PICKAWAY TO GARDEN
By: Paul Hang
Not In My BackYard! NIMBY is a very human reaction to change that is seen as affecting us negatively. It is a kind of “Get off my lawn” reaction. It is often a reaction to an agricultural, industrial or housing development near us. It can also mean literally in my backyard. Neighbors who allow their plants or animals to encroach on our property can be more than annoying. Revenge pruning anyone? Gardeners can be afflicted by an even more nuanced or esoteric version of NIMBY. When we notice neighbors who allow, consciously or not, plants to grow that we don’t care for we get a case of NIMBY; fearing that those plants will soon be growing in our yard.
NIMBY can also be a reaction to plants that are growing in our community, state or country. April is Native Plant Month. Native plants are plants that occur naturally in their habitat where, over the course of evolutionary time, they have adapted to physical conditions and co-evolved with other species in the system. Colorado Spruce is not native to Ohio; not because we have different political boundaries but because Ohio doesn’t have Alpine conditions. We have different ecotypes. Native animals, including insects, depend on native plants.
All this is to serve as an introduction to the NIMBY reaction to the threat that invasive plants, animals (including insects and bugs), microbes and other organisms present. An invasive species is any non-native species that significantly modifies the ecosystem it colonizes. Invasive species can lead to the extinction of native species, competing with them for limited resources and altering habitat. Human activities, global commerce (Emerald Ash Borer), pet trade (Burmese python), horticulture industry (Bush Honeysuckle) are the most common ways invasive species are transported to new habitats. Invasive species can have significant economic, health and quality of life impacts.
To see the size of the problem go to www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/subject/lists. There are native and non-native plants that are aggressive or thugs that can pose a problem in our yards or gardens and seem invasive but are more of a nuisance. These overly enthusiastic plants can spread and be hard to control. Think: Bee Balm, mint, Lamb’s Ear, Hollyhock, and Creeping Charley and many more.
Invasive insects such as Emerald Ash Borer and Marmorated Stink Bugs are recent introductions that have caused disastrous economic and life-style changes. They have been joined by a new invasive that may prove to be both. The Spotted Lanternfly from Asia was found in eastern Pennsylvania in 2014 and has been found in three counties in Ohio. This leaf hopper sucks sap from trees and plants and is most destructive to peaches and grapes (wine!). It also, in the adult stage, around mid-July, can appear on most trees in such large numbers as to cause a serious nuisance at outdoor functions. The adult is an attractive looking moth-like flyer. In its earlier stages (instars) it looks like a large spotted tick. Ironically, it seems to need to feed on Tree of Heaven, or what we always called Stink Trees, which are also invasive. Google “Penn State Spotted Lanternfly and hosts” for more information. Let’s keep them out of our backyards.
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.
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 then 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. Bagworms on shrubs and trees hatch out shortly after the Snowmound Spirea blooms. This is when you can spray an insecticide (read the label) to kill the worms.
PICKAWAY TO GARDEN
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.
PICKAWAY TO GARDEN
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
PICKAWAY TO GARDEN
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.