Saturday, September 5, 2020

Good'n'nuff

 

August 2020

Pickaway to Garden

Good’n’nuff

By Paul J. Hang

As a lot of my columns do they start with something I read. This time it was an article in the New York Times about a book from an English author. “The Therapeutic Power of Gardening” was the title of the article about the book “The Well Gardened Mind” by psychiatrist and psychotherapist Sue Stuart-Smith. Her husband is a well-known garden designer, Tom Stuart-Smith. Something he said struck home with me. How you feel about your garden, no matter how it looks, if you have a sort of in depth relationship with it, if you love it, it is good enough.

So, how is your garden doing? Have you had more time in it this year because of the imposed “leisure” time of the pandemic? Has it resulted in more time in the garden? It has for me. Have you gotten a little more intimate with some plants? Noticed more details? I was picking bush green beans the other day and noticed the very small pods beginning to form out of the blossoms. I had never noticed that before. We have a wild rabbit that began visiting our yard as a small bunny this spring. She (we are unsure of its gender) has a prominent white dot in the middle of “her” forehead. We have come to call her “Dotty.”

Dotty comes into the garden at times (I have fencing to protect certain plants) to munch on a plant or two and has become pretty tame. We are concerned about her as we have seen a red fox, stray dogs, neighbors “pet” cats (why don’t they keep them inside?) prowling around. We fear for Dotty and are delighted whenever she shows up. These kinds of things add to my gardening experience.

I enjoy the produce from the vegetable garden; My ‘Lord Baltimore’ hardy hibiscus was stunning. The day lilies seemed to last, not so the peonies, this year. My late blooming hydrangeas look like they are going to do well. I am just catching up with pruning my giant ninebark. The red twig dogwood is getting a much needed thinning. There are unfinished projects. Some areas are a mess. All in all my garden is good enough. I wish you the same

Things to do in the garden:

August is Tree Check month. Trees are valuable assets to your property and to our community. Fall is the best time to plant trees. For advice on what trees to plant and where to plant them, go to www.arborday.org or contact our City Tree Commission.. To gain an appreciation of our oldest living things see www.treesintrouble.com.

Pull all that crabgrass before it goes to seed. Take heart though, the first good frost will kill it. Water if we don’t get at least an inch of rain each week. Water at the base of the plant and do it in the morning. Water trees and shrubs planted in the past two years or if they look distressed.

You can still have a garden for food. Plant the seeds of green beans, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage early in the month (plants can go in a little later). Direct-seed beets, carrots, lettuces, spinach, radishes, turnips, kale, kohlrabi and snap peas mid-month, for a fall garden. Harvest vegetables and herbs in the morning for best results. Keep the seeds and soil moist for best germination.

As plants die back clean up the debris so bad insects and disease don’t have a place to over- winter. This is particularly important for the vegetable garden. Some landscape plants, such as coneflowers and those with hollow stems, also native ornamental grasses, you may want to leave alone for seeds for wintering birds and insects and for visual winter interest. Put the debris of healthy plants in the compost bin, diseased plants in the trash.

Want to have a new garden next year? Now is a good time to prepare the site. Cover the area with black plastic, thick cover of newspaper or cardboard weighted down or even old carpet. Anything that will block the sun will leave bare earth come spring.

Disbud and fertilize your dahlias for bigger blooms. Side dress (fertilize) peonies with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 12-12-12. Order spring bulbs and plant biennials. Divide, transplant or give away perennials that are overgrown and plant new container grown ones. Add new mulch where needed.

By the end of the month consider disbudding your tomato plants. Remove the growing tips of each branch and pinch out all the blossoms that bloom. It takes six weeks from blossom to fruit. This practice will give bigger tomatoes and prevent all those marble size tomatoes that the frost gets and never reach the table. If you’re not sure about this, try it on some of your plants and compare to those that you leave alone. Experiment! Try this also with melons and winter squash.

Tomatoes not ripening? Be patient, the plants are still growing and putting down roots not just ripening the fruit that has already set. Consider picking tomatoes before they are completely ripe. They will ripen off the vine if they still show a blush of green on an otherwise red, purple or yellow tomato. Totally ripe tomatoes still on the vine can burst with a glut of water from rain or the hose. They can be sampled by birds and mammals. Follow this advice and you will enjoy better tomatoes.

Monitor for pests. Think before you spray. Know your enemy. Use organic methods first. Remember, 97 percent of insects are either good or neutral for our gardens and landscape. As Joe Boggs, OSU Extension Educator recommends, use the digital method, in this digital age, to eliminate some bugs. You can squash them with your digits. That, coupled with the additional stomp technique can be quite effective and no bug species has developed a resistance to these tactics.

