Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Timing is Everything


March 2022


Timing is Everything

By Paul Hang


We’ve all heard that phrase a million times. The earliest place it was used that I could find was by (who else?) William Shakespeare in 1599 in his play Julius Caesar. As I am wont to do, I’d like to consider timing in the garden. March is the perfect time!


Time is often measured in numbers and dates. March 1st is the beginning of meteorological spring.  Daylight savings time begins on the13th, astronomical spring begins on the Spring Equinox, March 20. Real spring will arrive, who knows? Timing on TV garden shows is often way off. On February 27th the guide on my cable schedule had “Christmas on the Farm” followed by “Fall Cleanup in the Garden” You wonder, who schedules these things? Reading this column at the end of March misses a lot of time sensitive information. Timing is everything.


Just in time, the other day, I came across a really good time saver. If you go to Garden.org you can plug in your zip code and you can find the last and first average frost dates for your area. For me those dates are April 23 and October 19th. Average frost date means that on that date there is a 50% chance that frost will occur. That’s the same odds that you’ll get heads when flipping a coin. But that’s not all. You can find out what time is best to sow seeds indoors, transplant seedlings into the garden and direct sow seeds for many vegetable crops.


You could extrapolate for flowers depending on how hardy they are. Of course your seed packets also give you planting and other information. Depending on the number of “days to maturity” on the back of the envelope, you can count back and find the latest date the seed should be planted. The exception to these times is always the weather and local conditions. For most summer vegetables, beans, corn, squashes etc., the soil temperature should be near 60 degrees Fahrenheit. For here in zip code 43113 that is around May 2 when you can direct sow them into the garden. If you want to grow Cole crops like broccoli and cabbage or onions, potatoes, kale, lettuce and spinach, plants that can take cool temps, you can direct sow their seeds or starts this month.


By the end of April Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant can be transplanted into the ground as soon as no frost is forecast. There is no guarantee; we have had frost in June. If you plant more than you can cover in case of frost then I’d wait a little longer. These plants, because they take so long until harvest; and the Cole crops, because they should be set out early, should be started indoors in late February or early March! Like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, I am already running around yelling, “I’m late, I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!”








Things to do in the garden:


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? It is a way of germinating seeds. 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. 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.


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 (temps above 50 F) 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 if you want to prevent crabgrass. The best indicator for this is the first bloom of Callery Pear. But be forewarned, pre-emergents prevent seeds from sprouting. Apply pre-emergent on a calm day. There are now selective pre-emergent that do not affect grass seed. If you plan to seed any parts of your lawn, 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. A light fertilization of the lawn is all you’ll need.


Go to weather.cfaes.osu.edu/gdd for phenology information on when plants flower and insects emerge.

The Loam Ranger


February 2022


The Loam Ranger

By Paul Hang


Loam is a gardener’s dream soil. It is, or should be, the goal of every gardener to turn their soil into loam. However there is no silver bullet for achieving it Kemosabe. Loam is the best soil texture for plant growth. Loam texture is made up of approximately 40% sand, 40% silt and 20% clay. These particles are bound together into varying sizes of aggregates. Organic matter stabilizes these aggregates and acts as the “glue” that holds them together. This is what makes up the structure of soil. Too much digging and tilling breaks up aggregates into fine powder.


Good soil is made up of approximately 45% mineral particles, 5% organic matter, 25% water and 25% air. Roots need oxygen. Air and water fills in the space between soil particles. Overly wet soils drown plants. Compacted soil suffocates them. Good soil is also made up of dead organic matter, and alive, in the form of micro- and macro organisms.  Diversity of organisms in the soil is a good thing. From worms, insects and bugs to arthropods, nematodes, bacteria and fungi, a soil teeming with life is a healthy soil.


How can we be a loam ranger? Adding organic matter to the soil can lead to substantial payoffs. It is the closest thing to a silver bullet. It enhances biological activity and increases biological diversity. As organic matter is added aggregation increases and this in turn improves the water storage capacity. It is important to use varied forms of organic matter. Leaves, straw, newspapers, composted manures of horses, dairy, chickens and most of all compost will give a varied diet for the microorganisms. Organic mulches also add organic matter as they break down. Organic matter oxidizes and gets used up so adding organic matter several times a year helps to maintain a good level.


