Ron Kujawski | Garden Journal: Despite snow, chores continue

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It is last Sunday morning. (The structure of that sentence is sure to illicit groans from English teachers.) I am just sitting down to begin writing today's column — the deadline for which is Monday morning.

Typically, I review the previous column to be sure I do not unnecessarily repeat information. Given the wintry events swirling outside my window and a forecast for more of the same during the week ahead, and the fact that most of the gardening tasks listed are for outdoors, my first thought is, "What idiot wrote this?" It took only a quick glance in the mirror to identify the idiot.

I could take the easy way out and suggest you retrieve last Sunday's newspaper from the recycling bin or from the bottom of the bird cage, or I could simply re-list the outdoor gardening chores in this week's edition. Never one to pass up an opportunity to take the path of least resistance, here is a brief summary of last week's tasks for this week ... assuming the long-range forecast by the Keepers of the Doppler for milder conditions is accurate:

• Rake lawns to remove debris and thatch.

• Sow seeds of root crops, leafy greens, peas and fava beans.

• Prune raspberries and blueberries.

• Dig up, divide, and re-plant snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis).

Once those tasks are completed, move on with these:

• Remove all dead foliage from bearded iris. Bury or otherwise dispose of the foliage since it may harbor eggs of iris borers.

• Apply dormant oil (horticultural oil) to trees and shrubs with a history of infestation by spider mites, aphids, and scale insects. Since oil works primarily by suffocating these pests, thorough coverage of the plant is essential. Be sure to read and follow label directions on the product used.

• Start seeds of cottage pink (D. plumarius) indoors. Though many perennials started from seed do not bloom in their first year of growth, this one usually does. Try starting other perennials, such as Coreopsis and Echinacea from seed. Be patient. Perennials often take two to four weeks to germinate. Starting perennials from seed will give you a lot of plants for little money.

• Save some seeds of spinach, peas, leaf lettuce, arugula, mache, chard, radish and turnips to make August sowings of these cold hardy crops. They'll continue to grow well beyond the first frosts of fall. Why do I mention this now? It may be difficult to find a source for these seeds come August.

• Check the asparagus patch frequently. At last check, our asparagus hadn't yet emerged, but I'm confident that day won't be far off since asparagus is one of the earliest vegetables to be harvested. Harvest asparagus by snapping off the spears when they are 6 to 8 inches tall. If asparagus was planted last year, make the harvest a light one, i.e. over a period of two weeks. With mature beds, asparagus may be harvested for six to eight weeks.

• Take a hike. Actually, plan to take several hikes through April and May as this is the best time to view spring wild flowers. Probably the first to be seen is the pointed red-striped hood (called a spathe) of skunk cabbage. That may not excite you, but its appearance signals that trilliums and bloodroot are soon to bloom.

• Don't be a tick taxi! Apply a repellent containing DEET to shoes and clothing when hiking or working outdoors. Adult deer ticks are abundant now. Even with the cold and snow of last week, I managed to pick up a fare ... uh, a tick, on my clothing while trekking through a wood lot.


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