May 2019
Pickaway to Garden
“Much Ado….”
By Paul Hang

I thought quoting Shakespeare, even if it is only two words, would lend a little class to a gardening column. Besides, I have much ado. I am way behind. Lots of rain has kept me out of the garden. Gardening can be maddening. Some chores need to be done at certain times, like planting peas or putting down pre-emergent crabgrass seedicide. Some chores need to be done in a certain order, like preparing the soil before planting. Fruit trees need to be sprayed when temperatures are right or buds are at a certain stage. If you don’t do these things when you are supposed to, all hell is going to break loose.

Nature seldom cooperates. If it’s too wet or cold on your days off you can’t, or don’t want to, cut the grass. There are other things to do, like go to work at your job, take care of family, run errands, personal grooming, clean the kitty litter and walk the dog. Even retired folks have some of these things to do as well, and more, you know, volunteer commitments and naps.

Maybe I am just too lazy, but I just can’t seem to get even half the things I need to do done in time. The shallots I started from seed are still in their germinating pot. The old window that was to be my cold frame still sits in the garage. I can’t begin to count the things that need to be done.

The wonderful thing about plants is they can take care of themselves with just a little help from us. They will continue to grow and flower. So if gardening is going to be fun we need to stop worrying and don’t sweat the small stuff. Much adieu and much ado about nothing.

On May 18th 9am to 1pm the OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs), Pickaway County, will hold our annual Plant Sale at the library parking lot on N. Court St. It’s an opportunity to buy varieties of plants not always available. 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.

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, 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 cut 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 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. 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. Post-emergent herbicides are effective this time of year. Don’t get the sap on your skin.

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

April 2019

Top’O the Mourning
By Paul Hang

My Irish is a hangover from last month. Actually, I have altered this old greeting to introduce my pet peeve. The tree toppers are at it again. Just drive down Nicholas Drive or by the hospital to see the evidence. As with all discussions and arguments it is always good to define our terms. Socrates insisted on it. So who am I to neglect it?

What is Topping?

Topping is the excessive and arbitrary removal of all parts of the tree above and beyond a certain height with no regard for the structure or growth of the tree. The vertical stem or main leader and the upper primary limbs on trees are cut back to stubs at a uniform height or lollipop shape. As opposed to topping, pruning is the selective removal of certain limbs based on the structure, crown form and growth of the tree.

I am referring to the pruning of trees, not shrubs or bushes. I am also not referring to formal methods of pruning like topiary, espaliering, pollarding, pleaching, etc.  Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott from the University of Washington says, when reducing the height of a tree properly, “branches are cut back to a lateral branch at least one-third the diameter of the limb being removed and large enough to outgrow lateral branches directly below. The lateral branch becomes the source of new terminal growth and so the tree maintains its natural form.” This is the proper technique for rounded trees but not pyramidal trees, except to remove multiple leaders.

Tree “trimmers” often use different terms to sell you on their “services.” Regardless of what they call it, topping “removes a terminal shoot back to a point where there is no appropriate lateral branch to take over the terminal role.” The result is multiple shoots sprout and compete to see which will take the leader position. To visualize what we mean, point your pointer finger straight up. Bring your finger down (you pruned the branch back to a stub) now extend all five fingers as if you are signaling stop! Those five fingers have replaced the one original, and natural, branch. 

“After topping, many epicormic shoots arise and develop into weakly attached branches (your outstretched fingers). These branches, and multiple leaders”, are weakly attached, “continue to develop girth and weight and have an increasing potential to fall and cause damage to people and property”. Of course this takes time. Tree growth is imperceptible. “What has now been created is a high-maintenance, potentially hazardous tree that must be constantly pruned.” You are now on the list and keeping tree “trimmers” in business.

Reduction of the foliage mass means a reduction in the tree’s capacity to photosynthesize, thus reducing the energy available for all its life processes. Topping leads to tree health issues: sun damage, nutrient stress, insect attack and decay. Topping is always a serious injury to the tree and usually results in serious, long-term structural consequences and liability for the homeowner and the person who topped the tree. Tree topping is never a justifiable pruning practice. And, it also leads to trees that are ugly.