Finally, soil tests can determine if there are nutrient deficiencies or if the soil pH is interfering with the nutrient availability. Contact the local OSU Extension office (740-474-7534) or soilhealth.osu.edu for soil test information. Soil is the foundation upon which plants are built. It is not too strong a statement to say that all life depends on the soil. Although this has just scratched the surface, you can get degrees in soil science; these suggestions can help create your own loam on the range.


Things to do in the garden:


Not much. Check perennials and bulbs for heaving out of the ground. Press them down gently with your foot. Make a list of plants you want. Inventory seeds you have saved make sure they aren’t past viability. 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. Insects are less likely to be attracted to cuts while trees are dormant. Remember, spring flowering shrubs should be pruned after flowering if you want to enjoy the blooms. Summer flowering shrubs can be pruned now.  Cut back butterfly bush (Buddleia) severely


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.” The City of Circleville has a Comprehensive Tree Plan. You can find it at ci.circleville.oh.us, in the search box type Tree Plan. There you will find lots of information on caring for trees.


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. Water houseplants with lukewarm water, don’t overwater and turn them a quarter turn once a week, no fertilizer yet.


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. It is a good way to raise a lot of seedlings for planting “drifts,” those bands of like plants that wander serpentine through our flower beds.


Now is a good time to start building raised vegetable garden beds. If your compost heap isn’t frozen and is workable, turn it

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Happy Know Year


January 2022


Happy Know Year

By Paul J. Hang


In 2020 we hoped 2021 would be a better year. Wrong! The admonition, “It can always get worse” keeps me from saying that 2022 might be a better year. 2021 was not a better year for the pandemic nor was it any better in my garden. Francis Bacon said “Knowledge is power,” if he is correct then let’s get smarter. We all know the litany, by now, of how to defeat Covid; vax, boost, mask, distance, etc. However, I think it was St. Paul who said something like, I know the good, I don’t do the good. Maybe a little more knowledge will lead to a better year in the garden if not with the pandemic. In gardening, like most other things, we can always learn more. No one knows it all.


There are all kinds of gardening advice, some good, some not so much. Some advice is based on an underlying fact but is misleading or is not complete. An example is that blossom end rot in solanaceous plants, e.g. tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, is caused by a deficiency of calcium. Many people advise adding calcium to the soil to prevent it. Actually, most soils have enough calcium. The lack of calcium is caused by uneven watering, by us or rain. Plants take in minerals that are in solution. If no water is available, no calcium is available. The blossom end of the tomato is the farthest from the roots and can’t develop properly without calcium. The undeveloped flesh is brown, soon rots and turns black. No amount of egg shells or Tums (yes, I heard it) or other additional calcium will prevent blossom end rot. Consistent watering will.


Some hints and resources to become a more knowledgeable gardener follow. Determine your planting zone. Read the labels of purchased plants and the instructions on seed packets for site recommendations (Right Plant in the Right Place) and planting instructions. Read books, take classes, watch gardening shows (Growing a Greener World, joegardener.com is the best), listen to radio gardening programs, and don’t overlook friends and neighbors whose gardens you admire. And, as my Mom used to say, “Look it up on the Google machine.”


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.  Youtube is full of it (advice that is). Make sure the video you’re watching is coming from a university or other trusted source. Go to the Buckeye Yard and Garden Line at http//bygl.osu.edu. There, local state experts discuss gardening issues which are in the form of a newsletter. You can even choose to have it emailed to you.


Have a question? Check with the OSU Extension Service. The Helpline can be reached at 740-474-7534 or www.pickaway.osu.edu where there is a link to “Ask an Expert.” This year I begin the thirteenth year of this column. How time flies! For a little more knowledge you can read prior columns at pickawaygardener.blogspot.com.


