What a glorious time of the year. Plants are popping into bloom all around us, and every day seems to change with the many different colors coming and going. It’s definitely spring; close your eyes and take a deep breath. You can smell it’s here!
[A bicycle can’t stand alone because it is two-tired.]
*WHETHER IT’S THE WEATHER – A couple of cooler days and nights were actually welcomed as they helped to slow things down a bit, but it looks like clear warm sailing for the next 4-5 days! Wow are things coming into bloom quickly!
[If you don’t pay your exorcist you will get repossessed.]
*WHAT’S BUGGIN’ YOU? – With the warmer weather, comes the emergence of some of our favorite bugs. Watch out for eastern tent caterpillars. Catch them when the nests are small and simply smash them with your hands (gloves optional), knock them out with a stick, or blow them out with a strong stream of water from the garden hose. NO CHEMICAL CONTROLS ARE NEEDED! Catch them now and stop any future foliar damages. Pine sawflies have also been reported on mugho pines. Again, smashing or blowing them off with water works quite nicely. But get after them before the damages are done (which isn’t life threatening to the plants, but does make them look like mugho poodles!). And if you see any bagworms hanging around, pick them off and destroy them, before the start to hatch (early June).
[A lot of money is tainted. Taint yours and taint mine.]
[Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.]
*A ROSE IS A ROSE IS A ROSE – Okay, the waiting is over. Feel free to uncover those roses, and get them ready for the summer season. Now the reason we’ve asked you to wait is that if you prune your roses early in the season, or uncover them too early, they obviously become susceptible to late frosts and freezes. Okay, here’s the scoop:
1.) The week of April 15, or as the dogwoods begin to show flowers, uncover roses completely, rake and clean away debris, and prune to get rid of all dead wood and dead canes. Hybrid teas, grandifloras, and floribundas will be pruned leaving the healthiest 5-7 canes, remaining at around 15 - 18 inches in height. Shrub and mini roses are cleared of deadwood and pruned to the desired size and shape. Climbers will receive structural pruning as needed, and removal of winter damaged canes. For you Knockout rose owners, you do have the option of simply removing deadwood and lightly reshaping the plant, leaving it taller and giving it the opportunity to get taller (they can reach 5 feet easily), or simply cutting the entire plant back to 8 – 12 inches above the ground, keeping it a bit more compact for the upcoming growing season.
2.) Go ahead and spray your roses with lime sulfur spray, or dust with dusting sulfur. This will help to kill any disease spores that may have over-wintered on the rose plants.
3.) An initial feeding (1/2 normal rate) can be applied over the next couple weeks. As we get more into the growing season (May and further), go ahead and begin feeding at normal rates.
4.) Re-mulch the soil around the roses with Pinebark mulch, and your roses are good to go!
[Marathon runners with bad footwear suffer the agony of defeat.]
*QUESTIONMARK & THE MYSTERIANS – Here are a few gardening questions from this weeks emailed news bag:
“What’s the name of the new sumac that is very colorful?” -Tiger Eye’s Sumac! Yellow foliage, magenta veins on the leaves, 6-8’ x 6-8’ in size, very tropical looking, and a really cool ornamental small tree.
“How long should I wait to remove the straw from my newly seeded grass? It’s coming up through the straw.” -As soon as a good green is showing over the seeded area, lightly rake to see if you can remove some of the straw without pulling up the grass. If you can, get rid of some of the straw. You may do this a couple times, and then let the mower mulch up the remaining small amount that’s at the very bottom.
“Chickweed and henbit is everywhere in my landscape beds. How do I get rid of it?” -It’s a winter annual and actually started growing late last fall from the seeds that were produced in the spring. Your best defense is to first, get rid of what you see right now, by simply pulling it out of the ground. A rake does wonders on chickweed and henbit. But do it now, before they go to seed (which is happening in some areas already!). And then second, apply PREEN late in the summer, to prevent any of the seeds that may still be there, from germinating.
“For the past 2 years, my flowering crabapples have lost all their leaves due to apple scab. Anything I can do this year to prevent that from happening again?” - The weather over the past 2 seasons has been perfect for apple scab and leaf defoliation. Repeated applications of a garden fungicide labeled for scab, about 10-14 days apart, beginning now and carried into early summer should help. Of course, if the weather would stay warmer, sunnier, and less conducive for the production of apple scab, you wouldn’t need to spray at all! By the way, for future planning, there are many scab resistant varieties of flowering crabapples available for you to plant, and then you won’t have to worry about spraying!
[Santa’s helpers are subordinate clauses.]
*I’M GONNA GET YOU, SUCKA’! – If you have serious problems with sucker growth at the base of your crabapples, cherries, or any plant that sends out those annoying suckers that you keep cutting off week after week, there is now a miracle cure to stop those suckers and stop you wasting good gardening time cutting them off. It’s called (appropriately enough) ‘Sucker Stopper’, and this stuff really works! Simply cut off the suckers, give the fresh cuts a shot of Sucker Stopper, and it will prohibit re-growth for one entire season! As a matter of fact, I haven’t seen any re-growth so far this spring, on the ones I treated last year. Again, read the label before using, but this one’s a real time saver in the garden!
[Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine.]
*YA GOTTA KNOW TO MOW – Why do I see so many folks trying to mow the higher than usual grass at the normal mower setting? I watch a guy yesterday try to mow his grass, which had gotten about 6 inches high, at his normal mowing height. His mower was choking out every 7 yards or so. He just kept restarting it and going on, restarting and going on. If only he had set his mower up higher, removed only 1/3 of the blades this time, and re-mowed in a few days, everything would have been fine. By the way, the lawn this morning had already taken on the ‘scalped look’, and grass clippings were piled high throughout the entire lawn. Please don’t do this! Remember to mow when the lawn needs mowing, not when you feel like mowing it. Never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blades each time you mow, and do throw those back into the turf. Change directions each time you mow, and have that mower blade sharpened on a regular basis. Oh yeah, don’t forget to clean out under the mower deck when you’re finished mowing.
