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Wow ! What a week of rain this past one has been. I know we were a little low on moisture for the year, but sure didn’t want it to come all at once. Normally the first week of April is good for planting potatoes along with a variety of other plants, including sowing early vegetables such as lettuce, peas, onions, etc. However it is advised to wait for good soil conditions, rather than mud the seeds in. To test for good soil conditions, take a handful of soil and make a ball. If it crumbles in the hand, it’s O.K. to plant. If it remains in a mud ball, wait a few days for it to dry out. Early April is also the ideal time for planting most fruits in this area. Both bare-root and potted plants should have time to develop a good root systems before hot, dry weather comes. Special varieties of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, and melons (especially seedless watermelons) can now be started indoors. It takes three to six weeks to develop a good transplant in this family. This means they’ll be ready in early May. Since Easter was last week-end, I thought I would give you some tips for caring for your Easter Lilies. If the plant is wrapped in foil, punch a hole in the bottom to allow excess water to drain. Water when soil appears dry, but well before plant begins to wilt. Keep plant moderately cool, but avoid drafty locations and heat outlets. It will bloom better and last longer in a bright place, but out of direct sunlight. Remove blossoms as they start to close. After its done blooming, keep it well watered and in a bright window. When the weather is favorable, remove it from the pot and plant outdoors.

GARDEN QUESTIONS FOR CENTRAL ILLINOIS

Q: I get confused on when to cut back or prune flowering shrubs. Is there a guide to perhaps follow for this procedure?

A: Early blooming shrubs develop their flower buds during the summer and fall of the previous year. This is often called "blooming on old wood." Therefore as a general rule, shrubs that flower before June 15 should be pruned soon after flowering. Shrubs that bloom after June 15 can be pruned in early spring. Summer and fall flowering shrubs bloom on new wood or stems that were produced in the same season as flowering.

Q: Is it true that I need to “rotate” crops in my garden?

A: Rotating crops from year to year helps to control diseases that over winter in the soil. Do not grow the same vegetable or related vegetables in or near the same location more often than once in three years. Rotate crops from one side of the garden to the other, or better yet rotate to a new garden location in your yard. If your garden is on a slope, plant the rows across rather than up and down. This practice will decrease loss of soil and erosion of gullies during rainstorms.

If you have other questions about your garden or landscape, feel free to contact a master gardener at the University of Illinois Extension office in Charleston at 217-345-7034. You can also check out the many horticulture webpages at the U of I Extension’s website by visiting http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/. And be sure to like the Master Gardeners’ new Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/ColesCountyMasterGardeners.

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