Things to do in the garden:


The list of things to do in the garden has gotten shorter. Things we can do about gardening are: Review last year's garden; draw a map while you can still remember what grew where. Plan your gardens and plantings. One of my favorite guides for this is The Ohio Gardening Guide by Jerry Minnich.


Check your supply of old seeds. Are they expired? Do you want to reorder that variety? Read your new seed catalogs. Want some more seed catalogs? Go to gardeningplaces.com. Order seeds and plants of new varieties that you want now. They usually sell out quickly.


Believe it or not, by the end of the month, you can begin to grow members of the Allium family (Onions, Leeks, Garlic and Shallots) from seed indoors. You can get ready by getting your seed starting supplies together. Make sure you provide plenty of light.


Cut back on watering your houseplants and don’t fertilize until March or April when growth begins as the amount of light lengthens, rinse/dust leaves, turn them every few days. When your poinsettias are looking ragged throw them on the compost heap. The same goes for paper whites. In my opinion it is not worth trying to get them to bloom again. If you like a challenge, go ahead but be prepared for disappointment. Amaryllis and Christmas cactus are exceptions and can be kept for re-blooming. Check the internet for instructions.


Establish a new bed by placing black plastic or several layers of newspaper, cardboard or even old carpet down over the area you’ve chosen for the new bed. Weight it down so the wind doesn’t disturb it. By late spring the vegetation under it should be dead and the space ready for planting.


Learn to sharpen your tools, trowels, pruners, spades and if you are adventurous, your mower blades. Oil them and use linseed oil on the wooden handles. Getting rid of a cut live Christmas tree? Don’t. Use it to serve as a wind break for evergreens. Cut the branches off and use them as mulch for perennials. Put it near your bird feeders as cover. Decorate it with suet, fruit, seed cakes, as a bird feeder. Chip it for mulch. If you have a pond, sink it for structure cover for fish. The needles can also be mulch and will not make the soil too acidic. If you had a balled live Christmas tree, plant it ASAP.


Some gardening resolutions: Rotate vegetable crops; water the base of plants, not from above; weed and mulch; use row covers; water newly planted trees and shrubs; visit and check your garden often. Happy Know Year.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Happy Holly Days


December 2021


Pickaway to Garden


By Paul J. Hang

Happy Holly Days


Holidays, Holy Days, Holly days, hay, I’m a plant guy. How else should I spell them? Holly is a plant for the season. It is mentioned in many Christmas songs, used for decorations and, with its bright red berries and green leaves, it is the colors of Christmas. Greenery is a theme because there is little of it after having disappeared with the frosts and freezes. Holly maintains its colors throughout the holiday season.


The holly most of us recognize is Ilex aquifolium, the European variety. There are hundreds of others, some in the form of trees, shrubs and climbers. The name is derived from a Latin word meaning “sharp leaved.” American holly (Ilex opaca) can be used as a substitute. The difference is in the shape of the leaves. Most hollies are dioecious meaning you need both a male and female plant to produce fruit. Both can grow into trees. They grow in full or part sun and can be pruned.


In Christian symbolism the sharp leaves are reminiscent of the crown of thorns and the berries drops of blood. For the ancient Druids, holly protected against evil spirits and they wore it in their hair. Generally holly symbolizes truth.


Holly berries are not true berries; they are drupes, a fleshy fruit with a central stone containing the seed. Cherries and olives are examples of drupes. The berries and leaves are poisonous and if eaten cause vomiting and diarrhea. The berries are hard until softened up by freezes; they are then eaten by birds and animals, other than us, and presumably without the same effect.


Holly is an apt decoration choice for Christmas or other “Holly Days” that occur around the winter solstice. For Jews it is Hanukkah, African Americans celebrate Kwanzaa. People in Muslim countries celebrate Yada Night which goes back 8,000 years with Zoroastrianism. The ancient celebration for the Celts was Yule. All celebrate with some form of family gatherings, food, gifts, lights and greenery of some kind. They celebrate the return of the light and with it greenery, which is the promise of returning life. Holly also rhymes with Jolly. Its presence brings a smile when you see it, rivaled only by mistletoe. They are unmistakable signs that the holiday season is here.