Certified arborists and other legitimate landscape professionals do not practice tree topping. As long as anyone with a pickup or bucket truck and a chainsaw represent themselves as professionals, homeowners and their trees are at risk. For more information go to www.tiptoparborists and to read an article, from which I have quoted, go to and search” The Myth of Tree Topping” by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott. More information at I will continue to mourn our butchered trees. “Top’o the Morning to you” should be a greeting and a warning.

Things to do in the garden:

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 Snowmound 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.

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.

March 2019

Time to Start

By Paul Hang

I am often asked, and foolishly answer, when should I plant tomatoes, beans etc.? The answers of course depend on conditions not on a date. Dates are unreliable for planting but not for finding a mate. The exception is starting seeds indoors, ordering seeds and plants and planning your garden. The time to start these things is now, if not earlier. No need to run around like the March Hare screaming “I’m late. I’m late, for a very important date.”

If you have a garden, or want to start one, it is time to start. If you want to start plants from seeds, it is time to start. Starting seeds indoors does not depend on the weather as we can control the conditions. Those of us who start seeds indoors have our favorite recipes. For an entertaining, and reliable source, go to and put “starting seeds” into their search box. We cannot make a blade of grass or a tomato. Only a seed can do that.

Planting seeds outdoors also depends on conditions. The seed packet should tell us when to plant outdoors. We can plant a seed. Then, like a good cook who doesn’t need a recipe, nature provides a little light, a little warmth, stir in a little water, a pinch of nutrients, and a plant appears seemingly out of nowhere.

Perhaps most gardeners buy plants and set them out when conditions dictate. If you are thinking of starting a garden for the first time this is the way you will probably proceed. But why plant a garden? If it’s vegetables you’re thinking of, perhaps you want to know where your food is coming from. Growing your own food you can make sure the food doesn’t have synthetic chemicals on it. Other reasons are cost, although there is book titled “The $64 Tomato,” you don’t have to spend a lot of money. You could actually save money.

The easiest vegetables to grow are: Cherry tomatoes, bush beans, cucumbers, leaf lettuce summer squash and peas. In just a 4’x4’ bed you can grow 25 lbs. of carrots, or 4 heads of broccoli, 16 onions, 30-40 jalapeno peppers, enough zucchini to give a lot away, a large kale plant. Five pounds of summer squash, or 12 lbs. of bush beans, or 24 -30 cucumbers, or 6-7lbs. of leaf lettuce, or enough cherry tomatoes for all your salads, can be grown in just that small bed. How much would those cost? You do the math. I usually don’t grow things that are cheaper to buy such as potatoes, unless I want better taste or selection, like tomatoes. Or sometimes I grow cheaper vegetables just because I like to grow them, like onions.

So try a garden this summer, vegetable or flowers or both. If you have children, give them the opportunity to grow a food they like. Or, sometimes children will try a vegetable they don’t like because they grew it themselves, with help. A good crop to try, because it’s only three weeks from seed to maturity, is radishes. It’s time to start.

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 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.

Start your seeds indoors for hardy plants (basil, beets, broccoli, Brussels' sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, onions, garlic, peppers, leeks, and shallots) if you haven’t already. You can set them out later mid-month weather permitting. Wait till later in the month to start the half-hearty 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. There are now selective pre-emergent that do not affect grass seed. If you plan to seed any parts of your lawn, to repair damage from winter or from our summer droughts, 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. Apply pre-emergent on a calm day. A light fertilization of the lawn is all you’ll need. Fall fertilization is best.

January 2019           

By Paul J. Hang

January was named for the Roman god Janus. Janus was the god of “beginnings, of the past and the future, and of gates, doorways, and bridges, and of peace.” His name was given to the month that begins the New Year. The days are beginning to grow longer. Not by much mind you, but a little. It is more noticeable beginning in the evening than in the mornings.

Our forbearers, who were more agriculturally aware, began their New Year around the spring equinox in March. Plant life begins anew in the spring and so, in a sense, life begins. Plants give us life, oxygen, shelter and warmth not just food. So when did we begin to think that our food came from the supermarket and not from the land? Many children think food comes from Kroger’s or McDonalds. Many young people know their food comes from farms; after all, they can Google it. But this is intellectual knowledge not knowledge from experience. There is nothing like the sensory experience of digging in the earth, planting a seed, watering it and watch it grow into a plant.