Need gardening advice? Call the Gardening Helpline at the OSU Extension Office 474-7534. Other resources are ohioline.osu.edu and, to read a weekly discussion of plant problems check out bygl.osu.edu. Buckeye Yard and Garden Line (bygl) is a real education.

 

Growing a Gardener

 

July 2020

Pickaway to Garden

 

Growing a Gardener

 

By Paul Hang

 

Gardeners grow gardens, and they grow plants. To garden is to make choices about which plants you will try to grow and where, and what plants you will eliminate (weeds). Gardeners use, and interfere with, natural processes. We alter reality. We nurture the plants we want. We water them. We give them what they need in the way of nutrition. We provide healthy soil. We give them space. We may support them if they need it. We do what we can to raise healthy plants of bloom and food.

 

We also grow gardeners. Sometimes the gardener we grow is ourselves. We go at it every year trying to be better. We read, watch videos and  gardening programs, experiment and talk to other gardeners. Like our gardens we change and hopefully they and we become better.

 

We may also grow other gardeners, intentionally or otherwise. Neighbors and passersby may notice what we grow and be inspired to try it themselves. Giving friends a tour of your garden and discussing plants that you see educates them. They may learn what to do and maybe what not to do. We often do not know what effect we have on others.

 

Probably the best example of growing a gardener is when we interact with a child in the garden. It can be your child, or the child of someone else. Because most gardeners are older we often influence a grandchild. Some children are interested in plants and gardens and some are less so. Some are full of questions. Some want to help. I tried to be patient, not always successfully, when my children wanted to help in the garden. My desire to get things done could sometimes see their presence as interference. When they pulled a plant and came to me with the question “Is this a weed?” I tried to show how the plant was different or the same as a weed or a desired plant.

 

I think that to grow a gardener we have to be mindful, especially with children, that what we do and what we say has an effect. Showing our delight in plants, prompting curiosity, perhaps explaining things to the level of the child are important. We pass on a love of nature and responsibility for it. We need more gardeners. Gardening can be a source of satisfaction and happiness. It is a gift worth passing on. A gardener is perhaps the best thing we can grow.

 

Have questions? Call the Gardening Helpline 740-474-7534. To read a discussion of problems facing those of us who “grow things,” check out bygl.osu.edu.

 

Things to do in the garden:

This is the time to dry herbs. Harvest just before they flower. Pick on a sunny dry day and in the morning. Tie them in small bundles with rubber bands. Hang them upside down in a hot, dry, dark, well ventilated spot in an attic, barn or shed. This is also the time to harvest garlic and hang them or lay them out to dry and cure. Harvest when leaves are turning yellow but there are still one or two green leaves.

 

Weeding, deadheading and watering are high on the list of routine activities. If July turns out to be bone dry, as usual, water the equivalent of one inch per week. Mulch to conserve moisture and keep down weeds. If you haven’t mulched yet do so after a soaking thunderstorm or a good watering. Vegetables higher in water content need more water e.g. watermelons, onions vs. green beans.

 

Keep your mower blades sharp; cut your grass long, 3-4 inches is ideal. If you use a pesticide for grubs you are also killing the ones that produce fireflies. Consider organic methods if you have a grub problem.  Kill Japanese beetle scouts before they let their comrades know about your garden. Brush them off into a cup of soapy water or alcohol (not Jim Beam). Repeatedly letting the lawn go dormant and reviving it by watering can kill the grass. Either keep watering or wait for Mother Nature to do it for you. Don’t forget to water your compost heap. It needs to remain moist for fast decomposition.

 

Going on vacation? Water well before you leave. Place container plants in a shady area. They should do fine for a week depending on the weather. If you will be gone longer have someone reliable come over and water regularly. Container plants in the hot sun may need watering daily.

 

If your grafted trees or roses are sprouting suckers below the graft, cut the sprouts off.

Keep picking seed pods off the annuals and clipping spent flowers (deadheading) to encourage bloom all summer. Pinch back mums July 15th for the last time.

 

Always read the labels on your plants for fertilization. Most woody plants have completed their growth and their buds for next year so fertilizing trees and shrubs after early July is a waste of money and may harm the plant. Keep watering trees and shrubs planted in the past 2-3 years. Ten gallons for every inch in diameter every week is good.