Whether we have a white Christmas or not, the weather outside can be frightful.

Be ready for the snow and icy conditions. Take the sage advice of the Colorado recluse billy barr, “Learn to fall on your butt not on your face.”







Looking for gift ideas for gardeners? Consider a spade, a “scuffle” hoe, a soil knife, other tools, gloves, boots, books. Happy shopping!


Things to do in the garden:


Thankfully, there are not too many things to do IN the garden as much as there are things to do ABOUT the garden. If you haven’t already done so, clean up crop debris. Get the vegetable garden ready for spring. As mentioned before, leave stems in the perennial beds 18 inches high for overwintering beneficial insects’ eggs and pupae.


On nice days wander about your place and notice how some plants continue to develop. If the local temperature reaches 50 degrees they grow, only to cease when the temperature falls. Those bitter cress weeds are small now. I find them in between the bricks of my walk. They and ground ivy in the beds and in the lawn are trying to gain a foothold now while they have little competition. The biennial mullein with its fuzzy lamb's ear-like leaves is growing flat against the earth. Rosettes of poison hemlock and teasel continue to grow. Dig them up while you have the chance or spray with an herbicide according to the directions on the label. Get them before the weather turns warm and they turn tougher.


If the ground remains open it’s still not too late to plant lilies, tulips and daffodils. You may find some bargains. Avoid the soft and shriveled ones. Check houseplants for insects. Move clay pots inside to prevent breaking. Plant native seeds directly over snow or frozen ground. Go to www.backyardhabitat.info.


Wrap young tree trunks with hardware cloth or the plastic wrap made for that purpose. Protect them from ground level to about 18 inches.  This also goes for newly planted shrubs. Place fencing around them. This prevents mice, voles and rabbits from using the bark as lunch. If they girdle the plants, they will die. A little light pruning of trees and shrubs while they are dormant won’t hurt. Damaged, rubbing or simply inconvenient small branches can be removed. Never top trees in any season. When harvesting or buying firewood use only local sources less than 50 miles. This helps prevent the spread of bugs and diseases harmful to trees.


In the vegetable garden, write down and/or map where you planted what this year. This will aid in crop rotation. Use ice melt, not rock salt, on your walks, it is harmful to plants including grass.


 November 2021

Pickaway to Garden


By Paul J. Hang

What can I say about November, that I haven’t already said? Not much. Here is what I have said in past columns. November is named from the Latin “novem”, or nine. It was the ninth month under the old Romulus calendar. November is a transitional month, not the fall of September and October and not the winter of December, January and February. We know November‘s steel gray blustery days are punctuated by rare sunny blue sky days. Veterans’ Day and the Thanksgiving holiday,  will be welcome interruptions to the relentless November march towards winter. Election Day, on the other hand, is no joke, unless we vote for a joker.

November is one of the “ber” months and the beginning of the “ brrr” months. The growing season is over. We can end our gardening, if we want. We know that there aren’t many days left to finish our chores before the weather drives us indoors. Harvest has left the fields appear larger and more open with more stubble than a three day beard. Grain trucks rumble by and line up at the mills like people at the BMV. Daylight savings time ends and our daylight account is overdrawn. The solstice is coming (Dec. 21st) and with it the hope that our sun- light account will once again start receiving deposits. Our trees are becoming naked and starkly beautiful. 

November is a windy month. We watch with hidden glee as our leaves blow downwind to our neighbor’s yard only to be brought back abruptly to reality when we see our upwind neighbors’ leaves blow into ours. The holidays will arrive before we know it. We know our sense of warm anticipation will be tempered by the anxiety of all the preparations. Black Friday arrives, try to avoid the stampede. November usually brings a hard freeze and the first snow. The average first snowfall is November 21st. We know a warm fire can compensate for just about anything. I know this; there is no month quite like November.

