May 2024

PICKAWAY TO GARDEN

What’s in a Name?

By Paul Hang

Annual. Some things happen once a year and some things happen every year. We look forward to some annuals like the holidays of Christmas and the fourth of July; some other annuals, not so much, like taxes and, for some, birthdays. When it comes to the life cycle of plants we have annuals, bi-ennials and perennials.  It can be confusing especially to those new to gardening and sometimes to experienced gardeners. An annual plant does not grow every year unless it is planted every year either as a transplant or a seed.

An annual plant is a plant that flowers, produces seed, and dies in one growing season.  One and done! A biennial lives for two seasons and flowers and produces seed in the second year and then dies. A perennial is a plant that lasts for more than two growing seasons, either dying back after each season, like peonies and irises, or growing continuously like some shrubs and trees.

To confuse matters even more, some plants that are perennial by nature die after one season because they can’t survive the cold weather of your hardiness zone and so are treated like annuals, such as calendulas and tomatoes. Most perennials bloom for a short time, think peonies, hostas, lilac, daffodils. Perennials die back with the frost but they have stored up food and energy in their roots or bulbs and will come back next season.

Why would anyone want to plant annuals that die off every year? The main reason is annuals bloom longer, most bloom all summer long. They do this as long as you cut the flowers off as they begin to fade. If you don’t cut off the flowers eventually the flower will produce seed and the plant will die. It will have accomplished its mission in life. Marigolds bloom until the frost kills them, the same for petunias and zinnias

Annuals are also affordable. A package of annual seeds can grow masses of flowers. Annuals can be planted from seed directly outside and most can re-seed themselves, like Black-eyed Susans. You can start them inside. By the same token, if you are tired of an annual, you can plant something different next year. You can change things year to year, cosmos one year sunflowers the next. Renters are not investing in more expensive perennials that will be left behind.

You can use annuals to add color to perennial beds that may go weeks without color. They can fill gaps and control weeds. You can experiment. If you don’t like it you can try something else next year. Annuals can complement shrubs and perennials and add season long interest. The name we give a plant’s life cycle is how it performs in our garden. Like perennials we all want to come back year after year, annually. But like annuals we flourish, produce offspring, or not, and then die. Our seasons are just longer, hopefully.

The Master Gardener Volunteers are having their Plant Sale on May 18, 9am-1pm in the parking lot at the Pickaway County Library on N. Court St. Lots of plants, annuals and perennials, 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:

Everything! The merry, merry month of May is a busy one. You can direct-seed corn, beans, potatoes, melons, cucumbers and squash. Those last three are usually planted in “hills” of groups of three or four plants. 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 now. 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 old 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.

Remember "June drop." It is a time when fruit trees rid themselves of excess fruit. This is a natural process. Then thin apples, peaches and other tree fruit (not cherries) to a fruit every six inches.  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! Consider starting a compost pile. Grass clippings, if not mulched and left on the lawn are a great “green” to add to the “brown.” Search (compost extension) for recipes.

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

Tomato Plant

April 2024

PICKAWAY TO GARDEN

Has Spring Sprung?

By Paul J. Hang

Has spring sprung? I just saw a Goldfinch with an unmistakable “scarf” of yellow. We have trees in bloom; daffodils, crocus and hyacinth have poked through the crust of earth days ago. Forsythia and the dreaded smelly Callery pears are showing off. But when I went outside this morning it was 26 degrees. The sun, our nearest star, has crossed the Equator (March 19th, the Spring Equinox) and is racing towards the Tropic of Capricorn.

Which raises the question, what is Capricorn? I realized I had no idea. Capricorn is the astrological sign for the tenth month of the Zodiac. Capricornus means goat in Latin. The astrological sign for that month is a sea goat. If you look it up you will go down a rabbit hole of confusing factual and non-factual, but interesting, information that is astrology. For instance, Capricorn season is winter and is ruled by Saturn.

I think we’re onto something.  Capricorn is winter. Maybe that is why it doesn’t seem like spring even though most of the other signs are there. April’s signs are Aries and Taurus. Okay, I won’t go there. We have had a puny winter, as snow and ice goes. March has lived up to its reputation as an unpredictable month of weather variability. After some very spring, almost summerlike, days, we have been subjected to freezing temperatures. There are all those spring chores out there just waiting for my attention.

But I can’t bring myself to go out there and get to work. Maybe it’s my age. I am cruising towards my dotage. Or maybe it’s the weather. For whatever reason, I have lost my mojo. I go out for my walks but can’t seem to get the energy to do those things that need to be done in the spring of the year. Maybe by the time you read this the weather will have turned warmer and I can get off my duff and get busy. I hope so.

As always, every month, these words of introduction, if not wisdom, are followed by a list of “Things to in the garden.” This month, being spring, the list is a long one. Don’t get discouraged. Spring has sprung; all the signs are there, aren’t they?

April 26th is Arbor Day. If you can muster up the energy, plant a tree. For information about planting and mulching trees see bygl.osu.edu. Gardening questions? Call the helpline at the Pickaway County Extension office at 740-474-7534.

Things to do in the garden:

Tomato eggplant 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 directly into the garden are: beets, carrots, peas, onions, spinach, leaf lettuce, radishes. These should be watered enough to keep the soil moist to begin germination don’t let them dry out. Beets and carrots should be thinned at the seedling stage. Cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli plants can be planted as soil and weather conditions allow. The soil temperature for cool weather plants should be 50 degrees, warm weather plants at least 60 and some even higher. Put an inch of compost on the beds.

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, etc.) remove the covers after blooming to let the pollinators go to work. Tomatoes are self-pollinating and so you could leave the covers on. 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 without insecticides from bugs that damage vegetables. Place collars around transplants that are susceptible to cut worms.

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 (native) plant.

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 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. Cool season transplants, after hardening them off, can be planted now (Lettuce, broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower).

Spring flowering bulbs should be fertilized after they bloom. Remember to leave the leaves of bulbs until they yellow. Brown is better. Pinch off any developing seed heads. Make a list of spring bulbs you will want to plant in the fall.

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 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 or to the green stems. They can be divided now. Cut back your butterfly bushes (buddleia) to a foot or two and apply a balanced fertilizer. Prune spring blooming shrubs after they bloom. Bagworms on shrubs and trees hatch out shortly after the Snowmound Spirea blooms. This is when you can spray an insecticide (Bacillus thuringiensis, also called Bt, read the label) to kill the caterpillars. Now is the time to prune roses. Depending on the variety, you may prune back to a foot in height or to green growth. Fertilize monthly until Labor Day. You can plant new ones now. Large hostas can be divided as soon as they emerge.

