Temptation could be defined as the desire to do something wrong or unwise. Well, I must confess, given the early summer-like weather of late, I have been tempted to transplant my tomato, pepper, eggplant and other tender seedlings to the garden. However, what I lack in wisdom is overcome by what experience has taught me, and that is to be patient.
For it was back in 2009, if memory serves correctly, that I transplanted my tomato seedlings to the garden on May 25, Memorial Day. On the following morning, there was a touch of frost. Many areas escaped the light frost, but our garden sits at the bottom of a slope, which made matters worse since cold air settles in such low spots. As a consequence, all of my tomato seedlings became memorialized for their brief existence.
I don’t know how long this current stretch of warmth will last, but I do not plan to transplant any frost-sensitive seedlings, whether vegetable or flower, until the first week of June or when night time temperatures are consistently in the 50-degree range. In the meantime, acclimation of seedlings to the outdoors has begun.
The acclimation sequence begins by moving seedlings outdoors to a sunny and somewhat wind protected location for an hour on the first day. Actually, a little bit of a breeze will strengthen the stems of the seedling, but do avoid the Berkshire gales. The exposure is extended by an hour each day over a period of 8 to 10 days. After that, the plants are ready to be transplanted to the garden.
If rainfall is deficient, apply water to garden soil a few hours before transplanting vegetables and annual flowers. Also, water the soil in the seedling containers.
BUT CHORES HAVE NO PATIENCE ...
Resist the temptation to slowly acclimate yourself to the outdoors. There is much to be done and no time to procrastinate.
- Mow lawns often and mow high. If confused by “high,” I mean maintain a cutting height of at least 2 1/2 or 3 inches when mowing. The higher cutting height promotes better root development, reduces weed invasion, and increases tolerance to drought conditions. For best results, be sure mower blades are kept sharp. Shredded grass tips as opposed to cleanly sliced grass blades are an indication that the blades need to be sharpened.
- Buy some geraniums for patio planter boxes or for mass displays in flower beds. Geraniums grown from seed as especially vigorous and generally grow better than plants from cuttings.
- Consider tuberous begonias for hanging baskets suspended on a shaded porch. Look for pendula-type begonias, which have naturally cascading habit.
- Remove the spent flowers but not the foliage from spring-blooming bulbs. Allow the foliage to die back naturally. If the bulbs are growing in lawn areas, do not mow until the foliage is brown and dry looking. A string trimmer may be used to cut down tall grass a bit if the grass is too much to handle with the lawn mower.
- Apply neem oil, an organic pesticide, to plants being munched on by flea beetles. The beetles feed on many plants, but are especially fond of my mustard greens, radishes, kohlrabi, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale. Since neem oil can be harmful to pollinators, always apply it early in the morning. So, set your alarm for 5 a.m. By the way, you could sacrifice the mustard greens as a trap crop. That is, plant row of mustard a bit away from the crop being protected, or if the garden is small, surround it with row of mustard. Flea beetles will be drawn to the mustard and can then be sprayed with neem or dusted by kaolin clay.
- Go easy with the fertilizer on herbs. Too much fertilizer will force rapid, succulent growth and reduce the intensity of the herb flavor or scent. Low nitrogen, high phosphorous, high potassium fertilizer in a water soluble form applied once every 6 weeks should be adequate.
- Sow seeds of sweet corn and beans now. Make successive sowings at two-week intervals until July 1 for corn and July 30 for beans.
- Sow seeds of summer savory near green bean plantings. This will serve as a reminder to use savory as a seasoning when cooking beans.
WEST STOCKBRIDGE GRANGE AWARD
Kudos goes out to Lisa Parker of West Stockbridge who was recently presented with the National Grange Community Award by the West Stockbridge Grange. A professional landscape gardener, Lisa has, for 20 years, voluntarily given her time to design, plant and maintain strikingly beautiful gardens and planters in public areas around West Stockbridge.