, said Ray Wolf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Davenport.
Still, while the top inch or so of the soil is thawed, our area generally still has a 6-inch frost depth, he said, so recent precipitation has been running off rather than soaking in.
As is always the case, we will have to wait and see how the weather plays out, he added.
The odds for April favor near- to above-normal precipitation, but with no indication either way of whether it will be warmer or cooler than normal, he said.
We might have to do extra watering, we might not. Once the soil has thawed, trees, shrubs and perennials that were planted last year probably could use a good drink, Gissel said.
“People desperately want spring,” said Wolf, who has been out and about, talking to gardeners at various seminars. “People are more pent-up for spring than ever.”
FALCON UPDATE: The peregrine falcons with the nest at the MidAmerican Energy Co. building in downtown Davenport have one egg.