Week Two 4/07/06
“The sun was warm but the wind was chill, that’s how it is with an April day. When the sun is warm and the wind is still, you’re one month on in the month of May.” author unknown
April is by far the most exciting month of the year in our greenhouse. After months of anticipation, the first sunny day arrives, and with it the very best part of job. You, our dear customers and friends return. I have heard reference to the “old friends” of the garden, meaning the bulbs and perennials that come back year and year to fill our outdoor living rooms with beauty. As wonderful as these “garden friends” are, even their beauty dims in comparison to our true “friends” – those who share our love for gardening.
“No winter lasts forever. No spring skips its turn. April is a promise that May is bound to keep. And we know it.” Hal Borland
Even though it seems like its been cold forever, the National Climatic Data Center has declared the 2005-2006 winter season as the fifth warmest December through February period on record for the contiguous United States, with January dominating the higher winter averages. In fact, NASA scientists have deemed the year 2005 as the warmest year in over a century. 1998 was previously the warmest, thanks to El Nino. As a matter of fact, the five warmest years over the last century occurred in the last eight years: 2005, then 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2004.
“Man who run in front of car get tired. Man who run behind car get exhausted.”
This Week’s Success Tip for Your Garden – Taters In A Basket
Have you ever tried growing potatoes in tough old clay soil? The results are usually less than bad. But here’s the perfect solution for growing great potatoes. Grow them in a pot. Now, whether you’ve got clay soil, live in an apartment, or don’t have a garden at all, you can grow potatoes the ole’ yardboy way. And that’s in a container. Here’s what you’ll need:
1.) The container - we like to use bushel baskets. They breathe well, allow for good drainage, and they look good! But any container, plastic, wood or clay will work, as long as it has good drainage, and is at least 14-18 inches wide and at least 10 – 12 inches deep.
2.) Soil-less potting mix - use the good stuff for better results. If you have a compost pile, good compost will work too. Finely shredded is best. Folks have even used straw and ground leaves.
3.) An all purpose garden food, Osmocote, and or Miracle Gro.*
4.) Seed potatoes - these aren’t the ones you buy from the grocery store. These are found at the garden centers and are used specifically for growing potatoes. Do not use potatoes from the produce department at the grocery store, they have been treated with a growth inhibitor to keep them from sprouting.
Fill the bottom of your pot with 2 –3 inches of the soil-less mix (or compost). Take a large seed potato, or a couple medium sized, cut up into pieces that contain the eyes, and evenly distribute those in the top of the soil-less mix. I usually plant around 6- 8 -10 pieces with eyes per basket. If you’re not sure about the ‘eyes’, you can plant whole potatoes, or cut them in half and plant the halves. Cover with another 3-4 inches of soil-less mix, water in thoroughly, and place in the sun. Water as needed, thoroughly moistening the soil, then letting it dry before watering again. Once your potatoes start to grow, water regularly, being careful not to over water, which can cause the tubers to rot.
When your potatoes are growing, you have a couple options: 1.) As the potatoes grow, keep adding soil-less mix* (or compost) to the container, keeping about 4 inches of foliage showing. Continue this process until the container is filled to within one inch of the top of the basket. Or 2.) Let the foliage grow until it’s approximately 3-4 inches above the top of the basket, and then fill in around the foliage with your soil-less mix* (or compost) until the basket is full of soil. Now you’re all set for growing potatoes! Let your potatoes grow all summer; remember to feed* and water as needed, especially during the heat of the summer (again, don’t over water). Come late summer or fall when the foliage starts to yellow, cut it off, dump out your soil, and you’ll have a basket full of taters! It’s that easy. Good Luck!
If you’re fond of new potatoes, dig carefully around the stems with your fingers after the potatoes have set bloom, to harvest a few. But keep in mind that each one you harvest young is one less big potato you’ll have later.
*Feeding your containers can be done by mixing a general garden food in with the soil-less mix which is added to the growing potato plants. You can also use Osmocote for a slow release season long feeding, supplemented with Miracle Gro when watering (used every 2-3 weeks early in the season, then monthly through the summer).
“A closed mouth gather’s no foot.”
