Pickaway to Garden
By Paul Hang
Darkness. It’s always darkest before the dawn. Or, how about Longfellow, “Into each life some rain must fall, Some days must be dark and dreary.” Darkness has many connotations: lost, evil, ignorance, fear, danger, cold and death. If you are not likely to win at something, you are a dark horse. The darkness I want to consider is the opposite of daylight. It seems an appropriate topic for this time of year given that, “The darkest day will have passed away.” (W. Cowper). December 21 was the longest night of our calendar year. Every day there will be a little less darkness until the next equinox in late June. We know this intellectually and it brightens us psychologically, but it doesn’t make much immediate difference practically.
The continuing darkness, though lessening, is uneven. It gets dark a little later but not light a little earlier. Think about that for a minute or two. Don’t despair. By the end of the month the sun will set a half hour later. By February we will have gained an hour of daylight. What does all this have to do with plants? For plants light is essential as are other requirements such as, moisture, nutrition and carbon dioxide. But so is darkness. Plants need a period of darkness for their metabolism to work properly.
Plants continue to grow and respire 24/7, just like us, but, unlike us, they do not sleep. They do not go dormant at night, in the dark. In darkness photosynthesis stops because that biochemical process, so necessary in plants, needs light to operate. Permanent light would give them more food and energy for growing. But, plants are not designed to create food non-stop and to do so in the long term would eventually kill them. Occasional bouts of excess light are OK. Plants need light and darkness. It’s the combination that counts.
Some plants, poinsettia, gardenias, kalanchoes, Christmas cactus and chrysanthemums need a certain period of darkness to bloom. Some plants will do well in low light, but not prolonged complete darkness, such as Spider plant, Snake plant, Corn plant, and phalaenopsis, or Moth, orchids. Many activities of plants such as flowering, fruiting, going to seed, are regulated by longer or shorter nights (or days however you want to look at it).
It’s not the absolute number of hours that matters; it’s the change of the amount over time. This is called photoperiodism. It’s not temperature or rainfall but how the amount of light changes over time. Plants that flower in the spring are triggered by shorter nights. Other plants flower later, even in the fall, and are triggered by the nights getting longer. If you buy onion seeds or plants you will be asked to decide if you want Long-day, Short-day or Day-neutral varieties. Short-day varieties do well in Southern states and Long-day varieties do well in the Northern states.
These processes are familiar to anyone who has observed plants' growth. Although science can inform us about this it still hasn't been able to fully understand it.
We hope we have shed some light on darkness.
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 New Year.
Pickaway to Garden
By Paul J. Hang
This is not about getting naked but, now that I have your attention, about evergreens and Christmas trees. There are many species of trees that can be used for Christmas trees. All are evergreen and coniferous. All are gymnosperms. From the Greek, gymnos means naked and sperma means seeds. Coniferous plants have naked seeds. Curiously enough, gymnos is where we get the word gymnasium. I wouldn’t carry this too far or you might be asked to leave the “Y” with a police escort. But I digress.
Most flowering plants are angiosperms. Angio from the Greek means vessel. Vascular plants that are angiosperms develop their seeds within an ovary within a flower and the seeds are contained in a fruit. Vascular plants that are gymnosperms develop their seeds exposed (naked) on the surface of cones, not in fruits. We call them conifers. Gymnosperms were some of the earliest plants. Angiosperms evolved later and are more numerous.
Conifer leaves are almost always simple, often needlelike as in pines, spruces, larches, and firs or scale-like as in some junipers and cedars. Some conifers are not evergreen but deciduous and lose their leaves, like Dawn Redwoods, Bald Cypress and Larch (Tamarack). Most conifers are evergreen.
Evergreens retain their leaves as their name implies. As is true in all of nature, there is a cost as well as a benefit for every tactic of survival. Keeping leaves enables a plant to continue to take advantage of sunlight to fuel growth and development. Plants that retain their leaves in northern climates must produce chemicals to protect their cells from the destruction of freezing temperatures.
Plants use their leaves to exchange oxygen as well as to collect sunlight. This exchange (transpiration) loses water as vapor in their “breath” just as in ours. Our evergreen trees are particularly susceptible to this. They risk drying out, or desiccation. Newly planted evergreens need to be watered right up until the ground is frozen deep and hard. If you have smaller evergreens planted in areas where drying winds are prevalent you may try spraying them with an anti-desiccant or wrapping them with burlap for the winter. Don’t leave them naked.