Wait until several 50 plus degree days in a row before cleaning up debris of stems to save beneficial insects. If in doubt store them temporarily before putting them in the compost heap.

Don’t prune your oak trees after the middle of the month or after they leaf out. Sap beetles are attracted to the open wounds and will bring oak wilt, a disease which will kill them and has been found in this part of the state. If pruning can’t be avoided paint the cuts with a pruning sealant.

Snow on Berries

March 2024
PICKAWAY TO GARDEN
Prune
By Paul Hang

Not your grandma’s breakfast. One definition of prune is a dried plum. It can also mean a disagreeable person, usually old and wrinkled. Let’s not forget that prunes, though old and wrinkled, are sweeter than a plum, are nutrient rich and have laxative properties. Another definition is a verb and means to dock, trim, clip, crop, cutback, weed out, lop and snip out all the parts you do not need. It is this last meaning I plan to address. Not pruning eyebrows, grocery lists or portfolios but plants.
March is a good time to prune plants, while they are still dormant. February may be better given our warming climate. Pruning is kind of like changing your underwear regularly: you don’t have to do it, but if you do you, and everyone else, will be pleased with the result. First cut out the 3 D’s, Dead, Damaged, Diseased. Cut out crossing and rubbing branches. Prune a flowering shrub after it blooms (if you want to see the flowers).
Overgrown deciduous flowering shrubs can be improved by rejuvenation pruning where you cut all the stems down to the ground or renovation pruning where each year you remove one third of the stems (pick the oldest) to the ground. Some old timers say the best time to prune is when your tools are sharp.
Pruning trees can be dangerous. If it is a large tree better leave it to the professionals. A professional will not “top” a tree. Try to find a certified arborist. When cutting off a limb be careful not to allow the bark to be stripped down the trunk. Use the “three cut method” which starts with an undercut about a foot away from the trunk. Another rule of pruning is, No stubs! Cut back to the next branch and don’t cut into the branch collar. Apple trees and other fruit trees require special techniques. A properly pruned apple tree will look “ugly.” However, just because an apple tree is ugly doesn’t mean it was properly pruned.
Another common pruning puzzle is when to prune hydrangea bushes. This is important; if you cut off the dormant buds you may get fewer blooms or none at all. If you know what species your bush is it is easy. If you are like me you forget and probably didn’t write it down or, you can’t find where you wrote it down. Hydrangea pruning is based on the species or by whether it blooms on “old wood” or “new wood”. The popular hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’ blooms on old wood and new wood. It can be pruned at any time. If you cut off dormant buds you have cut off future blooms.
A simpler way to determine when to prune hydrangeas is using the color and shape of the blooms. If your hydrangea has flower heads that are big and round and in shades of pink or blue it is a mophead or big leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla). These should be cut back in the mid spring after the danger of frost has past. They flower on “old wood”. Follow each brown stick down to the first new green bud and cut the stick off
just above that new growth. It could be at the tip or near the bottom. Also in this category are the lacecap hydrangeas (Hydrangea serrate and Hydrangea aspera). These have lace-like flowers in shades of pink or blue.
If your hydrangea flowers look like big round balls of white or lime green (occasionally pink) they are smooth hydrangeas (Hydrangea aborescens). These are your grandma’s ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Incrediball’. The best time to cut these back is late winter or early spring (some do it in the fall). Cut it back to between one quarter and one half of its total height (some gardeners cut way back to the ground. These flower on “new wood”.
If your hydrangea has cone-shaped blooms that are white, pink or deep pink you have a panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata). Varieties include ‘Limelight” ‘Bobo’ ‘Tardiva’. These plants bloom on new wood. The time to cut these back is in the early spring just before growth occurs about the time of the last spring frost. Cut the plant back by a third or not at all. If the plant is overgrown you can cut back all the way to the ground to rejuvenate it. Do not cut back in late spring or early summer after the buds are set.
If your hydrangea has oak-shaped leaves with large white cone- shaped blooms that turn reddish in the fall, it is an oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). Prune lightly in the summer after they have bloomed or not at all. See savvygardening.com/when –to-cut-back-hydrangeas/
Perennials should be pruned after temperatures have consistently reached 50 degrees to allow overwintering insects and bugs to emerge. Annuals should deadheaded, cutting off spent blooms to encourage re-blooming.
Roses, clematis vines, grape vines, raspberries and blueberries also need pruning. To do it right check out ohioline.osu.edu or other websites ending in edu or other reputable sources. As usual, I had to prune this article to make it shorter, but hopefully sweeter.
Things to do in the garden:
Begin fertilizing houseplants with a weak solution. Now is a good time to propagate houseplants.
Have your soil tested. Materials and directions are normally available at the OSU Extension Office.The last average frost date here in zone 6B is April 23rd. That means there is a 50/50 chance of frost on that date. 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 evergreen and other 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-emergents 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.February 2024

PICKAWAY TO GARDEN

Being Humid

By Paul Hang

It is not humid in my house. In fact, my mucus membranes and my throat feel dry and irritated. My eyelids are scraping across my eyeballs.  My skin is flaking off to such a degree I resemble a snow thrower. This topic was prompted by these experiences and my memory of the winter I spent in Thule, Greenland, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force, where it was so dry you would receive a painful zap of static electricity on your lips when you drank from a water fountain.

Humidity may seem like a strange subject for gardeners in February. As I write this the humidity outside is 52%, the humidity inside is 27%. The temperature outside is 19 degrees, the temperature inside is 71 degrees. If you took a parcel of air from outside and brought it inside the relative humidity drops. Warm air holds more water than cold air. We say “it is humid” when the humidity is high. We don’t have a similar word for when the humidity is low. I suggest “it is humidry” or how about “inhumid?”

Wikipedia says, “Humidity is the concentration of water vapor in the air,…” It goes on to say that it, “…depends on the temperature and pressure ….” Humidity is expressed as a percentage to communicate the concentration of water vapor. For example, on a hot sticky day we might say, “The humidity must be 100%.” If the humidity is 100% the air is saturated and couldn’t hold any more water vapor. It is called relative humidity because it is comparing the amount of water vapor in the air to the amount of water vapor in the air if it was saturated.

To define it further is to plunge into the weeds of technical terms and mathematical equations, which are really dry (0%). Plants are made up of a lot of water. They take it up through their roots and to some extent through their leaves. They transpire, “breathe,” evaporate water vapor out into the air. They do it through pores in their leaves, called stomata. Stomata can open or close, depending on temperature and moisture, to control the rate of transpiration.

More to the point, what effect does humidity have on plants? If the humidity is too high, plants have a hard time transpiring, evaporating moisture into the air. They suffocate. High humidity invites pests such as fungus, gnats, mold and bacteria and it affects plants ability to draw nutrients from the soils. If the humidity is too low plants may transpire more water than they take in and begin to dry out. Leaves curl, brown and drop. Flowers drop or don’t form at all.

In our homes we can control the growing environment to some extent. Low moisture type plants like succulents, jade, kalanchoes and cacti with thick and waxy leaves can be grouped together in drier areas of the home, 30%-40%. High moisture types like ferns, palms, Ficus, Bamboo and Schefflera can be clustered or placed in higher moisture areas like bathrooms, kitchens or near water features, 50%-70%. Other ways to increase humidity besides location include misting and pebble trays, although the effect is short lived. Perhaps the best technique is to use a humidifier. Don’t overwater, make sure pots have drainage.

Humidity is a major factor in plant growth along with temperature, watering, light and nutrient availability. Know your plants requirements and you can have some control over their health while indoors and waiting for more warm humid days.

Interested in becoming a Master Gardener Volunteer? Attend our Open House to learn more about it. February 7th, 4:30 to 6:00 PM at the OSU Extension Office Conference Room 2nd floor, 110 Island Road (East Entrance)

Questions??’s 740-497-4384 or Email, lhuston@columbus.rr.com

Things to do in the garden:

Check perennials and bulbs for heaving out of the ground. Press them down gently with your foot. Make a list of plants you want. Inventory seeds you have saved to make sure they aren’t past viability. Send in your seed orders. Will our results ever match those of the glossy color pictures? When you make out your seed and plant orders consider planting more native and heirloom plants. Native plants are plants that evolved here and are adapted to our conditions, diseases and native pests. While you’re at it try googling the name of a flower you’re thinking about ordering.  You will be able to see pictures and planting information.

This is the time to prune trees and shrubs (after you sharpen your tools). You can see their structure now that they are dormant and the leaves are down. Cut out crossing and rubbing branches and unwanted suckers.  Pruning can be done to reduce the size of a tree or shrub to bring it in to balance or to remove overhanging branches blocking a view or path. Insects are less likely to be attracted to cuts while trees are dormant. Remember, spring flowering shrubs should be pruned after flowering if you want to enjoy the blooms. Summer flowering shrubs can be pruned now. Cut back butterfly bush (Buddleia) severely.

On smaller trees you may want to take care of problems yourself. On larger trees you should call in an expert to inspect and perhaps correct any problems. Arborists are in a slow time of year. The ground, if frozen, will not be damaged and compacted as much from equipment and crews. The Arbor Day Foundation recommends that you have Certified Arborists check any safety problems you may have noticed. To find them go to www.isa-arbor.com click on “Verify Certification” and then “Find an Arborist.” They will not recommend topping your trees. The City of Circleville has a Comprehensive Tree Plan. You can find it at ci.circleville.oh.us, in the search box type Tree Plan. There you will find lots of information on caring for trees.

If you dug up bulbs for storage check on them. Spritz them with water to prevent drying out. Throw away any rotting or shriveled ones. Water any dormant or overwintering plants in your garage or basement. Water houseplants with lukewarm water, don’t overwater and turn them a quarter turn once a week, no fertilizer yet.

Seeds of onions, cabbage, cauliflower, and other members of the Cole family can be started indoors this month for setting out in late March or early April, depending on the weather: The University of Minnesota has a good discussion; go to www.extension.umn.edu/garden /flowers/starting-seeds-indoors. Also Google Winter Sowing. There you will read how to recycle plastic milk bottles to easily germinate some seeds. It is a good way to raise a lot of seedlings for planting “drifts,” those bands of like plants that wander serpentinely through flower beds. Now is a good time to start building raised vegetable garden beds. If your compost heap isn’t frozen and is workable, turn it.

Camels in the Desert

January 2024

Pickaway to Garden

Choices, Choices, Choices

By Paul Hang

At the beginning of the New Year choices seemed like a good place to start. I made the choice to start a new year of this column, its fifteenth. Thinking of the coming year presents the opportunity to make lots of choices. Life is a journey of choices. It seems ironic because life doesn’t begin for us as a choice. As the existentialist philosophers say, we didn’t choose to be here. By the time we realize it we are already here.

But let’s talk about less philosophical choices and concentrate on horticultural ones.

If we are responsible for a few square feet of the earth’s surface we will have a garden, unless it is all paved. (If so, then we could have a container garden.) The first choice is will we cultivate a garden? If you choose to cultivate a garden but haven’t established one we must choose where it will be. Will it be vegetables, just flowers, or both? The next choice is, what plants will grow there? Will I choose them or will nature choose them? What to plant? How to care for them?

Choices, choices, choices: what soil, organic, fertilizer, diseases, pests, spacing, rotating, plants or seeds? Choices. This column is not a detailed how to column, there are a lot of other resources for that. I prefer to cover the whys and what for of gardening, the thinking about, not so much the doing. That, and a monthly list of some of things to do in the garden.

To find out the how tos we must make choices of where to find the information we need. For scientific (tested by authoritative experts who are knowledgeable and published) gardening information go to internet sites ending in edu. Those are universities, often land grant schools, that perform horticultural research. Some are better than others and should be located near where you garden, in neighboring states that have similar growing conditions.

Other good resources are: botanical garden sites, e.g. missouribotannicalgarden.org; professional associations’ sites, e.g. www.rose.org; trusted names, e.g. Joe Lamp’l joegardener.com and Martha Stewart marthastewart.com. These last two I have found generally use science based information. In all cases choose more than one source and information that is relatively recent.

If you are choosing to start some plants from seed indoors, better get your supplies together. Peruse the seed catalogs. Dream a little. Someone said “The best gardener is one who does the most gardening by the winter fire.”

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 the pots 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 scout your garden often. Happy New Year.

Choice Road Sign

December 2023

Pickaway to Garden

Visit Your National Park

By Paul J. Hang

Perhaps you have heard about the Homegrown National Park movement. Doug Tallamy, author of the influential book “Bringing Nature Home” and others, makes the case that all of our gardens and lawns make up way more acreage than all of our National Parks combined. And, in his book “a new garden ethic,” Benjamin Vogt says the following. “The entire world is now a garden—a space altered by human influence—and this understanding creates some stark realities in how we rethink the most intimate places we inhabit and are exposed to everyday: our suburban lots, our urban roadways, our parks and schoolyards.”

Both authors use statistics and studies that show how many species, mammals, insects and plants, have gone extinct and how many more are endangered. Washed any bugs off your windshields lately? Most organisms depend on plants for life. If plants are endangered then everything up the food chain (that includes you and me) are endangered. Many plants are still being discovered and we have yet to discover what uses many plants have and how they function in our ecosystems.

So….why do we garden? We garden for pleasure, exercise, for beautiful flowers, food, etc., but what about gardening for the planet or, closer to home, the country? Doug Tallamy is encouraging us all to think of our gardens as part of a new National Park. Don’t have a garden? Encourage those in charge of public spaces, parks, gardens, open areas to be part of the new Homegrown National Park.

Many species depend on consuming certain foods. This is especially true of insects. They eat the plants they evolved with, and only those plants. Birds, for the most part, rely on insects for food particularly when raising their young. Other animals also rely on plants and the insects that eat them for their survival. Ninety percent of those insects rely on native plants.

The idea of the Homegrown National Park is to create natural habitats in local communities to serve as biological corridors between parks and preserves, and public and private landscapes to proliferate pollinators needed for the reproduction of 85% of the world’s plants. If you plant native plants, you have created a wildlife oasis. Native plants are best suited to the birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife in your area. We can all be rangers and caretakers in our own National Park. Happy Holidays!

You can read more about it at: www.homegrownnationalpark.org or find Doug Tallamy on You Tube. Gardening questions can be asked at the Master Gardener Volunteer Helpline at our local Cooperative Extension office at 740-474-7534.

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 (your National Park). Notice the birds, listen for their songs and calls, old  nests, egg masses, perhaps a Mourning Cloak butterfly, see the colors and textures of bare trees and plants. 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.

Mountains
 

November 2023

Pickaway to Garden

Leave the leaves but not the invasives

By Paul J. Hang

In just two months we will be celebrating the New Year. It’s time to take stock of the old and prepare to welcome the new in the yard and garden. The latest advice from the scientific horticulture community is to not do a lot of fall clean up and leave the leaves, with some exceptions. Take the leaves off the lawn. Leave the leaves around the shrubs and trees and in the flower beds. This adds mulch, organic matter and fertilizer to the soil. It also provides a place for overwintering frogs and toads, bugs’ and insects’ larvae, eggs, and pupae, this includes butterflies and bees.  Remember, most bugs and insects are beneficial.

Shredded leaves can be placed on vegetable beds as mulch and to add organic matter. Leave most stems and seed heads of perennials for food and shelter for birds and overwintering bugs and insects. The stems of Anise hyssop, Coreopsis, Purple coneflower, Black eyed Susan, Monarda (Bee Balm), and Asters are especially useful. Come spring these stems can be cut back to 12” to 18” until warm temperatures awakens the slumber of overwintering residents. Whatever you cut down can be left as free mulch and fertilizer and more habitat.

I know this will distress some readers but shrubs such as Asian bush honeysuckles, privet hedge and burning bush have proven to be invasive as are vines such as English Ivy and Winter creeper. Fall is a perfect time to consider removing them and replacing them with natives in the spring.  According to the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University, “A species is considered invasive when it is both non-native to the ecosystem in which it is found and is capable of causing environmental, economic or human harm.” They can be cut to the ground and the stumps treated with an herbicide. For more information, search controlling invasive species at ohioline.osu.edu.

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. Peonies can be cut to the ground to control the fungi and disease for which they are prone to develop. Dispose of the stems and leaves 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 after it freezes. 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 when they turn yellow or brown and mulch the strawberries with straw. You can still plant garlic. 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 or cover with mulch, no bare ground..

Consider leaving the stems and seed heads of perennials, Rose of Sharon is an exception. 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.

Leaves

October 2023

Pickaway to Garden

Fall in the Garden

By Paul Hang

I often think of a title before penning these remarks.  “In the Fall Garden” or “Fall in the Garden” were my choices this month. I was going to write about all the chores this season requires but that is covered later. Fall in the garden sounds dangerous. The word fall also connotes a feeling of being out of control as in, falling for a plant such as asters or falling in love with a flower like anemones or a person. This season is the only season with two names. And one of them has many meanings. Other seasonal names, summer, autumn and winter pretty much are univocal and unambiguous. Spring has a few different meanings but fall has many meanings and definitions in addition to naming this season. .

The word fall can function as an adjective, a verb or a noun as in, fall leaves fall from trees in the fall. In the Encarta dictionary there are 18 different definitions for fall. Here are a few examples of fall in the garden:  The season: Fall is between summer and winter when the leaves fall from the trees. The act of falling: The clay pot fell to the walk and shattered. The amount: Not much rain has fallen for at least a month. Become lower: The price of wood mulch has fallen. Be draped: The alyssum falls over the stone wall. Take place: Night fell earlier after the Autumnal Equinox. Display disappointment: The Master Gardener Volunteers’ faces fell when they heard the class was cancelled. Stop to look: Her gaze fell on the display of roses. Begin to be in a specified state: The birds fell silent when I went to the feeder. Slope: The land falls gradually to the garden. Start: The volunteers fell to work pulling the invasive garlic mustard. Geography: We took a trip to Cedar Falls. Hairpiece: She wore a fall which showed under her gardening hat. Plants: The fall on the iris bloom was a stunning purple. Fail: My attempt to grow fennel fell flat. Collapse: She fell to pieces when the frost killed her dahlias.

And, there is always, spring forward and fall back. As you go about the things to do in the garden this fall be careful. Don’t rapidly go from vertical to horizontal in the autumn garden.

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. Leave the leaves under trees and planting beds. Rake them off the lawn for mulch or the compost heap.

You can have the soil tested and apply the recommended amendments to 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.

Fall Picture

 

September 2023

Pickaway to Garden

Fruits and Nuts

By Paul Hang

Recently, I have written about the flowering of plants and their pollination. What is the purpose of all this? It is the process of reproduction, the production of fruits and seeds to carry on the next generation. Why fruits? In scientific terms  ”…a fruit is any plant organ that contains seeds.” Only flowering plants produce fruit. Two major functions of fruit are to protect and nourish the seed as it develops. When the seed matures the fruit changes and ripens. An apple becomes larger, usually blushes red, is juicy and sweet, and is ready to be eaten. Animal dispersion of seeds is an important method for plants to move their offspring “out of the house.” As a bonus the seed gets a dose of manure.

Pollination results in the ovule of a flower being fertilized with the sperm cell of a grain of pollen. Seed development closely follows fruit development. Each ovule will develop into a single seed. The single fertilized cell divides forming more cells. Those cells begin to differentiate into the beginning forms of a plant e.g. root cells and other specialized cells like the seed coat that will protect the seed.

The seed continues to grow in size as the cells grow and proliferate. The seed also stores food reserves for it may be a long time until it germinates and then it must have reserves for the emerging plant to develop its roots, stems and leaves. The fruit cells and the seed cells expand and mature at the same time. The developing seed has an umbilical connection to the protective fruit. The seed cells biological activity slows down and it becomes dry and harder, even changing color to the usual dark brown or black.

Seeds, once mature, can survive in the soil because they are dormant. They germinate when conditions are right. Seeds are living organisms with a limited life span. Weeds also produce seeds that go dormant and can last in the seed bank for years. You can prevent their germination by keeping the soil covered so light does not reach them. Mulch, no hoeing or tilling will help reduce weed seeds from germinating. And, don’t let weeds go to seed.

Beans, nuts, the seed heads on perennials, pine cones, nuts, corn on the cob, peppers and berries, grapes, peaches, apples and yes, even tomatoes, are fruits. We call tomatoes, and other unlikely fruits, vegetables because of the way we use them in our meals. Botanically they are fruits. Tomato pie anyone?

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 leave them for 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 to kill the seeds. 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 (slows evaporation), 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 in the vegetable garden 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.

Fall Fruits

 

August 2023

Pickaway to Garden

Flower Power

By Paul J. Hang

We garden for flowers. Either because we like to look at and smell them or because they turn into something we like to eat. The Poet William Wordsworth asked, “How does the meadow flower its bloom unfold?” What causes a plant to flower?

In his book “Plant Science for Gardeners,” Robert Pavlis gives many of the requirements. First, a plant must reach a certain level of maturity. It must grow large enough. Second, the plant must be healthy and receive enough light. “Anything that prevents a plant from growing to its full potential may prevent flowering.” Even when all these criteria are met, plants need certain triggers to flower. Once we understand these we may understand why some of our plants aren’t producing flowers.

Plants sense the duration of darkness and so are able to measure time. Plants are in one of three categories: long night, short night or night neutral. Chrysanthemums are long night plants that need at least 12 hours of darkness for a length of time before they bloom. They bloom in the fall or can be “tricked” into blooming in a light controlled greenhouse. Poinsettias and Christmas cactus are other examples. Roses are night neutral. They begin to grow in the spring and when they are big enough they flower. Some only bloom for a few weeks while others bloom until frost. Bloom duration is controlled by genetics.

Fruit trees bloom in the spring when there are about 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light. This also happens in fall but they do not flower then because of a factor called vernalization. They need two things to bloom a long night and a period of cold. Plants requiring vernalization require a period of cold long enough and a temperature low enough. This varies from plant to plant. Many bulbs require vernalization and this can sometimes be accomplished in a refrigerator. Rainfall can also be a trigger event. Desert plants often do not bloom until a certain amount of rain has fallen.

We also know that the accumulation of heat, measured in growing degree days, must be reached for plants to bloom. The amount varies with each plant species. Plants’ ability to monitor darkness can be interrupted by light from street lights and home lighting and interfere with blooming. If your light level is high enough and it is the right wavelength, your Christmas cactus will be the coal in your stocking. There are many things that cause a plant to flower or not. Wordsworth’s fellow poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson sums it up:

I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,

Little flower—but if I could understand

What you are, root and all, and all in all,

I should know what God and man is.

Things to do in the garden:

August is Tree Check month. 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. If you see lichen on your trees, rejoice it’s a sign of clean air.

You can still have a fall garden. Plant healthy looking broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage plants early in the month. Direct-seed beets, spinach, turnips, and snap peas mid-month. 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. Given our milder winters don’t be afraid to experiment. 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. The more you harvest the more you will get. Consider donating excess to the food pantry.

As plants die back or stop producing in the vegetable garden remove them so bad insects and disease don’t have a place to over- winter. Some landscape plants, such as coneflowers and those with hollow stems, also native ornamental grasses, can be left alone for insects and for seeds for wintering birds or 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.

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. Pull weeds before they go to seed.

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 results in bigger tomatoes and prevents those marble size tomatoes that never reach the table. Experiment! Try this 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. Use organic methods first. Remember, 97 percent of insects are either good or neutral. Use the digital method, in this digital age, to eliminate some bugs. The two-step stomp technique can 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 Buckeye Yard and Garden Line (bygl.osu.edu).


Hippie Bus

 

July, 2023

Pickaway to Garden

The Nerds and the Bees

By Paul Hang

If you grew up before this century you probably heard the talk about the birds and the bees as a way to explain where babies come from. I don’t think either are very adequate examples of how humans reproduce.  For plant nerds like me bees are barely adequate examples for explaining plant sex and the only birds that I know of involved in pollination are hummingbirds. Pollination is really another word for plant sex, how plants reproduce. I think if I stick to plants’ sex maybe this column will not be banned by fearful politicians.

Bees and other pollinators like spiders, beetles, wasps, butterflies, moths and flies (most important after bees) move pollen from the male parts to the female parts of the flowers of plants. Plants can have either or both male and female parts. The male parts of the flower are called the stamen which includes the pollen producing anthers. The female parts are called the pistil which includes the stigma which receives the pollen and a tube called the style which connects the stigma to the ovary. The ovary contains one or more ovules which contain one egg each.

80% of the plants on earth produce flowers, seeds and fruits and that include the vast majority of our garden plants and the foods we eat, vegetables, fruits and grains. Without pollination we wouldn’t survive. Pollination, plant sex, is best described by Robert Pavlis in his book “Plant Science for Gardeners.”