 

Consider planting a fall garden this month. Cool weather vegetables can be planted to take advantage of the coming cool fall weather. Plants such as cabbage, broccoli, spinach, collards, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts (plant seeds now, seedlings later), kale, Swiss chard even beets and parsnips thrive in our fall weather. If it is hot and dry, consider starting your plants indoors (except for root crops). Acclimate seedlings to the sun before putting them out in the garden.

 

Other vegetables that grow well in cool weather but should be planted a little later are lettuce planted through August and September, carrots and radishes in September.  Count the days before the average frost (mid-October), veggies that have that many days to harvest can still be planted. Check the seed packet. There are also some other varieties of vegetables that can overwinter for harvesting in the spring.  Check varieties in seed catalogs or on-line. Order now.

Regrets

 

June 2020

Pickaway to Garden

Regrets

By Paul Hang

Do you remember Rosemary Clooney’s song “Miss Otis regrets she is unable to lunch today”? I didn’t think so. Do you remember Rosemary Clooney? ( hint, George’s aunt.) OK, the song was in 1964 so if you aren’t as old as I am I’ll forgive you. The song is about a woman who is being hanged by the mob, after springing her from jail, for shooting her mobster boyfriend who done her wrong. You’ll be very surprised to hear, it was not a major hit. For some strange reason I couldn’t get that song out of my head while working in the garden between downpours. It got me thinking about regret.

I am not one of those people who say “I have no regrets. If I had my life to live over I’d do everything the same.” Are they kidding? Not me. I can think of hundreds of decisions I regret and that I would make differently. This is not true confessions so I’ll stick to gardening. Every spring I regret that I did not plant more spring bulbs last fall. Not just more daffodils, tulips, crocus, hyacinth and alliums, but some of the more exotic ones like Winter Aconite, Wood Anemone, Camassia, English Bluebells, and on and on.

I always regret I did not plant more trees years ago. Like the day I moved in. This year I planted red raspberries (my favorite) and three blueberry bushes that bear fruit early, mid and late in the season. I regret I did not do that earlier. Every year I regret I did not keep up with the spray program on my Moyer’s Spice apple tree. I regret that I don’t get all of my shrubs pruned every year. I regret I bought a new gas powered string trimmer instead of a battery powered one. I regret that my 20 year old John Deere mower should be replaced.

I suppose all gardeners have regrets, even the most optimistic ones. You have to be optimistic to be a gardener. Weather, pests, and diseases all change year by year. If it’s not one thing it’s another. However, the combination of those vagaries always favors something. You have a good tomato year followed by one that isn’t but produces bushels of cucumbers and on it goes. I regret I didn’t take botany in college. I regret that I didn’t start gardening seriously sooner in my life. You show me a gardener who has no regrets and I’ll show you someone who is not susceptible to poison Ivy.

Things to do in the garden:

It is not too late to start a garden. Plants of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are the best bet for early June transplanting. Plants that can be planted from seed in early June are: green beans (successive plantings every three weeks can extend the harvest), beets, carrots, Swiss chard, corn (depending on the variety), cucumber, lettuce, lima beans, muskmelon, winter and summer squash.

To avoid the wilting of cucumber and melon vines cover the new plants with row cover material until the plants flower. Then remove the cover so that the pollinators can do their work. Use row covers on all vegetable plants that do not need to be pollinated. Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, onions and root crops are examples. We eat them before they flower and go to seed, thus no need for them to be pollinated. I have begun to do this on more vegetables and it keeps most pests away. Mulch vegetables in mid-month after the soil has warmed up. You can fertilize all vegetables, corn two times, this month.

Weed and thin plants. Crowding plants more than is recommended results in all the plants doing poorly. Water deeply (not a little each day) one inch per week all summer.  Apply the water to the base of the plants rather than on the foliage. If you use a sprinkler, water early in the day so the foliage can dry before nightfall. Wet foliage overnight encourages fungal diseases to develop.

Remove seed heads from perennials. Don’t allow fancy hybrids to ripen and self-sow as their offspring will not come true. Deadhead flowers for more blooms. Iris can be divided and replanted after blooming. Pinch back mums once they are 4 to 6 inches tall. Continue to pinch back until mid-July.

If your daffodils didn’t bloom well it could be because they are now growing in the shade of trees or shrubs. Or perhaps the daffodils are too crowded. Once the foliage turns yellow you can dig up the bulbs and divide and/or move them.