How many of us have seen celery grow, Brussels sprouts, head lettuce? If you have children in your life, even if they are neighbors, perhaps you could begin to show them where their food really comes from by planting a garden with them this spring. It doesn’t have to be large. It could even be a container. Maybe you could plant their favorite vegetable. A quick growing veggie, for those used to instant gratification, is radishes. They only take three weeks from planting by seed to harvest. If you already have a garden try to involve younger people in the planting and care of “their” plants. Check with OSU Extension websites such as when researching your ideas for the growing season.

We are beginning to receive seed catalogs and so begin to think of spring and of beginning our gardens. January is a time for beginning. Begin to think about becoming a Master Gardener Volunteer. MGV’s complete a 50 hour training program and volunteer to spread science based gardening practices. The training program will begin March 21 and run all day on Thursdays until early May and provides training in horticulture topics. Once completed, interns then volunteer their time assisting with educational programs and activities through the local Ohio State University Extension county office. You are not required to have gardening skills or knowledge: a passion for learning about gardening and sharing this knowledge with others is a must! If you are interested call the OSU Extension office at 740-474-7534 or email me at with your name and contact information. We will then contact you about more information and the requirements. It could be a whole new beginning!

Things to do in the garden:

The list of things to do in the garden has gotten shorter. Things we can do about gardening can fill your idle hours, if you have any, are: Review last year's garden; draw a map while you can still remember what grew where.

Check your supply of old seeds. Are they expired? Do you want to reorder that variety? Read your new seed catalogs and begin to plan next year's garden. It's not nearly as much work. 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. 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 for the next holidays. 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.

Plan your gardens and plantings. One of my favorite guides for this is The Ohio Gardening Guide by Jerry Minnich. Need some more seed catalogs? Go to

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 really adventurous, your mower blades. Oil them and use linseed oil on the wooden handles. It's always a good idea to consult the experts. Go on line and google it.

Getting rid of a 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 them near your bird feeders as cover, decorate them with suet, fruit, seed cakes, as a bird feeder, Chip them eventually for mulch. 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.

CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clients on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information:

December 2018

Pickaway to Garden
By Paul J. Hang
Dim and Dimmer

This could be the title of a new movie. It wouldn’t be a farce as the similar sounding hit of the Farrelly brothers with Jim Carey was. It wouldn’t be a comedy or a tragedy but more of a musical. It could be the title for the month of December. The sunlight dims and gets dimmer as the month progresses.

 As the last month of the year, December also marks the diming of the year. December 21st brings the Winter Solstice the shortest day of the year. It is also the longest night of the year. Ironically the next night, the 22nd, brings a full moon, the one Native Americans called the Cold Moon.

My fascination with this dim and dimming began with my year at Thule AFB, Greenland in 1966. Thule is at Latitude 76.5N, 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle. There the sun sets October 31 not to be seen again until February 10. Once it sets a period of shortening days of dusk begins until mid-November when it is completely dark until late January. (The Northern lights do not appear as they are 500 miles to the south.) Then, days of dawn increase until February. Another few weeks and the sun is visible 24 hours a day. By the summer solstice in June the sun circles overhead all “day” before spirally downward towards autumn and the cycle begins again.

The growing season is 44days, July1 to August 15 (although when I was there we had 4” of snow on the 4th of July). June through September there are mosses, poppies, cotton and a variety of other wild flowers blooming. One wonders what tales and celebrations the native peoples of the arctic created to explain these phenomena. For us we celebrate with lights on these our darkest days. Most cultures celebrate the time of the winter solstice, often with religious celebrations. We know the sun has begun its trip back north. Hallelujah!  At Thule we knew where and when the sun would shine on the base. Hundreds showed up to celebrate and to feel the warmth of the sun shine on their faces, if only briefly.

Plants also adapt to this dimming of the light. As an example did you ever wonder why most evergreens have the shape they do? Most of the trees in our temperate climate are deciduous. They lose their leaves in the fall. They also have canopies that are full, round and often much wider at the top than at the bottom. Some are even umbrella shaped with tops wide and flat. This is to take full advantage of the higher angle of the sun in summer. By contrast, 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.

This is just another reason to wonder at the ways of plants and the ways in which they adapt to their environment. When you look at your Christmas tree this holiday think about the reasons why it has the shape it does. People have long brought evergreen trees and other greens, holly, wreaths, etc. indoors for these winter holidays. They remind us of spring and summer because of their color. Green in plants is caused by chlorophyll which is green and is dependent on sunlight. Light and greenery, we can look at our tree, wreaths, sprays on the mantle and other seasonal decorations and be reminded of the end of the diming winter sun. That is another reason for the season.

