Don’t hurry too fast into garden work [UPDATED]Published 10:23am Monday, April 23, 2012 Updated 12:23pm Monday, April 23, 2012
The green thumbers are sitting back waiting to see what April does before they get really active in the garden and yard.
The Martha types are getting out the rakes and attacking the grass and flower beds with a vengeance. Bad idea. Raking grass, especially with a garden rake (as opposed to a fan-shaped grass rake) does more harm than good.
It digs into the wet soil opening it to adventitious weed seeds and pulling up grass plants. If you sit on the lawn and get wet knickers, it’s too wet to rake.
Don’t get in a hurry to uncover the flowerbeds either. If you see lumps where plants are heading for the light, remove about half of the mulch over them.
Be very careful when walking through your beds as the soil is easily compressed when it is wet. Remove only half the mulch over the rest of the bed but keep it close.
This is Minnesota after all. We had 18 inches of snow in April a few years ago. The temperatures aren’t settled yet.
And don’t even think about putting in bedding plants with the exception of pansies.
Check the temperature of the garden soil before you plant those spuds on Good Friday.
If you can’t sit on the soil for 5 minutes without getting a cold bum, your spuds will either rot, or wait for a warmer soil to start growing.
Even the other cool weather plants — peas, lettuce, radishes and spinach won’t sprout in frigid soil.
If you have had a problem with potato bugs, wait until the first of July to plant. The bugs couldn’t find the plants when they emerged in the spring so, unless they attacked the cousin tomato plants, they starved. You will still get a good crop of spuds, maybe not as large but bugless.
Have you ever wondered how plants know when to wake up after the winter?
A biologist at the John Innes Centre in Norwich England, Dr. Phil Wigge did, so he decided to find out. He managed to isolate the control gene that makes plants respond to temperature.
This “spring gene” that tells flowers when to bloom means that it will be possible to engineer plants genetically so they can be “switched on” earlier to take advantage of the growing season.
It also means that plants in danger from global warming can be saved by ensuring they bloom at an optimal time.
Experts have known for a long time that buds began to burst with longer days and warmer temps, but each plant responds differently to the signals.
Daffodils, for instance, will pop out as long as it is warm, even if there is a chance of frost. Guess they are in a hurry for spring.
Dr. Wigge says, “we think plants are simple organisms, but they are actually very smart and sensitive. All the time they are measuring changes in light and temperature.”
In other words, plants are smarter than some people. They don’t push the season.
Bev Johnson is a master gardener for Otter Tail County.