“Pollen grains from anthers land on the stigma. If the stigma is mature it’s sticky, and the pollen grains will stay on the stigma. A pollen grain contains one tube cell and one sperm producing cell. The tube cell will produce a tube that grows down into the style and eventually reaches an ovule in the ovary. The sperm cell then travels down the tube and reaches an egg in the ovule. The sperm fertilizes one egg, which develops into a seed. After fertilization, the ovary develops into a fruit which protects the developing seeds.”

The bird (humming) and other pollinators (bees and “bugs”) act as carriers transporting pollen from one plant’s flower to another. Some plants, like tomatoes, have perfect flowers, which mean they have male parts (Stamens) and female parts (Pistils) in the same flower. They are self-fertilizing and don’t need bees or other insects to help fertilize them. Other plants have male and female flowers. Only plants with mature flowers and pollen will work. The stigma must be ready to accept the pollen and may only be receptive for a few days or hours. The pollen and the stigma must be compatible. If the plant determines the pollen is from a different species, a close relative or an unfit partner, the stigma will release a toxin which prevents the pollen tube from growing.

The birds and the bees story might be better replaced by the flowers and the flies. 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. It is time to harvest garlic. 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 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 grafted trees or roses are suckering 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. Thin out fruit on heavily laden fruit trees. Prune climbing roses after bloom. Divide bearded Irises and do not plant too deep. Plant gladiolus up to mid-month. Add soil to potatoes as they grow.

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. 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. Consider starting your plants indoors (except for root crops). Acclimate seedlings to the sun before putting them out in the garden. You can still plant beans, cukes, summer squash, greens and corn.

Common Parts of a Flower 

 

PCMGV 8th Annual Founder Day Celebration

June 2023

The Pickaway County Master Gardener Volunteers sponsored their Eighth Founders Day and celebrated their 25th Anniversary on June 28th at MVCH Park.
Keynote speaker was Professor, Kathy Smith, Program Director of the Ohio Woodland Stewards Program, The Ohio State University. (Pictured are MG Volunteers with Professor Smith)
MVCH Park features a conserved woodland and a pollinator garden.

Master Gardeners

 

Master Gardener Volunteers Help with the 4-H Cloverbud Activities at the 2023 Pickaway County Fair

June 2023

Child painting Birdhouse Child painting birdhouse Birdhouses

The Pickaway County Master Gardeners help our youngest 4-H members by lending a hand during the Cloverbud Activities at the Pickaway County Fair. The Master Gardeners brought gourds for the children to paint. The gourds had holes in them and they were intended to be bird houses for the kids to take home with them from the fair. Thank you to all the cloverbuds that participated and thank you to all of the Master Gardener Volunteers for donating your time to help engage our youth in this fun and constructive activity. 

 

 

June 2023

Pickaway to Garden

Baby, it’s too late.

By Paul Hang

For Carol King it was too late to rekindle old love. For gardeners, it’s late, but not too late. 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. Transplants of most flowers can still be planted. Seeds of biennials can be planted.

Some seeds are too late baby. Read the label on the seed packet. If the date to harvest or flowering is further away than the average first frost date for your area (here in Zone 6 it is mid-October) then you will be pushing your luck to get fruit or flower before the frost kills the plant. This is true especially if the plant is tender and susceptible to frost. Again, read the seed packet. Of course you can experiment. What with climate change you might luck out.

If the plant’s seed packet you are thinking of planting says it is 144 days to harvest or flowering and you plant it the first full week of June you have about 134 days to the first average frost date here in Zone 6. The first average frost date means there is a 50/50 chance the first frost will occur in mid-October. That’s like flipping a coin. Not bad odds unless you are betting the money for the kid’s new shoes.

When planting seeds follow the directions for planting depth, spacing, thinning and the amount of sun needed. Once planted, tamp down the soil over the seeds and water well but carefully. You don’t want to wash away the seeds. Keep the soil moist until germination. That time is also on the seed packet.

When planting transplants ease the plants from their containers by squeezing the containers from all sides. Turn the container over and give it a tap making sure your hand is over the top to preventing the plant from falling to the ground. Inspect the roots. If you can see lots of roots “tease” out some of the roots by pinching the bottom of the root “ball.” Plants grown in containers can develop circling roots that, if not interrupted, can continue circling and strangle the plant. You want the roots to spread out and search for nutrients.

Plant with the crown of the plant slightly above ground level. Tamp in the soil around it gently. Pull mulch to the plant. Always water-in the plant to eliminate air pockets. You may see bubbling. Now just wait, water at the base of the plant when we don’t get at least one or one and a half inches of rain in a week. No need to fake it it’s not too late Baby.

Our annual Master Gardener Volunteer Founders Day celebration returns, after Covid, on Wednesday June 28th, 6:00 PM at the Starkey Pavilion at Mary Virginia Crites Hannan Park. Kathy Smith from OSU, Program Director, Forestry, will talk about our trees and forests. Please bring seating as there is none at the Pavilion.

Things to do in the garden:

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."

Hands Gardening

May 2023

Pickaway to Garden

Come and Get It

By Paul Hang

May is Garden for Wildlife Month. I don’t mean to sound cynical but, don’t we garden for wildlife every month? If we mean by wildlife bugs and insects in addition to the usual critters, then certainly every month we garden we are doing it for wildlife whether we do it intentionally or not.

A lot of us would like to keep wildlife in our gardens to a minimum, whether in our vegetable gardens or our flower beds. Deer, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and ground hogs can ruin a gardening season. Even birds, dogs and cats can qualify, not to mention caterpillars, aphids etc. Thankfully, most of us don’t have to contend with all of these all of the time. But when we do have to, one or two or some for a time, it can be less than inspiring.

Deer, of course, will eat just about anything if they are hungry enough. They absolutely love tulips and hostas and it is discouraging to see them tasting the blossoms of daylilies only to spit out those that don’t meet their gourmet palates. You can look up lists of “plants deer tend to avoid.” They will mention plants with strong scents and tastes as well as fuzzy or prickly leaves. The only sure way to keep them away is a fence, electric or 8 feet tall.

