Lowenfels: Late planting leaves less margin for error

GardeningJune 5, 2013 

Yes, planting outside was somewhat later than in recent years. So, in the continuing saga to make up for lost time, it is imperative that we all pay attention so as not to lose any more. There are several things you should be contemplating.

First, you buy "seconds" this weekend (or earlier). Seconds are the second plants you buy at the nursery to replace the ones that died before you got them into their intended locations. Maybe you didn't harden them off properly or at all. Perhaps you forgot to water them or, just as bad, over watered. In any case, if you need replacements, go get them now. They won't be there next weekend. If they are, they won't be as good looking and healthy.

By the way, just because you buy a plant late, or because a plant is large, doesn't mean you can skip hardening off. It does not matter what time of year you plant outside or the temperature. You need to harden off anything grown indoors.

Next, lots of compost piles are pretty cold because they are still frozen in their centers. You can cover yours with a clear painter's tarp to speed up the heating process. Some folks even pull off all the loose stuff which acts as insulation until they hit that lump of ice, exposing it to more heat. If your pile is simply cold, not frozen, add some "green" materials containing lots of sugar. Hot manures from chickens, pigs and rabbits, for example. You probably will have easier access to grass clippings. Purchased alfalfa too, can be added and will really heat up that pile.

This is the time of year when delphinium defoliators are devouring delphiniums all over Southcentral. Don't think you have them? Put the paper down and go out and squish those you will find on your plants. You will see damaged leaves, sometimes rolled up a bit. This is where they are. Applications of products containing a bacterium referred to as "Bt" will kill them safely. Do it now or don't have flowers later.

How about cleaning up raspberry and strawberry patches as plants have finally greened out. Last year's producing raspberry canes will be dead and obvious, making them easy to remove. I like to break them up and toss them around the living canes. Always try and obey The Law of Return and you won't have as much work in the yard.

Remove and replace dead strawberry plants. Know that many gardeners simply plant new ones every year anyhow. A bit of mulch helps quite a bit to keep down the weeds, especially equisitum. Make sure yours get water when it is dry.

How about those dandelions? They are back for sure. At a minimum pick off and discard flowers so new seeds won't blow around. I am more than pleased so far with my tests of ADIOS broad leaf weed killer, but the various forks and pullers are standing by. Get to yours. Mowing them helps too.

Under no circumstances, in my opinion, should you use a weed-and-feed or a weed-be-gone type chemical if for no other reason than you can't pronounce all of the ingredients. Look at the labels and be smart.

Make sure that your vegetables (and peppers and tomatoes which are fruits) do not dry out. The same goes for your flowers too. But if you want good, nutritious vegetable crops, you really have to make sure plants get off to a good start. There is a lot of cell differentiation going on right now and this takes proper nutrition and ample water to get the nutrients into the plant and for them to travel where they are needed. Consider applying the so-called soluble mycorrhizal fungi products to your vegetables if you haven't already infected your plants with these fungi.

Warm water really helps, as does timing. Ideal growing temps for plants and, as important, the microbes that support them, is between 75 and 85 degrees. Your water temperature is 40 degrees. Yikes. You water in the evening and lower the soil temperature which won't warm up until mid-morning the next day. I say water in the morning, even with warmer water.

Check out Jeff Lowenfels' new book "Teaming With Nutrients," recently published by Timber Press.

Garden calendar

STORY TIME IN THE GARDEN RESUMES: 11 A.M. ON FRIDAYS, JUNE 6 - AUGUST 30. GATE FEE APPLIES, ANOTHER REASON TO JOIN.

FIRST FRIDAY IN THE GARDEN: JUNE 7 FEATURING ARTIST ELISE ROSE.

LAWNS: MOW HIGH, ESPECIALLY THE FIRST TIME OF THE YEAR. MORE LEAF BLADE MEANS MORE PHOTOSYNTHESIS AND A GREENER LAWN.

RADISH, CARROTS, BEETS, LETTUCES: THESE AND OTHER SIMILAR ROW CROPS NEED THINNING.

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