Let's start with the garden. Any time now, when
soil conditions permit, it is time to plant 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 planning goes a long way in
preventing problems later on. Questions abound regarding fertilizing
the garden. The rule-of-thumb rate for fertilizing flower or
vegetable gardens is about 15 pounds of 10-10-10 for an area of
1,000 square feet. This is without soil test information. 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.
Next, let's go over some of the recommended times for pruning
different plants. The time of year we prune various trees and shrubs
is important. Most trees and shrubs that aren't of a flowering
nature should normally be pruned between December and mid-March.
With the late season, you can still do some of this pruning now.
Flowering trees and shrubs should be done after they flower.
Evergreens are best pruned in late June. With oak wilt in the area,
oaks should be pruned in December to lessen sap flow, which attracts
virus-carrying beetles. And, branches in the way of traffic or
mowing should be pruned at any time —
What do you do with plants not cut back last fall? Cut back
butterfly bushes to live material, with a 10-inch maximum height.
Cut back mums, but leave 2 inches of dead material, since much
stored food is located there. Cut back ornamental grasses to a
height of 4 inches or so. Some of these ornamentals have some growth
beginning, so don't wait too long. Roses are also ready to be cut
back to live material, or shaped in the case of the Knock Outs.
Spraying for pests
We're in the pattern of up-and-down temperatures as well. That
means insect swarms when we hit the high temperature periods. As we
get warm spells, we will have the usual "nuisance pests" appear.
These include millipedes, Asian ladybugs, ant swarms, boxelder bugs
and elm leaf beetles, to name a few. They are called nuisance pests
because that is what they are. Very few will do any damage; they are
just a nuisance when you find them in the house. The best controls
are foundation sprays using a chemical such as permethrin or
bifenthrin, spot sprays of the same chemical to control grouped
insects, bait stations, and sticky traps. A combination of methods
will actually give the best results.
[to top of second column]
Dividing perennials is also at hand for many species. If division
is indicated, spring is the preferred time to divide. Some fleshy,
rooted perennials such as poppy, peony and iris are best divided in
the late summer to very early fall. Division is usually started when
growth resumes in the spring.
The process starts by digging around the plant and then lifting
the entire clump out of the ground. Then, using a spade or sharp
knife, start to cut the clump up so that each portion is the size of
a quart- or gallon-sized perennial. The divisions should be kept
moist and shaded while you prepare the new planting site. After
replanting, water well and protect the divisions from drying out.
Spraying for nuisance fruit
With ethephon applications for nuisance fruit removal — such as
on sweet gum trees or crabapples — the key is in the timing. The
application must be made during flowering but before the fruit set
in. For most flowering trees, there is a 10- to 14-day window of
opportunity. Sweet gums are a little tricky since there are no showy
flowers involved, so effective sprays should occur just as new
leaves begin to emerge. Sprays should leave leaves wet, but not to
the point of dripping. Good coverage of the tree is needed, so keep
in mind the size of the tree when you are weighing this option.
That should be enough of a list to keep a person busy for a week
or two. Before we know it, spring will arrive. That will mean
getting even busier with routine things such as lawn mowing. After
the winter we have had, most are looking forward to it.
University of Illinois
Extension director for Logan, Menard and Sangamon counties]