Have you ever thought of becoming a Master Gardener Volunteer? December 1, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm there will be an Open House at the OSU County Extension Meeting room. It is located on the second floor of the County Building, 110 Island Road. Park in the back lot, off High St. and use the back door. Volunteers will be there to explain the program and the training classes that will begin in the New Year. Questions? Contact  lhuston@columbus.rr.com  or 740-497-4384.

Things to do in the Garden:


Now is a good time to do soil tests. You have time (3 to 6 months) to amend your soil if required. You will avoid the spring rush. To obtain soil sampling instructions and kits along with specific recommendations contact the local Cooperative Extension Office 740-474-7534.The Helpline is also available at the same number. It’s not too late to plant spring flowering bulbs. Spring bulbs look best in a cluster. Try excavating an area rather than planting them in single holes. Lift tender bulbs (caladiums, dahlias, glads etc.) and store for the winter. Sow seeds of hardy annuals (calendula, bachelor’s buttons). Mums can be “tidied up” but don’t trim back until spring.

Tender roses should be “hilled up,” mound the soil a foot deep around the base to protect the crowns. Also a wire cage filled with leaves surrounding them as protection can be added. Final pruning should be done in the spring, but long spindly canes can be trimmed off now. Climbing roses or ramblers should be tied to prevent injury from being whipped around by harsh winter winds. Do not fertilize. Clean up all dead and diseased rose leaves and put in the trash.

A fall fertilization of your lawn can be done now. Do not allow leaves to form a matted layer on the lawn. Rake and compost heavy layers of leaves. Running the mower over the rows of leaves at right angles a couple times will reduce them to half inch pieces which earth worms will pull into the soil. The latest recommendation is to continue to cut your lawn at 2.5-3 inches as long as it continues to grow. Run the gas out of your lawn and garden machinery or add gas stabilizer for storage.

November is a good month to plant trees. For two short informative videos, go to; http://bit.ly/PlantATreeCbus. When your trees go dormant you can view; http://bit.ly/PruneATreeCbus and see how to prune them properly.

Make sure leaves and mulch are not heaped against the trunks of trees. Bring the mulch a few inches to a foot away from the trunks of all trees. You may also want to stake newly planted trees from the winds of winter and early spring storms. Generally new trees more than 2” diameter don’t need staking. Consult ohioline.osu.edu for staking and other gardening information. Evergreens and shrubs should be watered deeply. Apply an anti-desiccant to broadleaf evergreens. Wait until dormant to do any normal pruning. Do not prune spring flowering shrubs (lilac, forsythia, spirea etc.) if you want them to bloom this spring.

Take stock by taking notes and map your garden while you can still remember where the plants were. This is particularly important for the vegetable garden. Clean your gardening tools and put them away. A coat of oil can prevent rust. A light coating of linseed oil on wooden handles prevents splitting due to weathering and drying. Drain garden hoses and store. At the very least disconnect from the outdoor spigots. Make sure underground irrigation lines are drained or blown dry with a compressor.

Remove the dead plants from containers and, if not diseased, compost. Unglazed terracotta pots must be stored indoors or they will be destroyed. The same goes for fragile garden ornaments. Synthetic containers can be left 

Sunday, November 7, 2021



October 2021

Pickaway to Garden



By Paul Hang


Difference and sameness, animals and plants, have you considered how you are like a plant? Of course the differences quickly come to mind. Plants are stuck where they grow. We can move around. Plants don’t have eyes, ears, noses or mouths; organs connected to a nervous system. Science has recently discovered that plants do have mechanisms that enable them to sense the world around them and communicate with other plants. We eat plants and animals that eat plants. Plants “eat” manure, compost and fertilizers that we supply to them as well as the minerals they obtain from soil.


In an article by Jeff Cox in Horticulture magazine he says, “Human flesh and vegetable matter are composed of the same elements, although in different quantities and arrangements. There’s not much fundamental difference between us physically.” Later he gives us two chemical formulas, C55H72O5N4Mg, which is the formula for chlorophyll and C2952 H4664N812O832S8Fe4, which is the formula for hemoglobin. These are made up of much the same elements just different proportions of Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Oxygen. Chlorophyll is based around magnesium and hemoglobin is based around iron. Chlorophyll uses sunlight and carbon dioxide to make sugar which is the plant’s food, energy source and building material. Hemoglobin transports oxygen to all the cells in our body.


