Now that it's rained, watch for weeds
It is Sunday afternoon and we have just had a beautiful shower of much needed rain. That will make a huge difference on everything you have planted in your garden … and a few things you didn’t plant … like weeds! We use our grass clippings for mulch and other than my hoe, that is the best weed control I have. The layer of grass blocks sunlight which many weed seeds need to germinate. It also conserves moisture and adds organic matter to my soil when I till the garden in the spring.
Each spring I plant about 10 pounds of seed potatoes. I have had a problem with Pontiac and Kennebeck varieties developing scab on the tubers. Scab looks like blisters on the skin of a potato … they look gross and may shorten the storage life of the tuber. The only way to prevent this problem is to plant varieties that are resistant to scab, so I am using Red Norland as an early variety and Russet as a late variety; both are excellent. After the potatoes grow to about 8 inches tall, I hill soil up around the base of the plants and then mulch between the rows. This process helps prevent the green shoulders that happen when the tuber is exposed to sunlight.
If you are planning to use the bug cocktail for preventing insect damage in your fruit trees, start eating bananas and saving the peels. One banana peel, one cup of honey and one cup of vinegar are combined in a gallon milk jug, then filled 3/4 full of water. We dissolve the honey with hot water in the jug first. We use three jugs per large tree and get them hung in the trees by Memorial Day. They do an amazing job of capturing apple maggot flies and coddling moths as well as lots of other bugs. The good news is that bees are not attracted to this trap, so they remain safe to do their own thing!
Strawberries are blooming and rain is just the ticket for them. I have thinned my patch and applied straw mulch, now I’m anticipating a great crop. I had a call this week asking about fertilizing strawberries … I hesitate recommending fertilizer because often you’ll get bigger plants at the expense of the fruit. Berry size is more often reduced by the plants growing too thick, rather than because of a lack of nutrients, unless the patch is very old, in which case the bed probably needs to be reworked anyway. About three to four years is the limit for maximum quality and production. Strawberry plants are susceptible to several diseases, and after a few years these diseases will limit the production potential of the plants.
Clematis vines are shooting some pretty fast growth, so be sure to keep them trained to the trellis to avoid a “blob” of vines snarled at the bottom of their support. Once they have assumed that position, you can’t correct it for this season.