Garden Questions of the Week
“I want to grow some of my annuals from seed this year. Have any suggestions how to get started?” Do I! Here are a few tips to help you along: Make sure you have the right seed starting supplies. Top grade potting mix or seed starting mix. Don’t go cheap here – use the good stuff for better results. And remember to pre-moisten your seed starting mix before you plant the seeds. -You’ll need something to grow them in – small clay or plastic pots, peat pots, