When we look at our
average frost-free date, we see that it is April 25. About half
the time in the last 30 years, the average last spring killing
frost has occurred by this date. That also means that about half
the time it hasn't. Last year was a good example of a
Those selling transplants love those of us
who like to buy these plants in mid-April. More years than not,
they get to sell us at least two sets of transplants. Of course,
all bets are off if you use protective covers, such as milk
jugs, row covers or wall-of-water types of protection.
Usually it is just as easy to wait until the recommended
date, and that would be after the range of April 25-May 10 for
green beans, sweet corn and tomatoes. These are all considered
Melons, peppers, pumpkin and squash are considered
"warm-loving" and should be planted in the range from May 10-
June 1. Pumpkins planted for Halloween jack-o'-lanterns should
be planted about Father's Day. These pumpkins will get ripe too
quickly for use in late October if planted the normal time.
We are getting quite a few questions about fertilizing a
garden. The normal rule-of-thumb rate (without soil test
information) for fertilizing flower or vegetable gardens is
about 15 pounds of 10-10-10 per 1,000 square feet. If you are
using 12-12-12 or 13-13-13 fertilizer, use about 12 pounds per
1,000 square feet. Soil pH may need to be adjusted due to the
addition of lime and sulfur, which are acidifying. Generally,
about 4.25 pounds of lime neutralizes the acidity from 1 pound
of nitrogen or sulfur. Beware of pH requirements for different
plants before you go out to apply lime. Surrounding plants are
also affected. Examples would be blueberries, rhododendron,
azalea, pin oaks and many evergreens.
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One of the more popular questions, at least during the growing
season, concerns how to prevent the leathery rot on the bottom of
tomatoes. The leathery rot is called blossom end rot. It is caused
by a calcium imbalance in the plant. You could apply some lime to
the area where tomatoes will be planted. Lime supplies calcium. The
more reliable method is to mulch tomato plants well. This evens out
the soil moisture available to the plants. The alternative is
watering on a frequent basis. See the precautions in the previous
paragraph on too much lime.
Soil conditions permitting, it is time to seed things such as
asparagus crowns, leaf lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes,
rhubarb plants, spinach and turnips. Give it another week or two and
it is time to plant such things as broccoli, cabbage and
cauliflower. As with most things, a little bit of preparation goes a
long way in preventing problems later on.
It is time to get
the crabgrass preventer on, but don't apply it if you seeded
It is time to mow
already. Remove no more than one-third of the leaf blade at
a time to avoid raking or catching clippings.
Cut back butterfly
bushes to live material, with a 10-inch maximum height.
Cut back ornamental
grasses to a height of 4 inches or so.
Fulton, unit leader,
University of Illinois Extension,
Logan County Unit]