Enjoy the launch of outdoor gardening season

Hope you had a very special Valentines Day. Remember to keep your cut flowers in clean water and add some cut flower preservative or cut flower food to further extend the beauty of your roses or other cut flowers. Make sure to strip off all foliage that will be below the water line to help keep the water clean of decaying material and to extend the shelf life. Some roses will get a droop neck where the flower stems bend way over just below the flower or bud. This is usually caused by an air bubble or other blockage in the stem that is preventing water from getting up the stem to the flower. As soon as you start to see this problem, remove the flower from the vase, make a fresh cut, best if the new cut is made under water in the sink and then placed back in the vase. Sometimes the blockage will be solved and it will perk back up. Other times the droop neck gets worse and you just have to send that flower to the compost pile or dry it and save it for a prank “over the hill” bouquet.

Once we passed Valentines day we officially launched the 2007 outdoor gardening season and there are many projects we can now tackle in the yard. This is a great time to fertilize trees and shrubs including fruit trees, pecans and other nut trees. This is a good time to prune shade trees and some late summer flowering shrubs and hedges. Be careful not to prune spring flowering shrubs like quince and forsythia now but wait until just after they bloom or you will cut off your spring flowers. You can plant container grown trees and shrubs pretty much year round if the soil is not frozen but bareroot trees and shrubs need to be planted now in February or March for best results. Now is the time to spray peaches with a fungicide to prevent peach leaf curl and now is a great time to apply a well refined dormant oil to trees and shrubs to help control insects that may have over wintered like mites or aphids and to control galls.

We are a few weeks away from the best time to apply pre-emergent crabgrass and weed control for our lawns. It is best to apply that when the bright yellow forsythia come into flower. March is also the time to sow tall fescue in shady areas. If you want to do something to your lawn now you could spray glyphosate (Roundup) over your dormant Bermuda grass lawn to kill all the green winter weeds and grasses on days when the temperature is above fifty degrees. Be careful anytime you spray glyphosate because it will kill any living tissue that is green with chlorophyll including desirable shrubs or plants if you get the spray on them.

The most significant outdoor gardening activity that is ready to go is starting your spring vegetable garden. Valentines Day to Saint Patrick’s Day in mid March is the best time to plant your cool season vegetables. That means now is the time to cut your seed potatoes into two or three ounce pieces with at least one “eye” for a new shoot on each piece to grow your own baked potatoes or french fries. Most folks need about fifty feet of row of Irish potatoes per person to supply the average household.  This is the time to plant twenty-five feet of row of onion sets or onion plants to grow your own onions. This is the optimum time to sow seed in the garden for carrots, swiss chard, kohlrabi, head or leaf lettuce, peas, spinach or turnips. Most greenhouses or garden centers will have small transplants ready of cauliflower, cabbage, head or leaf lettuce that you can plant to grow your own nutritious crops. Most of these cool season crops will provide you a good harvest starting in about two months if planted now. In March we can start planting broccoli, beets and radishes and then in April and May we can plant lots of warm season vegetables. Many veteran gardeners will stage these crops with successive plantings every couple of weeks over the planting season to insure a steady supply of fresh produce for your dining pleasure. If you enjoy fresh strawberries, rhubarb, or asparagus this is a good time to purchase those plants, usually available bareroot at this time to add to your garden where they will produce for many years once established. These will be available later in the spring in pots or cans for transplanting into your yard. If you want to add fruiting vines to your garden this is a good time to buy and plant grapes, blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries or most other berries.

If you are tired of being cooped up inside through these cold winter months, want to get some good exercise and enjoy growing some of your own fresh vegetables take advantage of the nice days to get outside and start growing.

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