Fruit trees often shed small fruits in early summer called June Drop. Thin after this occurs. Thin apples to one per cluster and one fruit every four to eight inches. Other tree fruit can be thinned a little less. This will cause bigger fruit. Don’t thin cherries. Pick up all fallen fruit. Only compost fallen fruit if you have a “hot” heap. Otherwise dispose of diseased fruit in the trash.

If you notice a “volunteer” tomato plant in your garden, yank it out or transplant it. Good gardeners, like good farmers, rotate their crops. A volunteer growing in last year’s tomato area allows disease to accumulate in that spot. Mulch under tomatoes keeps the soil from splashing up on the fruits. I am trying the red plastic mulch on tomatoes that is reported to give better yields. Soil on the fruits promotes disease. If you don’t stake, trellis or cage your tomatoes and let them sprawl on the ground, mulch will keep the fruit off the bare ground. Mulch keeps the ground from drying out, suppresses weeds and moderates the soil temperature. Several layers of newspaper topped with organic mulch, leaves, untreated grass clippings, coarse compost, shredded bark etc. should do the trick. Never let your tomatoes wilt. Uneven watering causes blossom end rot.

The Master Gardener Volunteers Helpline is open for your gardening questions. Call 740-474-7534 with your question or go to www.Pickaway.osu.edu, click on "Ask an expert." Master Gardener Volunteers will get back to you with answers to your questions. Try to provide as much information as you can.  If you send pictures send one of the plant, one of the problem, or one of the blossom and leaf. This is particularly important for plant ID and for trees.

Water your roses well but hold off on the geraniums. They will bloom best when kept somewhat dry. Newly planted trees and bushes should be watered well each week for the first two years if the weather turns dry. Give them a good soaking. Don’t give them a booster feeding of fertilizer this year. Force those young roots to search for food by stretching out into the soil.

May

 

May 2020

Pickaway to Garden

May

By Paul Hang

 

It has finally arrived, the calendar says so. Typical May weather has yet to appear. May, the name, comes from the Roman Goddess of fertility Maius. The name appears in many forms, May Day, mayday, maypole, Mayflower, May apple, mayfly, May Wine, maypop, mayhem. As a month it conjures up warmth, Sun, love, flowers, freshness, bees and birds and the Birds and the Bees, the Merry Month of May.

 

A month for poets, songs and gardeners, May may be the busiest month in the garden. May also means possibilities. Spring may arrive. We may be able to plant our tomatoes soon. It can also ask for permission. May we work in the garden Dr. Fauci? It can also express a wish. May the pandemic end soon. There are actually several other meanings of the word but I mayn’t go on with this. It would maybe be too much.

 

As we isolate ourselves at home once the usual May weather arrives we may feel even more deprived. For those of us who may have the space, we can get outside and walk and see what plants are blooming. A walk in the woods or in your yard may reveal much in the awakening of wildflowers, trees and shrubs. My apple tree has been in bloom for a couple of weeks. The cold days and nights hav also extended the blooming of lilacs, honeysuckle, Lilies of the Valley. Everything is suspended, the botanical version of arrested development. Everything has slowed down.

 

Many gardeners may have more time now to get things done. There is no rush to get plants in the ground - too cold, prune shrubs - haven’t finished blooming, mow the lawn - not growing much, no mulching - ground’s too cold. They feel like they are moving in slow motion. With all the time it is easy for them to put things off. I know this by the observation of others, of course. If I may, I would like to make a wish. May the weather please not go immediately from this to the heat of summer.

 

Our Helpline can be reached by calling the OSU Extension Office at 740-474-7534.

 

Things to do in the garden:

 

You can direct-seed corn, beans, potatoes, melons, cucumbers and squash. Place cheesecloth or row cover cloth over vines until they bloom. With any luck you will have prevented the cucumber beetles from invading the plants.

 

You can set out tomato, pepper and eggplant plants if the soil is warm (60 degrees). There is still a chance of frost but each week the chances become less and less. Be prepared to cover those tender plants if frost threatens. Don't be tempted to over-fertilize tomatoes, extra nitrogen will delay ripening and produce more vine than fruit. Remember tomatoes can be planted deep with the top few branches of leaves above ground. Roots will form along the buried stem. If you stake your tomatoes put the stakes in before you plant.

 

If you plan to put houseplants outside for the summer, a period of transitioning to the new environment will help assure their health and vigor. You can divide and move perennials. As the soil warms (50 degrees) you can plant summer-flowering bulbs such as caladiums, cannas, dahlias, and gladioluses. You can begin spraying roses for black spot following the directions on the product.