“Can I plant trees and shrubs now?” Yes. Early spring is the best time to plant nursery stock. The plant is just emerging from dormancy and ready to start growing both roots and foliage. When you plant be sure to supplement the soil with organic matter, such as peat moss, Father Dom’s Duck’s Doo or composted manure. If your soil is exceptionally heavy, some sand should be mixed in, along with the organic matter. Once planted it is important to water your newly planted tree or shrub. The minimum amount of water required to get a good start is one inch per week. If sufficient rain does not fall, it will be necessary to water. If you use a sprinkler for this, keep in mind that it takes a sprinkler several hours to disperse an inch of water. The best way to make sure you have watered long enough, is to put a container with straight sides beside the tree or shrub you are watering, and water until you have at least one inch in the container.
“Is it safe to uncover my roses yet?” Yes, by all means. They will appreciate the fresh air and sunshine just like you do. It is a good idea to leave a little mulch around the graft for a few more weeks just in case it gets cold again.
“What annuals can I plant outside to brighten up my patio?” While it is still too cold for most annuals, there are a few tough enough to be out now. Snapdragons, dianthus, petunias, violas and pansies lead the list. Keep in mind an especially cold night could cause you to lose some of the blossoms, but the plant will be fine as long as they have had a few days of hardening off before the cold hit. Good accent plants for cool weather include dusty miller, spikes and vinca vine.
“Should I be putting down pre-emergents now on my landscape beds?” What you are really asking is, “What can I do to keep weeks down in my flower beds?” Now is a good time to do what you can to eliminate work later. The job of a pre-emergent, such as Preen, is to prevent seeds from germinating. Keep in mind that most weed seeds will not germinate until the soil and air temperatures are consistently in the 50-55 degree range. The sunny days we have had are beginning to warm the soil to the point where seeds may be thinking about growing. In this area, a rule of thumb could be that by the time the forsythia finish flowering, you should have all your pre-emergents in place.
“If I use Preen in my flower beds, can I still plant in them this spring?” Read and follow label directions. There will be a waiting time if you want to plant seeds, because, by definition, a pre-emergent works before (pre) the seeds emerge (emergent). My experience is that you should wait until the seeds come up before you put the application of Preen on seeded items. Preen has very little, if any, effect on plants. Preen is best applied after you have just planted the plants.
“When is the best time to sow grass seed?” Again, spring is the best time to establish grass. The two biggest factors (not counting birds) in whether or not grass seed will sprout are temperature and moisture. As mentioned above seeds do not germinate until the soil/air temperatures reach the 50’s. Once the weather is sufficiently warm, it is time to sow your seed. Because grass seed is surface sown, it is very important to keep it moist until it is well established. There are different methods used to achieve this. Many people set up a sprinkler and turn it on several times a day for a few minutes. To minimize watering, watch the weather forecast carefully and sow before an extended period of light rainfall is predicted. Remember, if heavy rain is forecast, your seed will wash away. Some people lightly rake the seed into the top ˝ inch of soil, or cover the seed with straw or netting to keep the seeds in place and moist.
“What do you call a row of rabbits marching backward? A receding hairline.”
While it's easy to make this with Thanksgiving leftovers, it will especially please your family in the spring and summer, when only a salad will do!
TURKEY AND GREENS SALAD WITH CRANBERRY VINAIGRETTE
Salad Cranberry Vinaigrette
3c cooked diced turkey 1 c jellied cranberry sauce
2c cooked wild rice 2 c chopped shallots
2 thinly sliced celery stalks 2 T raspberry or balsamic vinegar
1/2c thinly sliced red onion 2 T orange juice
10-12c torn mixed salad greens 4 T extra virgin olive oil
Vinaigrette: Combine first 4 ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. With motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil and process until it is completely incorporated.
Salad: Combine turkey, wild rice, celery and onion in large salad bowl. Pour in the vinaigrette and toss well. Add the greens, gently toss again and serve.
“Generally speaking, you aren’t learning much when your lips are moving.”
Yardboy’s Plants to Ponder
If you like dark
foliage colors for your landscape, I’ve got two flowering shrubs for you to
ponder. Weigela “Wine & Roses” is covered with dark burgundy foliage that
helps to show off its rosy pink flowers. This one loves the sun, the sunnier
the darker the foliage will be, and grows to about four feet. Weigela
“Midnight Wine” is actually a miniature version of “Wine and Roses”, only
reaching 24 inches. Both Weigela reward you with beautiful displays of rosy
pink flowers in late spring/early summer. When well established, these can
really be a focal point of your landscaping.