Finally!!!! Great gardening weather is predicted for this weekend. If you have been able to plant you should have things sprouting. If you haven’t you really need to get those squash, cucumbers, beans and tomatoes in the ground.
If you were lucky enough to get your seeds and plants in the ground you are already ahead of the game. Once your little plants are past the cotyledon size you can begin to fertilize. You can side dress with finished compost on a bi-weekly basis. I love using compost in its dry form. However, I believe in the early part of the growing season compost is most effective when used as a drench (compost tea). There are a million different ways to make compost tea. To me, the easiest way is add a shovel full of finished compost to a five gallon bucket and fill with water. Also add a cup of molasses (to feed the microbes) and stir daily (or add an aerator to it) for a week to ten days. Strain the finished mixture into your sprayer. To apply, spray your plants weekly until the mixture begins to drip off of their leaves.
Now is the time to get serious about feeding your onions. As the temperatures rise their growth will increase rapidly. If you are growing your onions organically, top dress your rows with a high quality, high nitrogen compost (like manures) every month. If you are fertilizing your onions top dress the soil with ½ cup of fertilizer (ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) for alkaline soils and calcium nitrate (15.5-0-0) for acidic soils ) for every ten feet of row. Apply every month until you see the soil beginning to be pushed back by the bulb.
If you are like me you have a tendency to over plant. Through the years I have learned this is a bad idea. Plants that are too close together produce less and they produce later. Plus, plants that are too close together are a magnet for all sorts of pests. So, if you have already planted, get out there and thin your plantings. If you are going to plant this weekend try and follow the recommended spacing listed on the seed packets.
Now let’s talk about pests. If you have plants that are up, then you probably have aphids that are hatching just in time to feast on them. I got a question about aphids on my Facebook page from Melinda Stanton. Melinda asked if aphid eggs over winter in the soil. Well, the answer is YES!!! Aphid eggs over winter in the litter around your plants. They are horrible little pests. If you can start spraying them now with a good blast of the hose it will help prevent them from getting out of control. I use a tool called the Mitey Fine mister to spray mine. If this doesn’t work I suggest trying Neem oil. Neem is an organic horticultural oil that coats them in oil and basically suffocates them. It is more expensive than water but seems to work very well. I use it on all of my plants that have an aphid or scale problem, even my crepe myrtles. Also, my buddy Bart Brechter (curator of gardens at Bayou Bend) swears by orange oil. Exact same concept as the neem but it smells a lot better!
My wife loves fresh herbs. She loves cooking with them and she uses them to make incredible teas. I like eating her cooking and drinking her teas but that is not why I love growing herbs. Herbs are easy to grow and most are very ornamental. I absolutely love walking through my garden and crushing a mint leaf or brushing up against my rosemary. Right now is the perfect time to plant herbs. Some of my favorites are spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary, chives, basil, thyme and oregano. My ABSOLUTE fave is Mexican Mint Marigold. This plant is almost bullet proof. It takes heat and drought and resists pests. Plus it makes a lovely little 18” tall rounded mound that gets covered in little yellow flowers in the fall. It also has a great anise smell and taste. I use this in many of my flower beds and I truly love it.
COLOR is the word for the week. Plant tons of marigolds now. It is still not too late for seed but you will get faster blooms from transplants. I also love petunias and the garden centers are full of them. Those in the garden centers are all fine but they are all hybrids. Why not try and get a start of the good old fashioned petunia. It is a purple-y magenta and the blooms are smaller. However, it is a good reseeder. If you can find this variety and get it going you will have it forever.
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