Weather woes from the garden


The good news: It's May! The bad news: It feels like March, at least as I write!

The good news: The cool weather holds plant development in check, resulting in extended floral displays of early spring bloomers.

The bad news: Early season vegetable development has been very slow due to cool air and soil temperatures.

The good news: Cool weather gives me more energy for garden work.

The bad news: Cold weather freezes my brain ... thus, this mindless column.

The good news: Whenever I write about current weather, conditions change by time my transcripts appear in print.

The bad news: This week's to do list:

n Apply a repellent to emerging perennials to deter deer and rabbits from feeding on the tender shoots. Hostas and Oriental lilies are at the top of menu preferences for hungry deer and rabbits.

n Topdress perennial borders with a one to two inch layer of compost. The compost should supply enough nutrients to support healthy growth of perennials through the year.

n Place a two to three inch layer of organic mulch -- such as wood chips, bark nuggets or pine needles -- over the ground around trees and shrubs. Organic mulch not only retards weed development and conserves soil moisture, but also contributes organic matter to soil as it decomposes. Options for organic mulches for use in perennial borders include buckwheat hulls, grass clippings, pine needles, shredded leaves and chopped straw. Be careful not to place mulches in contact with the plants.

n Watch for weeds sprouting in the areas beneath bird feeders. Seed mixes sold as bird feed often contain weed seed originating from other regions far from here. These exotic weeds could become invasive.

n Inspect apple and cherry trees, including ornamental species, for signs of Eastern tent Caterpillar. Cool temperatures have delayed their hatching, but they should appear soon if they haven't already. Look for their silken webs in the crotches of branches. Young caterpillars can be easily controlled with applications of an organic product containing Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) or spinosad.

n Continue planting cool season vegetables either as transplants or as seed. Leafy greens, root crops, potatoes and brassicas -- broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower -- are examples of cool season crops.

n Thin radish seedlings. Roots of crowded radishes may not develop fully. Most radish varieties mature in about 28 days, so pay attention to them. If not harvested at their peak, the edible roots will become fibrous and tough.

n Snip chives frequently as this will encourage vigorous growth. To discourage chives from going dormant in hot weather, cut off the flowers when the plants begin to bloom. The flowers are edible and can be used in salads. My wife puts chive flowers into a jar of white wine vinegar to make chive vinegar -- not one of my favorites, but don't tell her.

n Be Patient! Wait until next week to sow seeds of sweet corn and bush beans in the garden. The weather has been a little too unsettled to push the season. If patience is not one of your virtues, place a row cover over the seeded areas. The row cover will hasten seed germination and protect emerging seedlings from frost, although not below 28 degrees. Another option is place black plastic over planting areas at least one week ahead of planting. The plastic absorbs sunlight and transmits heat to the soil. Even better than black plastic is infrared transmitting red or green plastic. Most retail garden centers carry these colored plastic mulches.

The good news: I've run out of space.


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