[I think I have a photographic memory that was never developed.]
*YOUR YARD IS BECOMING A SALAD BOWL – At least that’s the way deer and rabbits look at it! And as things begin to grow, deer and rabbits begin to eat. Start now using your repellents and plant protection plans before it’s too late. Train them to go to the neighbor’s yard instead of yours. Nylon netting, chicken wire, Scarecrow critter chaser, DEERSCRAM and LIQUID FENCE, or whatever else you use, get on it now.
[When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.]
*PLANT YOUR SALADBOWL ADD-ONS NOW! - A plain old lettuce salad can be pretty boring. But in today’s produce areas, you’ll find bags of mixed greens to add a little extra something to your lettuce salad. And typically, these bags aren’t cheap. Well guess what? You can most of these greens, and you can do it in a pot on your own back porch! It’s called “salad bowl add-ons”, and it’s really simple to do. Here’s how:
1.) Get yourself 2 or 3, 12-14 inch shallow containers, always making sure they have good drainage. Plastic bowls, ˝ bushel baskets, anything close will do just fine.
2.) Fill your containers with our container mix we’ve been talking about - soil-less potting mix, a little Osmocote for a gradual feeding, and some Soil Moist to help cut down on our watering. And now you’re ready to plant!
3.) So what do you put in your salad bowl add-ons containers? Try growing Upland cress, dill, radicchio, arugula, basil, parsley, chives, mixed greens, and of course, my favorite, cilantro. Any of these greens which can be added to a salad bowl of lettuce will work.
4.) Plant your add-ons closer than you would normally, keeping in mind you’ll be harvesting these on a regular basis. Many of your plants are “cut and come agains”, which means as your remove or harvest the young leaves, more will re-grow later. So by planting several containers, you can rotate your harvesting from basket to basket.
5.) Water your plants in well, and water as needed throughout the spring season. Come June, many of these greens will begin to poop out, and at that time, your can remove the greens, and replant these planters with your favorite herbs. Then you’ll have fresh herbs to harvest, all summer long.
As most of these greens do best during cooler temperatures, ‘salad bowl add-ons’ can also be planted in August for late summer and fall harvests.
[A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.]
*FROM THE GARDEN TO THE KITCHEN / HEY RITA WHAT’S COOKIN’? –This week we had unexpected company so I had to think of something fast for dessert. Here’s what I came up with: a really pretty genoise (it’s a fancy name for sponge cake) filled with mascarpone cream (that’s an Italian cream cheese packed in little containers). I garnished with, you guessed it, wild violets along with the violas I purchased.
-Genoise with Mascarpone and Fresh Berries
The best part is, this takes less than 30 minutes, but your guests will never believe it (don’t worry, I won’t tell!). Now if you don’t want to use liqueur, flavor the mascarpone with undiluted, thawed, frozen orange juice. Or just flavor the mascarpone with a couple of teaspoons of vanilla.
1 large purchased sponge cake – they have a center that’s indented
Grand Marnier for brushing on cake
Grand Marnier or other flavored liqueur, to taste (start with 3-4 tablespoons)
16 oz mascarpone cream
3/4 to 1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream, unwhipped
1/4 cup whipping cream, whipped
Enough berries and other fruit to fill center of cake, left whole or cut up, as desired, tossed with a bit of the orange liqueur if you like
Edible flowers and whipped cream for garnish
Brush inside center of cake with a thin layer of orange liqueur. If using orange juice, you can leave this step out. Beat mascarpone, powdered sugar and whipping cream until light and fluffy. (This can be done a day ahead). Spread evenly onto center of cake. Arrange fruit as desired onto cake. Garnish with whipped cream and edible flowers. Note: You can toss the fruit with a bit of the liqueur or leave as is. If serving children, you may want to omit the orange liqueur from both the cake and the cream.
- Rita Nader Heikenfeld, CCP / Macy’s Regional Culinary Professional / Herbalist / Author / Local TV and Radio Cooking Expert / Adjunct Professor U.C. Clermont College / Community Press Papers [firstname.lastname@example.org attn: Rita]
[What’s the definition of a will? It’s a dead giveaway.]
*YARDBOY’S PLANTS TO PONDER – This week, I’d like for you to ponder using a herbaceous perennial vegetable not only in your veggie garden, but also consider finding a spot in your flower bed, or even in a container. This perennial vegetable has wonderfully large leaves, dark green in color, but it’s those colorful edible red stems that makes this veggie a consideration for the flower bed! It’s rhubarb, and can be planted right now by either purchasing bare-root crowns, or potted and already growing plants.
The key to successful rhubarb growing, is find the right spot. (Keep in mind rhubarb has been known to last 20 years or more in one spot!) They enjoy full sun, and very fertile, well drained loamy soils. So when you prepare the spot to plant your rhubarb, dig a million dollar hole, and amend the soil with generous amounts of compost, pine soil conditioner or organic matter. And give it plenty of room to grow without competing with other plants (about a 4x4 square foot area). Rhubarb is a heavy feeder, so feed it 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 every spring. And make sure they receive good even moisture, especially during the hot times of the year. Give your rhubarb 2 years to get established, before beginning to harvest the stems. ‘Rhubarb’, it’s this week’s plant to ponder.
[Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.]