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, clean up crop debris, except for native plants and those you want for winter interest. Shred it and put in the compost heap or till and turn it over to bury in the soil. Get the vegetable garden ready for spring as much as possible. There will be less to do come spring.

On nice days wander about your place and notice how some plants continue to develop. If the local temperature reaches 50 degrees they grow, only to cease when the temperature falls. Those bitter cress weeds are small now. I find them in between the bricks of my walk. They and ground ivy in the beds and in the lawn are trying to gain a foothold now while they have little competition. The bi-ennial mullein with its fuzzy lamb's ear like leaves is growing flat against the earth. Rosettes of poison hemlock and teasel continue to grow. Pull 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 for more information.

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, no matter how big or woody they are, the plants will die. While you’re inspecting trees and shrubs a little light pruning while they are dormant won’t hurt. Damaged, rubbing or simply inconvenient small branches can be removed. Never top trees in any season. When harvesting or buying firewood use only local sources less than 50 miles. This helps prevent the spread of bugs and diseases harmful to trees.

In the vegetable garden, write down and/or sketch where you planted what this year, while you can still remember. This will aid in crop rotation which helps yields and eliminates disease carry over. Bugs lay their eggs near the crops they “enjoy.” By not planting the same crops in the same place next year you will foil the destructive insects. A rotation rule to remember is “to follow a root crop by a top crop and vice versa.” Go to for an extensive resource for vegetable gardeners. Use ice melt, not rock salt, on your walks, it is harmful to plants including grass.

CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clients on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information:

November 2018

Pickaway to Garden
By Paul J. Hang

There is no month quite like November. It is one of a few transitional months in the year. It is neither fall nor winter, at least that is the way it used to be.

“No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees 

No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds. November!”

These lines from Thomas Hood’s poem “No!”  are an outdated view of November. It doesn’t quite describe this early November. I have clematis in bloom, our trees had the majority of their leaves, the viburnum is loaded with fruit and today a rabble of robins is swarming across the lawn on a worm patrol.

For gardeners November can be a welcome relief from the chores of caring for finicky plants. On the other hand there are still many things to be done but you can also ignore them if you want.

Campaign signs have popped up on lawns like so many mushrooms. Once the voting is over harvest those signs with heavy metal wire shaped like giant staples. Save them for use in the garden. They can be used to keep row covers off plants, to hold up flopping plants, hold up wire mesh to keep varmints from chewing on plants, and any number of other chores.

The average first snow fall in November is November 21st. Any bets on beating that? As the month progresses winter should become more apparent with leafless trees looking bare and stark against a gray sky. Flower beds look forlorn and frigid. The vegetable garden should look bare unless you planted garlic or a cover crop. The lawn is frosted snowy white.

The hard killing freeze temperature of 28 degrees for four hours arrives in November, if not before. Most annual plants will die. Perennials vegetative growth will die but the plant continues to live with its roots still growing as long as the temperature below ground is at least 50 degrees. Different plants have different temperatures at which they die. Thus we have temperature zones which show at what low temperatures plants, even woody perennials, die.

If we have snow in November it doesn’t usually accumulate and if it does it doesn’t stick around long. At least that is the way it used to be. What will the new climate changes have in store for us and for November?

Things to do in the garden:

 Now is a good time to do soil tests. You will have time to amend your soil if required (3 to 6 months). And, you will avoid the spring rush when more people are sending their samples to the lab. To obtain soil sampling instructions and kits along with specific recommendations contact the Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County office.

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 a single small hole, one bulb per hole. Lift tender bulbs (caladiums, dahlias, glads etc.). 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 mulch can add protection. Final pruning should be done in the spring but long spindly branches can be trimmed off. Climbing roses or ramblers should be tied to prevent injury from being whipped around by harsh winter winds. Do not feed. Clean up all dead and diseased rose leaves and put in the trash.

If you haven’t done a fall fertilization of your lawn, do it now. Do not allow leaves to form a matted layer. Rake and compost heavy layers of leaves, otherwise chop them up with passes of the mower to return to the soil as nutrients. Running the mower over the rows 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.  This seems to work better than cutting it short for the “last time” of the season.

