Sunday, August 15, 2021

Before the fall

 

August 2021

Pickaway to Garden

Before the Fall

By Paul J. Hang

Not that fall, that was in the Garden of Eden. I mean the season. Some of you may have noticed that I use a lot of equivocation in my columns, using a word with two meanings, using a word one way when I really mean the other. It’s ambiguous but I am not trying to mislead dishonestly. Equivocation is often used in humor, in jokes. So, August is before the fall and there is still some gardening to be done, if you are up to it. By now a lot of us are tired and it is still too hot to spend much time playing in the dirt. I gave up trying to create a Garden of Eden a long time ago and have settled for a garden of eaten.

You can have a fall garden producing food right into winter. Long term forecasts predict a warmer fall than usual. The temperature will be cooler for working outside. There will be fewer pests. Our average first frost date is October 15. Work back from there. If your seed packet says your desired crop will mature in 60 days you can plant it by August 15th and it might be ready on October 15th. Fall brings cooler temps and shorter days with less sunlight so it might take longer. On the other hand, if you cover the crop when frost threatens, you will probably have enough time to reap what you sow. Things like lettuce and arugula can be harvested anytime so they are safe. Collard greens, spinach, cabbage, turnips, peas and radishes can withstand a frost.  If you can find plants for cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, winter squash, try it. Cucumber plants can be planted now but can’t take a frost uncovered.

Once we have a frost (you did cover your plants to protect them, right?), we can usually count on a few more weeks of warmer weather. The odds are in our favor. Don’t have enough room?  Plant between your tomato plants. Pull up those onions, green beans, squash, cucumbers and other plants that may have stopped producing and make way for other veggies. Plant some radishes among newly planted beets to mark the rows and harvest them before the beets are being crowded.

Garlic and onions can be planted now for harvest next summer. Spinach can be covered lightly with straw or in a covered tunnel and you can harvest it until spring. Just don’t uncover it on those bitter cold days. Give it a try. I hope you are tempted. With this knowledge you might find gardening paradise. You’ll know after the fall.

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 healthy looking broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage plants if you can find them early in the month. Direct-seed beets, lettuces, spinach, radishes, turnips, 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 two step 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.

Hot Gardening

 

July’ 2021

Pickaway to Garden

 

Hot Gardening

 

By Paul Hang

 

Hot gardening seems like an oxymoron these days. Gardening is done primarily in the summer and so we all know gardening is hot. The past few years it has been so hot that I can’t stand, bend, kneel or sit much after 10 AM before I retreat to the AC inside. In the sometimes cool of the evening mosquitoes drive me back indoors. Hot gardening can also mean, and I intend for it to mean, gardening that is becoming more meaningful and  more popular, hot!

 

I just finished Doug Tallamy’s book Nature’s Best Hope. In it he argues that home gardens can contribute to a healthy ecology, combat climate change (global warming), and restore bio-diversity. We can do this by planting more of the plants that were here before we came. Native plants can bring back more insects, more birds, more of the world some of us remember as a kid. Our national parks have native plants but they are also becoming home to more non-native and invasive species. What can we do?

 

He says that in the U.S. there are 40 million acres devoted to lawns. In the big National

Parks in the lower 48 there are less than half that amount. His novel idea is that if we could cut in half the amount of lawn we could create a Homegrown National Park. If we could put 70% of our plantings, trees, shrubs, flowers as natives we could restore the biodiversity that more and more we realize will save the planet. I am not a purist and neither is he. We are not willing to give up our old world veggies and some of the decorative flowers.

 

We can plant some more southern natives and help the species migrate as our climate warms. With lots of properties devoted to mostly native plants, natural corridors will be created which many species need to survive. In other words, we can garden with another, more environmentally friendly, purpose. Tallamy’s book gives many more examples and suggestions. I believe these concepts are becoming more popular. More people are learning about and planting natives. I know I have. Get with it. This kind of gardening is hot! It’s also cool.

 

To begin your search for native plants for your area go to nwf.org and put Native Plant Finder in their search box. Have gardening questions? Call the Gardening Helpline 740-474-7534. To read about 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. tomatoes, 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.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Plunkit

 

June 2021

Pickaway to Garden

Plunkit

By Paul Hang

Not the quarterback Jim Plunkett. I am talking about the way some gardeners, myself included, design their landscapes, their yards, their digs. Every garden book and program says you should start out with a plan. Preferably the plan will be on paper. They mention that first you consider the hardscape, house, shed and outbuildings, paths, perhaps a water feature. Don’t forget fences, walls, trees and shrubs. Once these are in place then you look at where the planting beds will be installed. They always install beds and plant material. I, on the other hand, put or dig beds in. And, I plant plants, not plant material. Then consider drainage patterns of your site. Every plant tag will tell you the plant likes “well drained” soil.