Sameness is our respiratory function, but we differ in that plants breathe in carbon dioxide (and some oxygen) and breathe out oxygen, we, as animals, do the reverse. We, as animals, ate plants and co-evolved with plants. Plants produce chemicals that we use to live and function. We have developed sensory mechanisms that tell us if a plant is good to eat or not. We are connected to plants in ways we do not yet understand. However, we are connected to plants in ways we do understand and in ways that are becoming more understandable. In elemental ways we are more like plants than I ever imagined.


How are we like plants, “Elementary my dear Watson?” This new awareness reminded me of the time our neighbor asked why my father’s tomatoes grew much better than his. The neighbor relayed all the things he had done to them like apply fertilizer, mulch etc. and added, “I even talk to them.” My father replied, “What are you saying to them?”


Things to do in the garden:


Hot caps and covers should be made handy in case a frost or freeze is forecast. Remember that the coldest temperature usually comes a little after sunrise. The earth radiates heat away and the sun hasn’t climbed high enough to begin heating us. If you can protect your plants now, a couple more weeks of warmth is likely to follow, with more vegetables and flowers to harvest. Average first frost for south central Ohio is October 23.


Consider bringing in the houseplants. Make sure you don’t bring in any bugs with them; a good blast of water from your hose can wash most of them off. Bring the pots into a sheltered spot for a week or so to help the plants acclimate before shocking them with the warmer temperatures of your home.


In October, and even into early November, you can plant garlic and shallots. Cloves from store-bought garlic may not work as some are treated to delay sprouting. You can also order favorite varieties from seed catalogs. Separate the cloves and plant 4 inches apart.


Dahlias, glads, tuberous begonias and cannas should be dug and stored in a cool dry place. Most basements are too warm. Caladiums, on the other hand, should be stored at 65 - 70 degrees. Go to ohioline.osu.edu and bring up Factsheet HYG-1244-92 to get specific information on storing Summer Flowering Bulbs.


You can still divide day lilies and iris. Cut back the iris leaves to four-inch fans. Stop feeding your roses but don’t stop giving them water. Consider cutting back your roses halfway if they stop blooming. If you have dormant roses you can still plant them. Spring bulbs can be planted as soon as you get them. Plant them at a depth three times their length; place some bulb food in the hole with them. For a better display plant them in odd numbered groups, not single file. For more impact, plant them in a triangular shaped group with a point facing the spot from where they will be viewed.


If you planted trees this year (it is still a good time, until the ground freezes) protect the trunks from gnawing rabbits and other varmints with hardware cloth or the plastic wrap made for this purpose. Even older trees can benefit from this if you’ve experienced this damage in the past.


It is still the best time to fertilize your lawn. Use a high nitrogen soluble product. You can still sow grass seed.


Leave seed heads of native coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans for the birds. Also leave stems for overwintering insects. You can put off most cleanups (but not in the vegetable garden) until next spring! Add mulch around perennials after the ground freezes, assuming it will.

The Great Divide


September 2021

Pickaway to Garden

The Great Divide

By Paul Hang

Horticulture magazine recently reminded me that fall is a good time to divide perennials to fill in some bare spots or share with friends and neighbors. It is best to divide perennials in the season in which they are not blooming so that they can put their energy into roots and foliage, not flowers. This fall, divide spring and early summer bloomers. In spring divide the late summer and fall bloomers. Keep the divisions good size, not too small, and keep them watered. If we are still having hot sunny days (let’s hope not) you may want to shade them with row covers, sheets, cardboard or shade cloth, especially during the hours from 10 to 3 or 4.