 

Cut the seed pods off your lilacs, but do not prune the stems. If your lilacs are getting overgrown and leggy, cut a third of the stems this year at the ground. Do this to a third next year and the final third the year after that. This way you will rejuvenate the bushes.

Thin apples, peaches and other tree fruit (not cherries) to a fruit every six inches. Remember "June drop." It is a time when fruit trees rid themselves of excess fruit. This is a natural process.

 

Mulch your beds after the soil has warmed. When you set out those tender plants protect against cutworms that can chew off new transplants. Use collars of aluminum foil, plastic, cardboard or other material to encircle the stem. The collars should extend into the soil an inch and above an inch or two. There are pesticides that can help control these pests (Google "cutworms extension”). I have also placed a toothpick in the ground right next to the plant stem with success.

 

This is a busy time for pollinators. When you spot a bug identify it before reaching for the spray. Fully 97% of the bugs in our gardens are beneficial or of no threat. Singular bugs are almost always beneficial predators. Crowds are often pests. Know your enemy!

 

Now is a good time to get rid of invasive and harmful plants. Poison hemlock is very poisonous and a biennial. Second year plants have hairless stems bright green to bluish green with obvious purple blotches. Mowing and tilling are partial controls. Post-emergent herbicides are effective this time of year. Don’t get the sap on your skin.

 

Finally, it’s not how fast you mow but how high. Mow at least 3 inches high for a healthy lawn.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Postponement


April 2020

PICKAWAY TO GARDEN


Postponement

By Paul J. Hang

Graduations, proms, sports events (Could we have April Madness.?  Please?) are just a few of the things we have had, and probably will have, to postpone. Could we postpone people saying, “I have never seen anything like this in my life”? Duh! Of course we haven’t. No one alive has ever seen anything like this pandemic and its consequences.

The Vernal Equinox has come and gone. No postponement there. Spring bulbs flowering, spicebush blooming, grass greening, dandelions blooming and going to seed along with more annoying weeds like bitter cress, crab grass germinating, I haven’t heard the President or the Governor postponing any of those events.

Last month I urged people to consider having a garden. Vegetables and fruits for food, flowers and herbs for beauty for the eyes and other senses await you. If you are still considering doing it, don’t postpone it. Now is the time. You don’t have to own a pair of Nikes to “Just Do It.”

This a good month to start plants indoors. Annuals, perennials, vegetables, most seeds can be started now. Some people have luck starting seeds in a sunny window but I always needed to supplant sunlight and use artificial light. Last average frost  date is April 23 so there is just enough time to get the seedlings off to a good start before acclimating them and then transplanting them out into the garden.  A good site is, https://u.osu.edu./fairfieldng, check gardening 101. Of course you can also buy plants from a nursery if you can’t start them from sedd. Nursery are rightfully considered essential this time of year..

Other sites to search for gardening information for Ohio and surrounding states are: www.ohioline.edu.osu, (Michigan) www.migarden.msu.edu, (Kentucky) www.uky.edu/hort, (Pennsylvania) www.extension.psu.edu, (Indiana) www.extension.purdue.edu, (West Virginia) www.ext.wvu.edu. If you use “You Tube” make sure the video you’re watching is coming from a university site ending in edu.

April is Ohio Native Plant Month. For more information go to ohionativeplantmonth.org. April brings Arbor Day, April 24th, when we are urged to plant a tree. April 22nd is Earth Day when we are urged to save the Earth. These events can be postponed, if not the goals. Dr. Bob Liggett, champion giant pumpkin grower, perennial winner of the Pumpkin Show contest, says they start their pumpkins indoors on or about April 20th depending on the weather forecast. If colder, they start later. If warmer they start earlier. They germinate the seeds at 85 to 90 degrees. It takes 3 to 4 days and then in a week, depending on the weather, they acclimate the plants to go outdoors.

When speaking of postponement, I like to quote Ralph Stanley. “Ooh death, Whooooah death, Won’t you spare me over ‘til another year?” Stay safe and don’t postpone the directions for avoiding the covis-19 virus.


Things to do in the garden:

Using a notebook wander your grounds and note things you need to do and ideas you want to implement. Divide perennials, move a shrub, start a new bed, renew the lawn, order mulch or topsoil, finish pruning fruit trees, raspberries, roses and grapes. There are lots of things to do.
Tomato and pepper seeds should be started indoors. The seedlings should be moved from the cells after 4 weeks into larger pots. Move them into the garden only after hardening them off and the danger of frost is past. As usual make sure you water-in the transplants. When you water, water deeply (top six inches wet) and water the base of the plant not the foliage. Water when the plants need it, not every day. Most plants require 1 to 1 and a half inches of water per week.