Squirrels and raccoons seem to have an appetite for tomatoes and corn. Most fences can’t keep these acrobats from sampling a bite or two out of seemingly every fruit and ear. Tomatoes will ripen if picked just as a blush of pink appears. Like bulls, squirrels are attracted to the red of ripe tomatoes. Rabbits munch on leafy vegetables and the young shoots of just about everything in the vegetative kingdom. They say a fence just 18 inches high can foil their case of the munchies.

Probably the most destructive of all is the ground hog. They can burrow and they can climb. Yes, you can occasionally drive by a field and see a ground hog sitting on a fence post or up a tree. They seem to be omnivorous when it comes to being herbivorous. For a lot of these four legged critters trapping or a 22 caliber solution seems appropriate but both pose legal and safety hazards. I think it depends on where you live and garden.

Birds like to eat our berries and cherries, sample other fruits and crops. Loud intermittent noises, fluttering sparkly things, “big eye” balloons work, for a while. Nets help but pose a hazard for other critters. Dogs and cats seem to have some favorite foods or dig for other reasons. Keeping them indoors or on a leash helps. One of the most effective deterrents to wildlife in our gardens is not repellents but a physical barrier. I have found row covers to help. Agricultural row covers come in different weights. They let in light and water but keep out most critters.

Row covers even keep out bugs and insects, which can pose a problem. If your “crop” is being raised for its flowers or a fruit and seed or pod (ornamental flowers, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and peas) it must be pollinated and so, when in flower, the cover must be removed. If your crop is being raised for a bud, stalk, leaf, root, tuber or bulb (broccoli, celery, lettuce, carrot, potatoes, onion) it does not need to be pollinated and so the cover can remain.

I don’t intentionally garden for most wildlife. I do raise native plants for those critters that rely on them. Some people raise a garden for themselves and one for wildlife. If I had the room I might try that. Until then, I will remain undercover and try to coexist.

The Master Gardener Volunteers are having their Plant Sale on May 20, 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:

Everything! The merry, merry month of May is a busy one. 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 old 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!

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

Rabbit by a Fence

April 2023

PICKAWAY TO GARDEN

Arbor Eat’em

By Paul J. Hang

Arbor is the Latin word for tree. Trees are eaten by Beavers, Moose and caterpillars. If you count tree fruit like apples, peaches and pears and nuts like pecans, hickory and walnuts, and some trees have edible inner bark and leaves, then I guess you could say that we humans also eat trees, along with other animals. For those of you with a mechanical mindset, arbor also means a spindle or axle with a wheel or other object spinning on it. Or, it can be a structure for vines and other climbing plants. But I digress.

Arboretum is pronounced like arbor eat’em. An arboretum is a place in which specimens of trees and shrubs are cultivated, often for study and education. Arboretums are also pleasant places to walk and see what various species of trees look like. The closest arboretum for us is Chadwick Arboretum on the The Ohio State University campus off Lane Avenue.

Our town is becoming an arboretum of sorts, a place where trees are cultivated. If you want you can study them or simply enjoy them. By the end of this year there will have been well over two hundred trees planted in the past four years in parks and along city streets. Oaks, Maples, Lindens, Black Gums,  Buckeye, Hornbeams, Gingkoes, Beech, Serviceberry, these are some of the species of trees that have been planted by City workers, High School students, Master Gardener Volunteers and other volunteers along with members of the City Tree Commission.

The City Tree Commission was started seven years ago by City ordinance and has written a Comprehensive Tree Plan for the City. The Tree Commission paid for the trees through grants and recently with a budget from the city. Its members are all volunteers. As these trees grow they will become more valuable year after year. A single mature tree is much more valuable than a whole lot of smaller saplings. In addition to planting trees we must value the older trees we have and try to save all that we can. To volunteer or to contact the Tree Commission contact City Council Clerk, Linda Chaney at lchaney@circleville.oh.gov.

Trees provide shade and slow the wind and save energy in summer and winter. Trees slow rain runoff and mitigate storm runoff. Trees provide food for wildlife especially birds. A White Oak is chewed on by over 500 different caterpillars which are a major food source for nesting birds and their nestlings. Evidence shows that neighborhoods with trees are safer where neighbors are more likely to engage with and know each other. Trees are good for business. Shoppers are known to spend more time and money in stores where trees line the streets. Trees fight climate change by sequestering carbon. It has been shown that trees and greenery promote healing and health.

April 28th is Arbor Day. For information about planting and mulching trees see bygl.osu.edu. Gardening questions? Call the helpline at the Pickaway County Extension office at 740-474-7534. Don’t eat a tree but plant one.

Things to do in the garden:

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 without insecticides 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 plant.

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 (which is now) 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 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.

Don’t prune your oak trees after the middle of the month or after they leaf out. Sap beetles are attracted to the open wounds and will bring oak wilt, a disease which will kill them and has been found in this part of the state.

 

March 2023

PICKAWAY TO GARDEN

“Shamrock”

By Paul Hang

When is a shamrock not a shamrock? Answer: When it is a real rock. OK, I apologize for that one. Sham means a thing that is not what it is purported to mean, false. When trying to write a column for March and St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, I thought I’d write about the plant commonly known as shamrock. I was in for a surprise which I thought I’d share.

Shamrock was first mentioned in the 1500’s. The Gaelic word is seamrog. St. Patrick was said to have used it as a symbol of the Christian Holy Trinity. It was used as a symbol of the 19th century Irish Nationalist groups and became a symbol of Ireland itself. On St. Patrick’s Day you will see shamrocks depicted everywhere. You might be tempted to buy a “Shamrock” Plant at a local nursery, grocery store or over the internet for a decoration. Beware! You might be buying a sham shamrock plant. Caveat emptor.

What passes for a “Shamrock” plant is probably a type of Oxalis, (also known as wood sorrel). The clover shaped leaves come in shades of green, red, or purple. They may fold up at night or on cloudy days. The flowers, with five petals, borne on long stalks, may be white, yellow, pink or red. Oxalis acetosella has green heart-shaped  “leaves of three.” If you want real shamrocks, leave them be.

Another example of sham shamrocks is Oxalis triangularis with, get this, purple foliage and with leaves much bigger than your clover in the lawn. And, it’s from South South America! These oxalis plants are flowering bulbs. Being part Irish, I wanted the real thing.  I figured I needed the Luck O’ the Irish. “Lucky Clover” was advertised with Iron Cross as an example. Oxalis tetraphylla has four green leaves with purple centers and is not a clover. For the care and feeding of these imposters go to: extension.umn.edu.