While you’re at it you can divide and conquer. Add those divided early bloomers into your late bloomer patches to add longer interest. The same goes for tall divisions added to the back of beds and the shorter ones to the front. Also by moving divisions around you can add the element of repetition to the overall effect. Just remember to plant the same plant in odd numbered groups starting with three. If you have a lot of divisions try planting them in drifts, long undulating strips of the same plant woven through a bed. These techniques make for a more interesting garden and one that has something blooming all season long.

Did some of your spring bulbs produce more foliage than blooms? If the cause was overcrowding divide them. If the cause was too much shade from growing trees or shrubs, move them. Now is the time, if you can find them. One exception to the divide opposite the time of bloom rule is Resurrection lilies or Surprise lilies (Lycoris squamigera). You can transplant and divide them after the flowers fade. Dig bulbs, discard rotted or damaged ones. Plant in a sunny well drained spot at the same depth you found them, usually three times the height of the bulb.

September also divides summer from fall. September 22 this year is the Autumnal equinox the day when we have equal periods of daylight and night, the first day of autumn. This year the full moon on September 20 will be the Harvest moon as it is the closest full moon to the equinox. The shortened length of daylight will eventually cause the change of color in the leaves of trees and shrubs. That length of daylight will continue to shrink until the leaves fall later next month when the stem (petiole) of the leaf divides from the twig.

Things to do in the garden:

As annual plants die consider leaving them in the garden. If they are in the vegetable garden, pull them up. If perennials, you may want their winter interest or to preserve them for overwintering pollinator eggs, larvae, pupae or cocoons. Dispose of non-diseased debris in a "hot" compost heap, bury them or put them in the trash. In the butterfly garden leave the host plants as they are harboring the overwintering eggs and larvae of next year’s butterflies. Those plants that you don’t want to re-seed remove the seed heads before their seeds are scattered. Or, leave them for the birds. Clean up old fruit from around fruit trees.

If you collect, dry, and store seeds for next year, use only heirloom varieties, hybrids will not grow true. Harvest and cure winter squash and gourds if they are ready. Leave a two inch stem. Gourds should be finished with growth before you cut them from the vine, store indoors at 60 degrees.

September is the best time to plant grass seed whether you are re-seeding, patching or establishing a new lawn. If you only fertilize your lawn once a year, fall is the best time to do it. Cooler, wetter fall weather promotes good root growth and your grass will start out next spring healthier. Fertilize in September and then again around Thanksgiving. Read directions for amounts and settings on application equipment. You might also want to consider shrinking your lawn to save on fertilizer and mowing costs.

In those areas that are not to be fall planted, plant a cover crop or “green manure” that will be turned in in the spring. Buckwheat, annual rye, sweet clover, winter barley, wheat, soybeans, alfalfa, and hairy vetch make good green manures.

Now is the time to plant spring flowering bulbs. A good rule of thumb is to plant bulbs at a depth about three times the height of the bulb. Most spring flowering bulbs look best planted in a group not in single file. Plant in a triangle, with the point facing the viewer, for most impact. Planting irises and peonies this fall takes advantage of the warm earth. They should be planted about 2 inches deep. If your peonies haven’t bloomed well because of shade from nearby competing trees, now is a good time to move them to a sunnier place in the yard.

Watch for yellowing of gladiolus leaves. Dig the corms and hang until the tops turn brown. Then store in a cool, not freezing, well ventilated basement or garage. Do the same with caladium, cannas, and dahlias when their tops turn brown. Fall is a good time to divide Lily of the Valley, primroses, peonies, day lilies, coral-bells and bleeding heart. Adding bulb food and humus will be rewarded in the spring.

You can plant onion seed now for early green onions and bulbs. Yes, onions are bulbs. You can still plant cool season vegetables. It’s not too late to start beets, carrots, kale and lettuce, maybe even bush beans! If you have row covers, or can make them, you can have these for Thanksgiving dinner. This assumes we don’t have a hard freeze. If we do, prepare to cover the plants. Order garlic bulbs now for planting later.

Now is a good time to test your soil. The prescribed amendments will have time to work their way into the soil and be available to the plants for the next growing season. Information on soil testing is available at the OSU Extension Office as well as the Helpline at 740- 474-7534 for general questions.