Evergreens are often triangular in shape, tall and narrow with branches wider at the bottom than at the top. This enables them to take advantage of the low winter sun which comes at them sideways rather than from overhead. Look at your Christmas tree and be reminded of the low winter Sun. They celebrate the return of the light and with it greenery, which is the promise of returning life. Another way to enjoy them is to spend an evening with nothing on but the tree lights.
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. If it remains dry, continue to water evergreens and perennial plants, particularly those planted this year, until the ground is frozen hard.
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 below. Those bitter cress weeds are small now. I find them in between the bricks of my walk. They, false dead nettle 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 from local sources less than 20 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 sand and/or ice melt, not rock salt, on your walks, salt is harmful to plants including grass and contaminates ground water.
Gift ideas for gardeners: a good spade, soil knife, scuffle hoe, gloves, mud boots, books.
Pickaway to Garden
By Paul J. Hang
I am borrowing a term from theology to describe November. Apophatic is a way of describing something by stating which characteristics it doesn’t have. Although it’s negative, I think you will find it positive. One knows November in much the same way that the literary, fictitious horse-trader David Harum knew he had bought a horse, “…the only thing to determine that fact was that it wa’nt nothin’ else.”
What can I say about November? November seems merely a transition from October to December. November is not December with its winterberries and holly leaves, brown seed heads frosted by the snow and oak and beech clinging to their remaining leaves, unwilling to face reality. There is no green like the pines, spruces and hemlocks against a snowy background in January. No Snow Drops or Maple syrup like February. No swelling of buds and a hopeful hunt for green, as in March. No greening of grass, speckled with dandelions and crocus, like April. No flowery month like May with its blossoms, new leaves and an epidemic of chlorophyll.
It isn’t a leafy month with grass and maple, iris and columbine, strawberries and asparagus, like June. It isn’t a hot month like July with its milkweed, day lilies, bees, sunflowers and too many roots, shoots and fruits to mention. It’s not a corny month when we eat so much of it we are “corn walking.” Not to mention tomatoes. No autumn abundance of asters, apples and acorns like September. November is no changing leaf color like October when nature is going to seed in preparation for another cycle of growth. No, we know November with its burs and brrrrrs.
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 most 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. Remove the stalks from asparagus and mulch the strawberries with straw. 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 by freezing. The same goes for fragile garden ornaments. Synthetic containers can be left outdoors. Stop or reduce fertilizing indoor plants. Weed the vegetable garden and compost non-diseased debris. Place diseased materials in the trash. Remove stakes and cages, clean and store. Plant a cover crop.
Consider leaving the stems and seed heads of perennials. Nature is not compelled to neatness. She leaves cover for pollinators and butterflies to overwinter themselves or their pupae and eggs. You can clean up in the spring. Cut off dead annuals and, if not diseased, compost them. Now your beds are tucked in and settled down for a long winter’s nap.
Pickaway to Garden
By Paul Hang
A poet once wrote, “Autumn is in the air. Alas!” Alas? It is the only season with two names and each summons slightly different emotional reactions in me. Autumn refers to a period after vigorous activity and before decline. A melancholy and sad reference to the resignation that some things, summer, youth, (gardening?) are over. Fall on the other hand is the obvious reference to the color changing and falling leaves. October is definitely autumn, or fall. Take your pick. The month has a dual nature.
A list of signs that October has arrived sends me on a roller coaster of feelings. What reactions do they have for you? Signs such as: buckeye nuts on the ground and in the stands at “The Shoe,” other nuts like hickory, walnuts and political candidates with their ubiquitous ads, signs and debates. Doughnuts and apple cider, apples, pears, pumpkins, gourds and squash, persimmons and paw paws. Harvesting of corn and beans, raking leaves. Hot chocolate and marshmallows, goldenrod and asters. Blue jays and wood smoke returning to the neighborhood. I’m sure you can think of others. The month’s biggest holiday Halloween arrives with its witches, ghosts, ghouls, owls, bats and spiders and their blowup look- a-likes, and don’t forget the trick or treating goblins gobbling up enough of your sugar to drive their parents mad.
Sure, the days are getting windy, shorter, and colder, frost and even snow are likely before the month is out. The green is fading and turning to brown. We are reminded of growing older as the year winds down and winter approaches. Once the trees lose their leaves they can take on an ominous and even spooky appearance especially with the backdrop of a moonlit crisp night sky. And then, there is Indian summer!
