Archive for Thursday, March 20, 2008

Gardeners ready for approaching spring season

March 20, 2008

As I write this column, the weather forecaster says we'll reach 65 degrees today, and tomorrow will be around 70. While I know that spring is literally right around the corner, I see the rest of the week is only going to have highs in the 40s, so hopes cannot get too high yet.

If you are like most people who garden, the "itch" has set in to be outside and start preparing for putting in this year's plants.

The winter seems to be lasting a long time this year, but if you are able to get out soon and do your basic garden tillage, you will have the option to get something planted before it warms up much more.

As soon as the soil temperature reaches 40 degrees, you will be able to plant peas, which can be welcome news to those who can't wait to get something growing.

As far as the choices go for varieties of peas to plant, we have several. The old standard is a shelling pea known as "Little Marvel", but we don't have to limit ourselves to just that one. Peas such as "Green Arrow," "Knight Maestro," "Burpeeana" and "Sparkle" are all early-maturing shelling peas that will do well in our environment.

If you're interested in using a snow pea, which has an edible pod and is frequently used in stir-fry dishes, there are several varieties. "Dwarf Grey Sugar," "Mammoth Sugar," and "Snow Green" are all good snow pea varieties to use here, according to Ward Upham, a Horticulture Specialist at Kansas State University.

If you want a sugar snap pea in your garden and (hopefully) on your plate, consider planting "Sugar Bon," "Sugar Ann" or "Sugar Sprint."

For best emergence, peas need to be planted shallow (about half an inch deep) so they can be close to the soil surface and benefit from the sun's warmth. Space the seeds about two inches apart in the row to avoid crowding of the plants.

Some people plant two rows of peas close together (maybe six or eight inches) so they can support each other as they grow, but that may not be effective all the time. Trellising may be the only option to keep some older pea varieties off the ground.

If the weather doesn't allow you to plant in the garden, something else you can do now is clean up your ornamental grasses. This is the time of year to do it if you haven't already. The grasses will green up more quickly and will have a better appearance if the dead material is removed.

You have several tools to choose from for removing this dry matter. Hand clippers, weed whips, weed-eaters (if the foliage is small enough in diameter), and even chainsaws are possibilities for you to use.

If you use a chainsaw, be sure to use the top side of the bar so the chain is less apt to pull the grass blades in under the sprocket cover and bind up your saw. If you're legally able to do it where you live, and the new growth hasn't started growing yet, you can always burn the dead top growth off. This creates a quick, hot fire but it doesn't damage the crown of the plant.

Later this spring, if you notice the center of clump isn't growing very much, the clump may need to be divided. Dig the entire clump out of the ground and replant the more vigorous portions of it (the outer edges).

Remember that you can contact me for questions at the Leavenworth County Extension Office on the corner of Hughes and Eisenhower roads in Leavenworth, or call (913) 250-2300. I can also be reached via email at mepler@ksu.edu.

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