Finally you can get to the fun part of choosing and obtaining (buying) plants. Before you buy any plant “material” you must consider how much sun you have, how much shade, is it dense or partial, dappled? More planning as you consider the characteristics of the plants for your site. You consider bloom time, color, texture; is it coarse or fine-textured foliage? Now for the “rules”; tall plants in back, low plants in front, plant in odd numbers of like plants in groups, repeat groups, choose a focal point. Put the right plant in the right place.

All this is fine and good but how many of us start out with a blank slate? Blank stare maybe but I have always (with one exception) started with a pre-existing house, trees, shrubs, outbuildings, topography and resulting drainage, not to mention the soil. I am getting better but most of my life I have followed the plunkit method. I found a plant I like and I plunked it where there is room. Often, being unsure and indecisive, I plunkit in my driveway garden. You know, by the garage door where any numbers of plants in pots reside until, sometimes years later, you decide where to plant them or they die. It is plant purgatory.

Some of you must know what I am talking about. I can’t be the only one with a driveway garden. Over the years my plunkit method has been refined. When I see a plant I like I read the tag. I know my little plot of earth and I think of where the plant might flourish and fit in. For some of us, there are computer programs and apps that can help in planning ahead and of course you could hire or enlist the aid of a designer. If building from scratch you could hire a landscape architect. For a lot of us who like to do it ourselves the plunkit method will suffice as we tweak our way to the garden we have.

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. 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.

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.

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."

                                                                          

April Flowers

 

May 2021

Pickaway to Garden

April Flowers

by Paul Hang

 

Yes, I know, the saying is “April showers bring May flowers.” However, in this topsey turvey world of the past year or so, the old saying seems to be reversed. April flowers were spectacular. Daffodils, Tulips, flowering shrubs, Viburnums, Forsythia, lilacs, trees, Dogwood, Redbud, Serviceberry, apple and crabapple, all put on a spectacular display. Not only that, but the blossoms lasted longer than usual due to the mostly cooler weather. There was little rain though, or so it seemed. The data I was able to find showed we were behind by the end of April by 5” of rain.

 

Now it’s May and the rain has come, for now. I am pretty sure we will have May flowers. My first poppy bloomed on May 2nd with hopefully many more to come. May the May flowers bloom as they have in years past. I am pretty sure they will but it won’t be because of April showers. The blooms are triggered by the accumulation of GDD (Growing Degree Days). For information about GDD go to www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/gdd. As I am writing this the gdd value is 376. When it reaches 471 Red Buckeye will bloom. Unfortunately when it reaches 472 Large crabgrass will be at 25% seedling emergence. If you didn’t put down a pre-emergent such as Weed and Feed you are too late. Crabgrass waits for no one.

 

 A simplified way to explain gdd and its calculations is that it is the accumulation of the days in the year that the temperature stays above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmer it is the faster the GDD accumulates. If it gets colder than 50 degrees the GDD does not go down. It accumulates, so it remains the same until it warms again. Then it rises again. Not only do plants “obey” GDD but so do insects. They hatch according to the GDD of their species. For example at 440 GDD Boxwood Leaf miners emerge. If you are plagued by them that would be the perfect time to spray for them.

 

This amazing discovery is from the science of phenology. Not phrenology -  that is the discredited study of the bumps on our heads to predict certain physical and psychological characteristics. Phenology studies the occurrence of things (phenomena) and their correlation or simultaneous occurrence with other events. An example is the Native American adage, “plant corn when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear.” That is not as exact as GDD (what species of squirrel do they mean?), but it is pretty good.

 

In spite of the old saying, April flowers do not bring May showers nor do

April showers bring May flowers, but they help.

 

The Master Gardener Volunteers are having their Plant Sale on May 15, 9am-1pm in the parking lot at the Pickaway County Library on N. Court St. Lots of plants, including heirloom tomatoes, for sale. 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. This also works on the caterpillars of cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts.

 

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 (after the blooms fade), 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. Don’t get the sap on your skin. Post-emergent herbicides are effective this time of year.

 

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

Friday, April 2, 2021

Lonely Lorax

 

April 2021

 

PICKAWAY TO GARDEN

Lonely Lorax

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.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Snowdrops

 

March 2021

PICKAWAY TO GARDEN

Snowdrops

By Paul Hang

 

Snowdrops have been revealed now that raindrops and warmer temperatures have arrived. They were waiting there under the snow. Every year they surprise me. Can we hope that there will be no more snow drops? We can hope. Maybe we can have that best of snow when everything turns white but the roads remain clear and dry. Just one more snow, that doesn’t need shoveling; one more to enjoy, appreciate and remember fondly for the rest of the year.