Make sure leaves and mulch are not heaped against the trunks of trees. Bring the mulch 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 for staking and other gardening information. Evergreens and shrubs should be watered deeply. Apply an anti-desiccant to broadleaf evergreens. Wait until late winter 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 see the plants or remember where they were. This is particularly important for the vegetable garden. Clean your gardening tools and put them away. A coat of oil can prevent rust. A light coating of linseed oil on wooden handles prevents splitting due to weathering and drying. Drain garden hoses and store. At the very least disconnect from the outdoor spigots. Make sure underground irrigation lines are drained or blown dry with a compressor.

Remove the dead plants from containers and, if not diseased, compost. Unglazed terracotta pots must be stored indoors or they will be destroyed. No procrastinating here. Synthetic containers can be left outdoors. Stop or reduce fertilizing indoor plants. Weed the vegetable garden and compost non-diseased debris. Remove stakes and cages, clean and store. Place diseased materials in the trash. Plant a cover crop. Consider leaving the stems and seed heads of perennials. Nature is not compelled to neatness. Rather she leaves cover for pollinators and butterflies to overwinter themselves, their pupae and eggs. You can clean up in the spring. Pull out dead annuals and, if not diseased, compost them. Now your beds are tucked in and settled down for a long winter’s nap.

CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clients on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information:

October 2018
Pickaway to Garden

By Paul Hang

Have you heard of this? It is not a lower leg affliction which originated in Asia. It is what the Japanese call forest bathing. It is all the rage with the with it crowd. If it sounds like more new age spiritual mindfulness mumbo jumbo I hear you, but hear me out. People sun bathe don’t they? Or they did, until the evidence about sun exposure and skin cancer became undeniable. There is evidence of the therapeutic benefits of forest bathing. Forest bathing is another name for what most of us have experienced, if a little more involved.

If you search on Amazon you will find numerous books on the subject. The one I read is “Your Guide to Forest Bathing” by M. Amos Clifford by Conari Press. It is subtitled “Experience the Healing Power of Nature.” However it narrows Nature down to that part you can experience in a forest. Without going into great detail I will try to simplify what it is all about. There are numerous exercises, not just the physical kinds, that can be done. They systematically use each of the five senses to experience being in a forest. In Japan they have guides and shelters all to help people forest bath and give scientific evidence of the healing power of shinrin-yoku.

I was particularly struck by the suggestion of “Notice what you are noticing.”

You don’t go into the forest with any goal in mind, which seems contradictory what with all the suggestions. But I think that the book gives ideas to make the experience more meaningful. It is not simply a walk in the woods for exercise or to identify the trees and plants. It is to experience what your senses pick up while strolling or sitting in the woods.

I believe it is something like what my almost 3 year old daughter picked up when, 40 some years ago, we walked through Hartwicke Pines in Michigan, an old growth forest of giant pines. The forest floor was covered with a carpet of pine needles that softened our footsteps. It was cathedral-like.  My wife and young son were talking when the toddler said Shhhhhhh with her finger over her mouth trying to quiet us. I was amazed that someone that young could pick up on the almost sixth sense of the way the trees were communicating to her.

There is still time to try it for yourself before the leaves fall. Or try it while the leaves are in color. I think you could winter forest bathe. It might be more like a cold shower, bracing, invigorating.  Locally you can try this at Mary Virginia Crites Hannan Park, Hargus Lake, Calamus Swamp, Stages Pond or other places you may know.

Finally, fall is the best time to plant trees. Make the hole wide and shallow. Plant the tree with the trunk flare at or slightly above the ground level. Plant trees well away from buildings, no tall growing trees under power lines and not too close to each other. And water your trees, even during the winter.

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. You might still save some plants even if you slept in after it became light. If you can protect your plants a couple more weeks of warmth is likely to follow. Average first frost for central Ohio is October 15.

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

In October, and even into early November, 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. Harvest garlic around the 4th of July.

Dig up your tender corms and bulbs as soon as they are frostbitten. 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 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 groups, not single file.

If you planted trees this year (it is still a good time) 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.

