Mid-Atlantic

May, 2010
Regional Report

Apply for Funds to Convert to Organic Farming

The USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides up to $20,000 via the new Organic Farming Initiative. An eligible farm could be just beginning or produce at least $1,000 in agricultural products. Under EQIP, eligible farmers and landowners can receive financial and technical assistance to install conservation practices necessary to protect natural resources as part of their certified organic operation, or if they are transitioning to organic production. For technical questions, contact Gwendolyn Crews at (717) 237-2218. For details, see
http://www.pa.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/Organic/index.html.

Clip Away Dead Iris Flower Stalks; Divide Overgrown Clumps

Bearded and Siberian iris are in spectacular color this spring. Enjoy their intense, if too brief, show. After all flowers at the tip have died, clip away the stalk - just above the first leaf on the stalk. That will prevent seed production and keep the garden looking tidy. If clumps are crowded, feel free to divide them after flowering is finished. Transplant healthy, plump rhizomes. Discard old, dry or rotting pieces as well as any parts with holes indicating borer damage. Check a state extension, college, university or iris society website for detailed instructions.

Chat Up Your Nursery Staff

What perennials do exceptionally well in your soil and weather conditions? Which roses resist powdery mildew? Are there shrubs and herbaceous plants the deer don't eat? Will the hydrangea that's caught your eye really do well in shade? Ask the experienced staff at your garden center or nursery for their thoughts. Feel free to tap the collective wisdom of plant care professionals. If they've been on staff for several years, they know which plants customers want more of... and which to avoid; which plants live up to promise and which disappoint. They want happy, satisfied customers. A top notch garden center hires staff with excellent customer service in mind. They'll enjoy talking about their best products.

Pace Yourself - Slow and Steady with Breaks

As I sit here with ice packs on both sore wrists, I wish someone had reminded me to pace myself when digging holes for shrubs in rocky soil around a new home. This is a another case of "Do as I say, not as I do." Some of you may be like me - losing yourself in garden work till your body yells 'No more. I quit." Reminds me of two wise workers I hired to dig beds, edge, and mulch around a huge property. Their measured, steady work rhythm carried them hours beyond my jack-rabbit approach. They took many small shovelfuls, didn't overfill the wheelbarrow, alternated tasks, kept tools organized and at hand - and finished in good humor and good time. Compare that to a cranky (dare I say "macho") me who overfilled, strained, and hurried to the point of early exhaustion.

Prune Off Dead Peony Flowers

Peonies concentrate their energy into one flush of spring flowers. They won't rebloom this gardening season. Clip off the dead flowers, carefully leaving any buds that might yet swell into blossoms. Fertilize the plant. Allow the leaves to flourish through the summer. They may eventually get mildew. After the stems turn brown, cut them to about three inches above the ground.

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