Vegetables that can be planted by seed into the garden are: beets, carrots, peas, onions, spinach, leaf lettuce, radishes. Cabbage and broccoli plants can be planted as soil conditions allow. In other words, don’t work our clay soils when they are wet.

Use row covers (Google it) on your vegetables right after planting to keep the bad bugs off. For vegetables that produce fruit (beans, cucumber, pepper, squash, tomatoes, etc.) remove the covers after blooming to let the pollinators go to work. For those that don’t need pollinating (Cabbage, broccoli, onions, chard, kale, lettuce, beets and radishes, etc.) you can leave the covers on until harvest. Make sure you buy the right covers that let in enough light and rain. I have found this to be an effective method to protect plants from bugs that damage vegetables.

Most annual flowers can be seeded directly into the soil after the danger of frost has abated. Some popular annuals that you should consider starting indoors are: snapdragon, wax begonia, sweet William, impatiens, sweet alyssum, petunia, gloriosa daisy, blue salvia, viola, pansy and zinnia, among others. This can save you a considerable amount of money that you can spend on a perennial.
Time spent on your lawn now will benefit it the rest of the year. Fertilize lightly if at all. The time to re-seed is when night time temps consistently reach 50 degrees and above. This is also the time to aerate lawns. Apply a pre-emergent herbicide when the first bloom appears on Bradford Callery pear in order to prevent crabgrass, unless you plan to seed. When common lilac or Ohio buckeye begins to bloom it is too late for a pre-emergent herbicide to be effective and too early for a post-emergent. Leave clippings on the lawn. Their nitrogen content is high and will reduce the need to fertilize. Mowing height of at least three inches will retard the growth of crab grass and other weeds.
Unless you are prepared to cover plants in case of frost, don’t put out those tender plants such as tomatoes and peppers until mid-May or later when the soil warms up. The average last frost date is now April 23rd. There is a 50/50 chance of frost then and the chance decreases about 10% per week after that. Spring flowering bulbs should be fertilized after they bloom. Remember to leave the leaves of bulbs until they yellow. Brown is better. Also prune spring blooming shrubs after they bloom.
If April brings its overhyped showers don’t work the soil if it is too wet.  Wait until it dries out a bit. If it seems wet enough to make a clay pot, wait. Squeeze a ball of earth about the size of a golf ball and let it drop from waist high, if it breaks apart it’s ready to be worked. Don’t apply mulch until May. Allow the soil to warm.
Cut back your ornamental grasses to six inches. Cut back your butterfly bushes (buddleia) to a foot or two and apply a balanced fertilizer. Now is the time to prune roses. Depending on the variety, you may prune back to a foot in height. Cut off those bagworms from shrubs and trees. Do it now before the worms hatch out (shortly after the Snow mound Spirea blooms). Dispose of the bags in the trash or bury them. One bag left equals a hundred plus new bags that won’t show themselves until this fall. Don’t postpone it.

Forward March!


March 2020
PICKAWAY TO GARDEN
Forward March!
By Paul Hang

We have our marching orders. Maintain social distance, no unnecessary trips etc. Now that a lot of us have some time on our squeaky clean hands we are in need of some things to occupy us. We don’t know how long this Covid-19 scourge will last so we might as well find productive ways to use our time and remain healthy. I have just the thing, Plant a garden.

Just like the Victory Gardens of WWII we can do our part even if we are not engaged in actively fighting this invisible enemy. Planting and nurturing a garden can get us outdoors, provide fresh air, and give us some exercise. Just as important it doesn’t have to cost much and could even save money in the long run. By producing food we can also provide some security for our family. We can learn to preserve some for later, just in case.

If you have children, get them involved. They get all the benefits mentioned above and will even give them a sense of purpose by assisting their family. Just remind them every now and then. Try growing a vegetable they like. For a quick turn-around try radishes, they take about three weeks from seeding to harvest. Often a child will try a vegetable they helped grow. It works for adults too. It’s the reason why I now like cauliflower. Fresh tastes better.