October seems contradictory. It conjures up moods of sadness and happiness. Why be sad? I don’t know about you but sometimes I am relieved when the gardening season winds down. We need a respite. Rather than be melancholy I am glad to take a break. Enough of being buffeted about with these conflicting emotions for there are things to do in the garden, or not.
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.
Bring 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. Look up how to overwinter geraniums, begonias, coleus and other summer bloomers.
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. They will sprout a few inches and take off in spring.
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. Research the variety you want to plant. Some trees including evergreens are best planted in the spring.
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.
You can do soil tests now and apply the recommended amendments so they can be working their way into the soil before spring. Contact the OSU Extension office for instructions and bags for samples. The office can also be contacted with your gardening questions at 740-474-7534.
Pickaway to Garden
By Paul Hang
Ahhh… September, a change of season, shorter days, the sun is less intense, cooler days and nights. September, like its counterpart March, is a harbinger. It is a sign of what is to come, an indicator, a forewarning, and an omen. It is a sign that the seasons they are A-changin. September 22, this year, is the Autumnal equinox, the day when we have equal periods of daylight and night, the first day of autumn. The shortening length of daylight will eventually cause the change of color in the leaves of trees and shrubs. The photoperiod, the length of nights and days, is the main determinant of color change in the leaves of deciduous plants but not the only one. Temperature also has an effect.
The photoperiod also causes changes in other plants and animals. The amount of sunlight around the Autumnal Equinox is exactly the same as the amount around the Vernal Equinox in March; the sun is twelve hours above and twelve hours below the horizon. Perhaps, as we near September 22nd you have, or will, also notice signs of spring. Fruit trees may sport a few blossoms, dandelions may show a yellow crown or two, shrubs may burst some buds and show some blooms. Blue violets and honeysuckle will sometimes show a flower or two. You might also hear a birdsong that you haven’t heard for months. A robin or starling might begin a half-hearted song.
Contrast this with goldenrods and asters, birds beginning to flock preparing for migration to warmer climes. Leaves, nuts and acorns falling from the trees, the ripening of apples, berries and other fruits, the drying corn and beans, all indicate the shutting down of plant life and the coming winter.
In his book Summer World, Bern Heinrich puzzles over how the same photoperiods allow organisms to differentiate spring from fall. He says, “It seems remarkable enough that any organism can measure photoperiod and almost universally respond appropriately to it, but they need an added mechanism to determine the direction of the changing photoperiod.” He then considers several explanations including temperature and natural selection. Finally, we are left with the question, “Does the end of summer contain the seeds of spring?”
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 plant debris in a "hot" compost heap. If diseased, 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 mature winter squash, pumpkins 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 buy and 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. Cut deciduous peony leaves to the ground and discard.
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. If you can find transplants of broccoli, cabbage and cucumbers you can still get a harvest. Order garlic bulbs now for planting later.
Pot up plants of herbs, chives, parsley, rosemary for a sunny window. Bring in houseplants. Check for insects and treat as necessary. Reduce water and fertilizer for houseplants
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.
Pickaway to Garden
Old Dog Days
By Paul J. Hang
The Dog Days start July 3 through August 11. Dog Days have the well-earned reputation of being hot and miserable. Dog days are named for the star Sirius which is the brightest star and is in the constellation Canis Major, the Big Dog. Sirius rises and sets with the sun this time of year. Ancients believed it added heat to the sun. This, they believed, made the dog days the hottest, muggiest, most uncomfortable days of the year causing lethargy, illness and dogs to go mad. They sacrificed a brown dog as a way to get some relief. I do not recommend this. Dog is man’s best friend and, as we all know, every dog will have his day.
By now the Dog Days are getting old. And, like an old dog, the summer is waning and slowing down. Like old Rover, August can have some “lazy days” of summer. But old dogs need a lot of maintenance just like a garden. If you care for an old dog you also know it can be rewarding. If you have been caring for your garden, this month will be the most rewarding for harvesting vegetables and for enjoying flowers.
By the end of the first week of August we will be at mid-summer, half way between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox. By mid-month days are getting noticeably shorter. Although this is true the heat is not over. Maintenance in the garden will be key as August can be dry and hot. Long range predictions are for hotter and an equal chance for drier, weather for the Midwest.
