Mid-Atlantic

May, 2011
Regional Report

Count with Your Kids

How much room will three tomato plants need? What's the perimeter of the veggie patch for a deer fence? How far apart to space rows of beets? How wide should the path be for the wheelbarrow? The garden is such a natural place for hands-on math. Have rulers, tape measures, stakes, labels, pencils, and paper ready for the kids to use. They can plan, plot, plant, and go with you to the hardware store and garden center for supplies. Counting money and budgeting? Here's a practical opportunity for learning that too.

Dig Deep for Thistle

Thistle is a weed of many forms. Some types have spiny leaves, others have hairy leaves. The biennials can be removed by digging. The perennials spread by rhizomes. There's bull thistle, musk thistle, Canadian thistle, horrible thistle, Nuttall's thistle, Virginia thistle, purple or yellow thistle.... Why can you weed one week and return in two weeks to find as many plants or more? One thistle plant can produce 4,000 seeds. Biennial thistle has a long taproot. Dig down deep and carefully pull out the entire root. Yes, for each plant. No easy way around this. Unfortunately, removing perennial thistle will likely require herbicide treatment.

Clip Off Dead Hydrangea Flowers

To be on the safe side, prune off dead hydrangea flowers to the first set of green buds. That's correct for lacecap and mophead hydrangeas; those that bloom on new wood, old wood, or new and old wood.

Very Carefully Remove Mulch from Tree Trunks

Mulch, leaves, and soil should not be up against a tree trunk. Take this opportunity to closely examine the base of each tree where the trunk attaches to the roots. That's the root flare. A trunk that is covered with bark will rot if it's moist. The roots have a smooth surface. Roots can tolerate wet soil. Carefully pull away mulch, soil, leaves against the tree bark. Don't cut or damage the bark though. Below the bark is a layer of living cells that carry food and water to sustain the tree. Damaging that cell layer could fatally injure the tree.

Spare Dead-Looking Plants Temporarily

Winter was long and rough on trees, shrubs, and perennials. Though days are warming, nights are still cold, as is the soil. Some plants may be slower to leaf out than in years past. Don't be hasty to cut down or remove a plant that looks dead. Give it a couple extra weeks to green up. Branches that bend are likely still alive. Branches that crack when bent and are brown or tan inside are dead and can be pruned off.

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