Put down that rake. Walk away from the wheelbarrow.

Yeah, we know, it's nice out. OK, it's not just nice, it's shorts-and-flip-flops nice.

Still, that doesn't give you the go-ahead to start on the lawn or dig in the garden.

"Honest to God, I think it's early to do anything in the garden," said Deb Brown, a garden writer and former extension horticulturist with the University of Minnesota.

If you rake your grass or work in the perennial garden while the soil is still soft and squishy, you could compact the soil, making it harder for plant roots to grow and develop.

So, no raking?

Nope, said Brown, not until the ground is dry and firm under foot.

Cleaning out the garden?


How about removing winter mulch?

Uh, that's out, too.

While it's supposed to be flip-flop nice again this weekend, it could be risky to uncover plants and leave them vulnerable to a dive in the mercury.

"You'd like to think that it'll continue like this," said Pete Boulay, climatologist with the DNR's ecowaters division, "but you never know. We've had some surprises in April before."

In fact, last year, we had some surprises as late as May. The temperatures dipped below freezing on May 3.

So what can you do?

For starters, ditch the evergreen wreath and the spruce top pots. If they're dead, they're no longer welcoming. Then, consider picking up a pot of bulbs.

Pansies, those harbingers of spring, should be in garden centers in a week or two.

Lew Gerten, president of Gerten Greenhouses in Inver Grove Heights, said bulbs and pansies can withstand snow and cold. Plus, you can haul them into the porch or the garage for the night if the temps drop too low.

Brown offered a few other ideas.

"Go to the conservatory, take a bike ride or a nice walk," she said. "This is Minnesota and it's early. Don't pretend that it's time to get going outdoors."