Starting seeds indoors, ordering seeds and plants and planning your garden, the time to start these things is now. No need to run around like the March Hare. If you have a garden, or want to start one, it is time to start. Starting seeds indoors does not depend on the weather as we can control the conditions. Those of us who start seeds indoors have our favorite recipes. For an entertaining, and reliable source, go to growingagreenerworld.com and put “starting seeds” into their search box. This is also a very good site for other gardening information as well as ohioline.osu.edu.
Planting seeds outdoors depends on conditions. The seed packet should tell when to plant outdoors. We can plant a seed. Then, like a good cook who doesn’t need a recipe, nature provides a little light, a little warmth, stir in a little water, a pinch of nutrients, and a plant appears seemingly out of nowhere.
Perhaps most gardeners buy plants and set them out when conditions dictate. If you are thinking of starting a garden for the first time this is the way you will probably proceed. You will know where your food is coming from. You can make sure the food doesn’t have synthetic chemicals on it. The easiest vegetables to grow are: Cherry tomatoes, bush beans, cucumbers, leaf lettuce, summer squash and peas. In just a 4’x4’ bed you can grow 25 lbs. of carrots, or 4 heads of broccoli, 16 onions, 30-40 jalapeno peppers, enough zucchini to give a lot away, a large kale plant. Five pounds of summer squash, or 12 lbs. of bush beans, or 24-30 cucumbers, or 6-7lbs. of leaf lettuce, or enough cherry tomatoes for all your salads, can be grown in just that small bed. How much would those  cost? You do the math. I usually don’t grow things that are cheaper to buy such as potatoes, unless I want better taste or more selections, like tomatoes. Sometimes I grow cheaper vegetables just because I like to grow them, like onions.
So try a garden this summer, vegetable or flowers or both. You have your marching orders.
Things to do in the garden:

If you feed the birds, don’t stop now. March and April are the toughest months for them. Food is scarce. New fruits, insects and seeds are a long way off and the old ones have been eaten. March is also time to clean out bird houses and ready for the nesting season.

Begin fertilizing houseplants with a weak solution. Now is a good time to propagate houseplants. March is not too late to try winter sowing. What is winter sowing? Google “winter sowing” for more information.  Have your soil tested. Materials and directions are normally available at the OSU Extension Office.

The last average frost date here in zone 6 is April 23rd. A number of seeds should be started this month. Check your seed packet for the number of days to harvest and count back to the date you want to plant your seeds or set out your plants. The last average frost date means there is a fifty-fifty chance of frost on that date. That’s the same odds as flipping a coin. A word to the wise, don’t set out your plants too early unless you are prepared to protect them should the odds work against you. The old rule of Memorial Day is the safest for tender plants.

Start your seeds indoors for hardy plants (beets, broccoli, Brussels' sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, onions, garlic, leeks, and shallots). You can set them out later mid-month weather permitting. Wait till later in the month to start the half-hearty plants like tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, unless you are prepared to transplant to a larger container. Most flower seeds, annuals or perennials, can also be started. Always check the seed envelope for planting information. Once the soil can be worked (see below) plant lettuce, spinach, kale, peas, beets, carrots, chard, collards and radish seeds directly into the soil. Onion sets and potatoes can be planted directly into the soil.

Rake the lawn to remove the twigs, leaves, and other winter detritus. Dig out those biennial weeds before they get established. Now is a good time to plant trees and shrubs and bare root roses. The earlier you transplant perennials the better they will do. When is the soil ready to be worked? Soil that sticks to your spade is too wet to work and will be compacted. Make a ball of soil and drop it. If it crumbles it is ready to work. 

Before those buds break, spray fruit trees with dormant oil. Read the directions. Prune damaged, diseased, and dead limbs. Also, prune those limbs that grow inward, suckers and water sprouts. Do not remove more than a third of the tree. Prune deciduous trees and shrubs that bloom in the summer. Prune spring flowering trees and shrubs after they bloom. Prune raspberry canes and grapevines and fall flowering clematis.

If you cut back perennials and ornamental grasses (tying up the grasses before cutting them back to about six inches saves a lot of clean up), don’t throw them in the trash or onto the compost pile. Store them until we have a few warm days to give overwintering insects a chance to emerge. Pull back mulch from around perennials on warm days but be prepared to cover them back up if a hard freeze threatens.

Late March and April is the time to apply a pre-emergent to the lawn to prevent crabgrass. The best indicator for this is the first bloom of Callery Pear. But be forewarned, most pre-emergents prevent seeds from sprouting. There are now selective pre-emergent that do not affect grass seed. If you plan to seed any parts of your lawn, to repair damage from winter or from our summer droughts, don’t apply a non-selective to those areas. This warning also applies to areas where you plan to plant vegetables and flowers by directly seeding in the soil. Apply pre-emergent on a calm day. A light fertilization of the lawn is all you’ll need.

