PICKAWAY TO GARDEN
By Paul J. Hang
It is safe to read Dr. Suess. My favorite is Fox in Sox. My second favorite is The Lorax; he speaks for the trees. In spite of recent evidence that trees communicate with other trees (chemically), they evidently aren’t very effective in communicating with many of us. Enter the Lorax. Will we listen?
Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), Asian Long-horned Beetle (ALB), Thousand Canker Disease (TCD), Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA), Sugar Maple Decline (SMD), Beech Leaf (BLD ), Oak Wilt Disease (OWD), not to mention Dutch Elm Disease(DED) and the Chestnut blight, these threats to our trees are really scary reading. You can google any of them to learn more about them. Enter the topic followed by the word extension, e.g. Oak Wilt extension, to get reliable science-based information from the state Cooperative Extension..
Just to mention one, Oak Wilt, has been detected in our area and it kills Oaks. Curling leaves could be a sign. It is carried on the feet of a beetle that is attracted to the sap oozing from a wound to an Oak tree. Shades of Dr. Suess! Because of this you should not prune Oaks from April through October. If pruning is required because of safety or storm damage the wounds should be treated with a wound dressing which is not recommended otherwise.
Why does any of this matter? Because, Trees Matter. Trees are valuable assets to a community and trees are assets that increase in value each year: large trees are exponentially more valuable than smaller trees. Trees are known to: reduce air pollution; create oxygen; mitigate storm water runoff; save energy by shading and cooling in summer while reducing winter winds and keeping buildings warmer; muffle sounds; reduce crime and increase the sense of community; make citizens healthier; have beauty and create a sense of pride in a community; increase commerce in a business district. With all of these benefits it is no wonder the Lorax spoke up some 46 years ago.
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.
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.