Searching further, I read that white clover, Trifolium repens is the true shamrock. White clover is the diminutive green ground cover with three heart-shaped leaves and little white pompom flowers that used to make up most of our lawns back in the dark ages of my youth. It is commonly considered a lawn weed but lately its popularity is coming back. As luck would have it, (one in ten thousand has four leaves) my search was not over. There is another contender back in the Ould Sod.

Lesser Yellow Trefoil or lesser clover, Trifolium dubium is considered to be the true shamrock by roughly half of the Irish people and Trifolium repens (white clover) by another third according to a survey in 1988. Neither are unique to Ireland and both are in the Pea or legume family (Fabaceae) of plants that increase nitrogen in the soil. This is another example of why common names of plants can be confusing and why botanists rely on the Latin names. So, if you want the “real” shamrock, and not the sham, get Trifolium dubium. And, keep this in mind the next time you shampoo the dog. Erin go Bragh.

Things to do in the garden:

Begin fertilizing houseplants with a weak solution. Now is a good time to propagate houseplants. March may not be 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. That means there is a 50/50 chance of frost on that date. 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-emergents 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.

Shamrock

February 2023

PICKAWAY TO GARDEN

When You Say Bud…

By Paul Hang

What do a rodent, some U.S. Presidents, chocolate and a dozen roses have in common? If you guessed certain U.S. Congressmen you are wrong. The answer is, February! Certain U.S. Congressmen seldom come up smelling like roses.

Like congress, February doesn’t get much respect. It follows the supermarket rule; the shortest line is always the longest. February is a lot like November. It is a transition from one season to the other. And, in the realm of photosynthesis, there is not a lot going on.

There is at least one thing a plant person, or anyone, can profit from in February:  the chance to exam the buds of woody perennials, especially trees. Have you noticed that the buds of Silver maples have already begun to swell? Can the red of Red maples be far behind? The buds, leaf scars and stems of trees are more distinctive than their leaves. They are a better means of identifying a tree’s species than other characteristics. No two species of trees’ buds are exactly the same.

The buds of trees in winter, which are formed the previous summer, may be large, like Hickory, or small like Mulberry. They may be round, oval or pointed (Beech), slender or flat, hidden or exposed. They may be smooth, downy, sticky, or rough, covered in scales or naked. The color may range from a sulphur-yellow, red, and purple, green, brown to a midnight black.

The terminal buds, at the end of the twig, may be singular, in a bundle (oaks) or lacking entirely (frequently on the Ohio buckeye). The scales of the buds number from missing entirely (Walnut) to many. The sycamore has but one scale. They may come in pairs or overlapping like shingles on a roof or scales on a fish. The buds may be opposite on the twig or, as in most woody perennials, alternate.

February offers the opportunity, perhaps like no other month, to notice the swelling of buds as the weather warms. Examined up close, the buds of trees in particular, offer endless variety and clues to their identity. Cut open a large tree bud and there you will find, in miniature, tiny leaves, perhaps flowers, either protected by a luxurious covering of fur like a couch potato or barely covered, Spartan-like, braving the cold winter winds. It will make the shortest month go by much faster than usual.

The Pennsylvania rodent says (only) six more weeks of winter? His is a prediction not more reliable than flipping a coin. What I would like to know is how much wood he can chuck when he should be hibernating.

Things to do in the garden:

Not much. Check perennials and bulbs for heaving out of the ground. Press them down gently with your foot. Make a list of plants you want. Inventory seeds you have saved make sure they aren’t past viability. Send in your seed orders. Will our results ever match those of the glossy color pictures? When you make out your seed and plant orders consider planting more native and heirloom plants. Native plants are plants that evolved here and are adapted to our conditions, diseases and native pests. While you’re at it try googling the name of a flower you’re thinking about ordering.  You will be able to see pictures and planting information.

This is the time to prune trees and shrubs (after you sharpen your tools). You can see their structure now that they are dormant and the leaves are down. Cut out crossing and rubbing branches and unwanted suckers.  Pruning can be done to reduce the size of a tree or shrub to bring it in to balance or to remove overhanging branches blocking a view or path. Insects are less likely to be attracted to cuts while trees are dormant. Remember, spring flowering shrubs should be pruned after flowering if you want to enjoy the blooms. Summer flowering shrubs can be pruned now. Cut back butterfly bush (Buddleia) severely.

On smaller trees you may want to take care of problems yourself. On larger trees you should call in an expert to inspect and perhaps correct any problems. Arborists are in a slow time of year. The ground, if frozen, will not be damaged and compacted as much from equipment and crews. The Arbor Day Foundation recommends that you have Certified Arborists check any safety problems you may have noticed. To find them go to www.isa-arbor.com click on “Verify Certification” and then “Find an Arborist.” The City of Circleville has a Comprehensive Tree Plan. You can find it at ci.circleville.oh.us, in the search box type Tree Plan. There you will find lots of information on caring for trees.

If you dug up bulbs for storage check on them. Spritz them with water to prevent drying out. Throw away any rotting or shriveled ones. Water any dormant or overwintering plants in your garage or basement. Water houseplants with lukewarm water, don’t overwater and turn them a quarter turn once a week, no fertilizer yet.

Some seeds can be started indoors this month for setting out in late March or early April, depending on the weather: onions, cabbage, cauliflower, and other members of the Cole family. The University of Minnesota has a good discussion; go to www.extension.umn.edu/garden /flowers/starting-seeds-indoors. Also Google Winter Sowing. There you will read how to use old plastic milk bottles to easily germinate some seeds. It is a good way to raise a lot of seedlings for planting “drifts,” those bands of like plants that wander serpentine through our flower beds. Now is a good time to start building raised vegetable garden beds. If your compost heap isn’t frozen and is workable, turn it

Image of Silver Maple Bud

January 2023

Pickaway to Garden

Darkness

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.

Dark Green Leaf of Plant

 

December 2022

Pickaway to Garden

Naked!

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.

Happy Holidays!

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.

 

November 2022

Pickaway to Garden

Apophatic

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.

 

October 2022

Pickaway to Garden

Alas!

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.

 

September 2022

Pickaway to Garden

The Harbinger

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.

 

August 2022

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.

 

July 2022

Pickaway to Garden

Baked Tomato

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.

 

June 2022

Pickaway to Garden

Surprise!

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."

 

May 2022

Pickaway to Garden

Vegetate

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.