September 2018

Pickaway to Garden
A Matter of Degrees
By Paul Hang

My normal September columns talk about fall and the onset of cooler temperatures. With the shorter days, and the lower angle of the sun, the days and nights should be growing cooler. Just a few days ago we had the hottest days of the summer with more to come. Even tomatoes, a hot weather plant, have found it too hot and are languishing. If this is a sign of the times, and climate scientists assure us that it is, then the usual September advice will be moved to October or even November. As climate change has dealt us extreme weather events, prognostication is risky.

When is fall? When it comes to temperature it is a matter of degrees. In fall weeds are less likely to germinate, moisture is generally more abundant, cooler temperatures keep the insect populations down and most diseases don’t find conditions helpful. Notice how I qualify everything? Change is coming it’s just a matter of degrees. For plants the magic number is 50. Fifty degrees is the temperature below which most vegetative growth stops. Most seeds need at least 50 degrees to germinate. Because of the cooler temperatures the soil also retains moisture longer. All of this adds up to making fall the best time to plant cool season vegetables, shrubs, trees and to patch or start a lawn.

Of course temperature can be either the warmth of the air, or the warmth of the soil. The temperature of the air can change quickly, the temperature of the soil not so fast. Tender plants can be killed by a hard frost. Half-hardy plants can be killed by a freeze (28 degrees for more than 4 hours). Trees and shrubs and perennials are not normally killed by a freeze unless it is sustained below their normal temperature zone.

For them soil temperature is the key. Root growth continues while the soil temperature is around fifty degrees even if the air temperature is below freezing. What appears to be dormancy above ground doesn’t apply underground. When you plant perennials, spring bulbs, root crops, trees and shrubs in the fall their roots continue to grow. Some winters around here the soil temperature in the root zones never freezes. It is not unusual for the roots to continue to grow through January.

For grass, the seed will germinate as long as nighttime temperatures don’t go much below 50 degrees. Remember the soil temperature doesn’t change as quickly as the air. Sowing grass seed in prepared soil, mulching with seed free straw (cover about half the bare ground) water regularly and you can establish a fabulous lawn. This works for bare areas also. Don’t mow until the grass is established at about 4 inches height and then mow down to 3 inches.

For newly planted trees and shrubs water well and frequently until the ground freezes. This is true of all trees and shrubs if we have a dry fall. Evergreens especially should be watered generously until freeze-up. With their foliage (needles) remaining on during the winter they are susceptible to drying out.

Don’t give up on the garden or the yard. In many ways this is the best time to prepare them for next year and there is still time to plant more vegetables and flowering plants. Check out the “Things to do in the garden,” and decide which apply to you and to your “to do” obligations.

Things to do in the garden:

As plants "give up the ghost" consider removing them from the garden. If they are annuals pull them up, if perennials cut them off, unless you want their winter interest and home for overwintering pollinator eggs, larvae, pupae or cocoons. Dispose of the debris in a "hot" compost heap, bury them or put them in the trash. In the butterfly garden you will surely want to 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 by all means remove the seed heads before their seeds are scattered. Or, leave them for the birds. Clean up old fruit from around fruit trees.

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

September is the best time to plant grass seed whether you are re-seeding, patching or establishing a new lawn. If you only fertilize your lawn once a year, or if you have never fertilized it, fall is also the best time to do it. Cooler, wetter (usually) fall weather promotes good root growth and your grass will start out next spring healthier and ready for more vigorous growth. Want to really get your lawn in shape? Fertilize in September and then again around Thanksgiving. Labor Day and Veterans’ Day are easy to remember. Read directions for amounts.

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

Now is the time to plant spring flowering bulbs. A good rule of thumb is to plant bulbs at a depth about three times the height of the bulb. Planting irises and peonies this fall takes advantage of the warm earth. They should be planted about 2 inches deep. If your peonies haven’t bloomed well because of shade from nearby competing trees, now is a good time to move them to a sunnier place in the yard.

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

You can plant onion seed now for early green onions and bulbs. Yes, onions are bulbs. You can still plant cool season vegetables. It’s not too late to start beets, carrots, kale and lettuce, maybe even bush beans! If you have row covers, or can make them, you can have these for Thanksgiving dinner. Of course this assumes we don’t have a hard freeze and if we do you are prepared to cover the plants if it happens. If the ground temperature stays above 50 roots continue to grow. Order garlic bulbs now for planting later.

Now is a good time to test your soil. The called for 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 740- 474-7534.