 

March is so unpredictable and unsettled. It is the adolescence of the year. A period we live through, thrilling at times, glad when it is over. A wag once said,  ”March is how we get from February to April.” March first is the beginning of meteorological spring. It’s like waiting for your 21st birthday. It takes forever and then, before you know it, it’s here. True, astronomical spring won’t arrive until March 20th.

 

Last March my column was about the pandemic and how planting a garden would be a good way to spend our time. The pandemic is still here and it is still a good time to plant a garden. It seems that a lot of people took my advice because seeds and gardening supplies sold out. It will probably be the same this year so get your orders in right away.

 

Buds are visibly swelling on some trees and shrubs; sap is beginning to run in the circulatory systems of trees and some politicians. Daylight savings time begins soon. Crocuses will bloom and daffodils. Tulips will continue to push up promising blooms in April or sooner. St. Patrick's Day promises that all of nature will soon be wearin o’ the green. For now, the only green to be seen will be the beer.

 

March is also the beginning of the season when the door to door tree “trimmers” will offer to “prune” your trees cheap. Topping trees is not good pruning. Information about pruning trees is at www.ohio-line.osu.edu. For information about caring for your trees go to www.arborday.org and www.treecaretips.org. For a list of certified arborists, go to www.isa-arbor.com. Your trees are a valuable asset to your property, to our community and to our environment. 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 trees and regulations for public trees that belong to all of us.

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 like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

 

Start your seeds indoors for hardy plants (beets ((yes you can)), 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-hardy 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. 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.

Winter Creeper

 

February 2021

PICKAWAY TO GARDEN

Winter Creeper

By Paul Hang

 

Winter Creeper weather-wise is an oxymoron, true by definition. We all know winter creeps. As a plant, wintercreeper is “loser’s weepers.” It is creepy. If you like scary reading, Google it. Be careful though, it is also being sold as “Vibrant winter foliage. Spreading habit. Excellent groundcover. Wonderful in mass plantings.” Caveat emptor! Buyer beware! A well-known TV garden personality has, from time to time, even suggested it as a ground cover; I am here to convince you, NOT! Not even its variegated forms.

 

Wintercreeper, aka, Euonymus fortunei, is a non-native, highly invasive plant native to Asia, Japan and the Philippines in the family Celastraceae. This climbing euonymus is damaging, causing the death of urban trees and forests. It has opposite oval leaves and is evergreen. The leaves are about 1-2 inches long, glossy, slightly toothed with light-colored veins. As a ground cover the leaves are pointed and in winter may turn a purplish color.

 

Once the vine climbs a wall or tree it can reach 70feet long and its leaves become more rounded. As it climbs it reaches its adult stage and can flower with small white inconspicuous blooms. It produces orange seeds in a reddish capsule that are eaten by birds and mammals. This is its main method of dispersal. It is fast growing, tolerates shade and full sun. It would make David Letterman’s Top Ten List of Invasive Plants in the U.S.

 

It is a vigorous vine that invades forests. It grows across the ground, displacing native wildflowers and woody plant seedlings. It climbs trees high into the canopy by clinging to the bark and can overtop the tree depriving it of sunlight impeding photosynthesis leading to its death. The weight of it on trees can cause them to topple in a windstorm. It occurs in most states east of the Mississippi River.

 

It “escaped” cultivation and comes in several cultivars, ‘Coloratus’, ‘Emerald Gaiety’, ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’. It can be seen around town growing up doomed trees feeding birds that will inadvertently spread it around. Because it is evergreen it is noticeable in winter and cannot be confused with Virginia creeper or Poison Ivy. Another evergreen climbing vine that you may see on trees is English Ivy, Hegera helix. It has alternate leaves that can be variable in color but are typically green with white veins. They can be unlobed or have 3 to 5 lobes. It is the invasive cousin of Wintercreeper and should be treated the same.

 

Winter is the best time to kill them. On trees, cut the vine at the base and remove an inch or two. Paint the ends with a full strength non-selective herbicide. You will need to repeat this until the vine is dead. Once dead the vine can be removed as the roots will break away rather than cling to the tree. On the ground the best way to control them is to not plant them. Pulling them while young and the soil is moist is effective. Older plants can be treated like the vines on trees. Discard the plants, do not compost. Spraying with an herbicide with a surfactant (helps to penetrate the waxy coating) can be tried (read the label) but there is danger to surrounding plants if they are leafed out.

 

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.” 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.

 

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.