All this heat and drought is stressful for us and dogs, young and old, and all plants. Newly planted lawns, trees and shrubs also need our special attention. Water deeply weekly not lightly frequently. Plants in containers are an exception, they may need watering daily. Stressed plants are an invitation to all manner of insect pests and diseases. Be vigilant. If you see trouble, investigate to see if the problem is caused by the weather, disease or by a pest.
August produces butterflies, dragonflies, fruit flies, houseflies and time flies. The daylily blooms are already gone their bare scapes reminding us of what was. Yarrow's blooms are browning. Sunflowers are drooping. Bird migration has begun. Cicadas, crickets, and katydids begin their chorus not to be silenced until the frosts of fall. August brings meteors, tomatoes, sweet corn, watermelon, Black-eyed Susans, hibiscus, iced tea and lemonade, berries and ice cream. Like an old dog, we know these times will be gone too soon. Let’s enjoy them while they’re here.
Things to do in the garden:
August is Tree Check month. For advice on what trees to plant and where to plant them, go to www.arborday.org or contact our City Tree Commission. 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. Keep the seeds and soil moist for best germination. Harvest vegetables and herbs in the morning for best results. Dig potatoes if the vines have died. Harvest onions when the tops fall over and cure in the sun for a few days.
As plants die back or stop producing remove them 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 can 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. Pull crabgrass and other weeds before they go to seed.
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; anything that will block the sun will leave bare earth come spring. This is the time to renovate or build a new lawn. Do your research at ohioline.osu.edu. Start cuttings of coleus, begonias, geraniums and impatiens for growing indoors this winter. Move houseplants to a shady spot to prepare them to move indoors.
Disbud and fertilize your dahlias for bigger blooms. Fertilize (side dress) peonies and roses with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 12-12-12. Order garlic and spring flowering bulbs, 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. Experiment! Try this also with melons and winter squash.
Consider picking tomatoes before they are completely ripe. They will ripen off the vine if they 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 more and better tomatoes.
Monitor for pests. Check under the leaves. Think before you spray. Know your enemy. Use organic methods first. Remember, 97 percent of insects are either good or neutral. As Joe Boggs, OSU Extension Educator recommends, use the digital method, in this digital age, to eliminate some bugs. The two-step stomp technique can also be quite effective. Or, just flick them into a cup of soapy water. 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.
Pickaway to Garden
By Paul Hang
I am referring to the plant not the fruit. If the plant is baked you are not likely to get any fruit, baked or otherwise. Lately our tomato plants, along with us, are being baked in the garden. At prolonged temperatures of 85 degrees plus and especially with high humidity, tomato plants are prone to dropping their blossoms and not setting fruit. I have noticed that my plants don’t have as many tomatoes on them as I am used to seeing. How about you?
I turns out that tomatoes have perfect flowers, which means they have male (Stamens) and female (Pistils or Stigmas) parts in the same flower. They are self-fertilizing and don’t need bees or other insects to help fertilize them. Tomatoes like it warm, they are a tropical plant, but not too hot. With prolonged hot temps and high humidity the pollen becomes sticky and does not fall from the Stamens onto the Pistil and thus the ovary is not fertilized and the blossom dries and drops off. No fruit forms.
If the leaves on your tomato plants are also dropping off this is another clue they are too hot. What to do? Water well and regularly. Stick your finger in the soil and if it is dry an inch down you need to water, about an inch a week or more when it is hot. Mulch the plants with organic material or plastic. If you have your tomatoes in containers you might be able to move them into shade temporarily. You might try shade cloth if it is feasible.
Another trick is to flick the flower with your finger when the blossoms are bright butter-yellow. Don’t flick them so hard that the petals fall off; you are just trying to dislodge the pollen. For a thorough discussion of this go to joegardener.com, Podcast #266. There, Tomato guru Craig LeHoullier gives lots of ways to improve your tomato growing.
Prolonged hot weather can also affect the pollination of other solanaceous vegetables such as peppers, potatoes and eggplants. Melons, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins and beans can also suffer from poor pollination when the temperature and humidity are high. With all these plants affected, perhaps I should have titled this column Baked Ratatouille.
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:
Are you waiting on cucumbers and squash to start bearing fruit? Remember, they get male flowers first then later the female flowers come on. Then, after pollination, the fruit can form. 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. Don’t let your plants wilt. This will cause blossom end rot in tomatoes and other solanaceous plants like peppers and eggplant. 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.