Accumulation


February 2020
                                                             Pickaway Gardener                     
Accumulation
By Paul Hang
This is not a weather forecast. It is not a weight loss add. It is neither about snow or pounds but heat. Not weather or weight but about warmth and its accumulation in Nature. We all accumulate days, until we don’t. Some of us accumulate wealth, some lose it, and some don’t accumulate it at all. Trees accumulate girth, as do some of us. However, trees don’t lose their girth as do some of us. What I want to consider is the kind of accumulation that can’t be reversed. Most things can accumulate heat but lose it. Just go out this month without a coat and feel.
A discovery in the plant world has revealed that perennial plants, and insects, behave according to accumulated heat. Using a formula (engineering types can, as my Mom used to say, “look it up on the Google machine.”) that, beginning on January 1st, counts the amount of the air temperature above 50 degrees each day and how long it stays there, you can calculate something called a Degree Day (DD).  Degree Day is a measure of the amount of heat the earth, at any one location, absorbs and accumulates when the temperature is over 50 degrees. Degree Day also measures the growth and development of plants and insects and it is directly related to the daily maximum and minimum temperature. The value of DD is cumulative. As the days get warmer, the DD value increases. A cold spell will slow down or even stop the increase in the DD value: but never reverse it. A hot spell will speed up the accumulation of the DD value.
As an example, Silver Maples first bloom at 34 degree days and full bloom at 42. As I write this (mid-February) the DD value is 31 and the temperature is 46 degrees. I predict that Silver Maples around me will begin to bloom today if the temperature gets to 50 degrees for a few hours!
Scientists have also correlated the hatching of insects with DD. Thus we know when Bradford Callery pear first blooms (DD 142) the European Sawfly eggs hatch (DD 144). We also know that when those much rightfully maligned Bradford Pears bloom it is time to put down pre-emergents because crabgrass won’t be far behind.
The science of this is called phenology, the correlation of natural events with one another. (Phrenology is the discredited study of the bumps on our heads.) Here in Ohio you can access the Phenology calendar at ww.oarwdc.ohio-state.edu/gdd. This site will ask for your Ohio zip code. It will then tell you what the present value is of growing degree days and the corresponding plant that is in bloom.
This information is the result of research which was carried on across Ohio in the past, a lot of it by Master Gardener Volunteers who recorded the dates when certain plants bloomed in their area. Pickaway County has a Phenology Garden of indicator plants in Five Points which is maintained by Master Gardener Volunteers. You have now accumulated knowledge and a tool that will give you power. Use it wisely.
Things to do in the garden:
Not much. Check perennials for heaving up out of the ground. Press them down gently with your foot. Send in your seed orders. Will our results ever match those of the glossy color pictures? When you make out your seed and plant orders consider planting more native and heirloom plants and vegetables. Native plants are plants that evolved here and are adapted to our conditions, diseases and native pests. While you’re at it try googling the name of a flower you’re thinking about ordering.  You will be able to see pictures and planting information.
This is the time to prune trees and shrubs (after you sharpen your tools). You can see their structure now that they are dormant and the leaves are down. Cut out crossing and rubbing branches and unwanted suckers.  Pruning can be done to reduce the size of a tree or shrub to bring it in to balance or to remove overhanging branches blocking a view or path. Remember, spring flowering shrubs should be pruned after flowering if you want to enjoy the blooms. Insects are less likely to be attracted to cuts while trees are dormant.
On smaller trees you may want to take care of problems yourself. On larger trees you should call in an expert to inspect and perhaps correct any problems. Arborists are in a slow time of year. The ground, if frozen, will not be damaged and compacted as much from equipment and crews. The Arbor Day Foundation recommends that you have Certified Arborists check any safety problems you may have noticed. To find them go to www.isa-arbor.com click on “Verify Certification” and then “Find an Arborist.”
If you dug up bulbs for storage check on them. Spritz them with water to prevent drying out. Throw away any rotting or shriveled ones. Water any dormant or overwintering plants in your garage or basement.
Some seeds can be started indoors this month for setting out in late March or early April, depending on the weather: onions, cabbage, cauliflower, and other members of the Cole family. The University of Minnesota has a good discussion; go to www.extension.umn.edu/garden /flowers/starting-seeds-indoors. Also Google Winter Sowing. There you will read how to use old plastic milk bottles to easily germinate some seeds especially onions. It is also a good way to raise a lot of seedlings for planting “drifts,” those bands of like plants that wander serpentine through our flower beds.