Pickaway to Garden
By Paul Hang
Thomas Fuller was a 16th century prolific writer, historian and churchman who was noted for his humor, except when it came to his sermons. He said, “Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there.” Perhaps you have had the experience of surprise when you discovered a plant in your landscape that you didn’t plant, or perhaps you forgot you planted it? I am not referring to the ubiquitous weeds that pop up incessantly the result of who knows what, the wind, an animal, bird poop, or maybe a seed stuck to your shoe and you are responsible. Those are unfortunate surprises.
I prefer the pleasant variety. Just the other day as I was coming into the house I noticed a different leaf lifting above the Hairy Mountain Mint patch by the garage. It wasn’t the usual Canada thistle or its look alike poppy. Upon closer examination I saw the telltale signs, veins that curve to the tip of the pointed smooth-edged leaf, of dogwood. (I know, you thought the only way to identify a dogwood is by its bark.) We have a dogwood tree on the other side of the driveway and so a seed must have blown from there and germinated all by itself. Surprise!
A couple years ago I left a flower pot with soil under a large gold-tipped arborvitae tree at the corner of the house. One day I noticed a very small gold tipped arborvitae leaf sticking out of the soil in the pot. Every year it got a little bit bigger. Eventually I planted it. The “mother tree” was overhanging the roof promoting moss and algae growth so, when we were adding on, I had it removed. I don’t miss that tree near as much because I have one of her offspring that is about 15 feet tall. Surprise!
This spring I thought I had a weed growing in a flower bed as it was getting quite tall very fast. I decided to wait before pulling it. I am glad I did. It has become a handsome pink foxglove that I planted last year. Being a biennial, foxglove, or digitalis, blooms in its second year. Surprise! All these pleasant surprises and many more, were the result of being observant and patient. These traits were not something I was born with but have worked hard to acquire. Now that I am in my golden years I am grateful to have at least a modicum of them. I think gardening has taught me those and other lessons.
I hope you will walk more in your garden, no matter how modest or new, observe, be patient and you may agree with the philosopher Francis Bacon, “Gardening is the purest of human pleasures.”
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 or other bulb plants didn’t bloom well it could be because they are now growing in the shade of larger grown trees or shrubs. Or, perhaps they 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 fruit 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. Roses sprouting from below the graft should be replaced. Peonies should be fertilized after they finish blooming. 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. Mow the lawn high, 3-4 inches, it crowds out weeds and needs less water, and mowing.
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."
Pickaway to Garden
By Paul Hang
Can I convince you to vegetate this spring? I don’t mean sitting in front of the TV watching the NBA or NHS playoffs or golf and tennis tournaments. Vegetate has more than one meaning. According to Merriam-Webster, the word was first used in 1605. It comes from Latin and, depending on which Latin root you choose, it can mean; “to live, grow” or “to invigorate,” and “lively.”
Without getting too far into the “weeds,” our usual meaning of the word is to lead a passive existence, to spend your time in a dull, inactive, unchallenging way. It can also mean to grow in the manner of a plant or to produce vegetation. Yet again, as a transitive verb, it means “to establish vegetation in or on” a place.
First, I’d like to take issue with the implication that plants are dull, passive, or monotonous. Plants, we now know, communicate, can sense some aspects of their environment, and even have a sex life. True, they do not have mouths, ears or eyes and, as individuals, they cannot move from where they are planted. However, research has shown that plants are complex organisms and little understood. I have been reading about Native American views of and their relationships to, plants.
They consider plants as individuals with which they have a relationship. Corn, beans and squash (the Three Sisters) give us food. Trees also give us food and building materials for shelter, tools and warmth. Other plants provide clothing, healing and insight. In other words, plants share themselves with us. There is a relationship with them. Native Americans are grateful to plants, and other beings, and give back, nurture and protect them. They ask permission to use them. They thank plants. They reciprocate.
This spring think about vegetating an area in your yard or a container or two. You may find a new friend that will share with you something to eat, smell, taste or just enjoy looking at, all summer long. And, of course, you can also vegetate with an adult beverage in front of the TV or in a hammock, courtesy of plants.
The Master Gardener Volunteers are having their Plant Sale on May 21, 9am-1pm in the parking lot at the Pickaway County Library on N. Court St. Lots of plants, including heirloom tomatoes, are 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. Consider pruning your tomatoes and peppers.
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. Fertilize and place in the shade. 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. Stake or cage floppy perennials like peonies. For bigger peonies, remove small buds near the larger ones.
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. Pines can be pruned back. Cut just half of new “candle” growth.
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 of Wild Parsnip, which often grows with it, 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.
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.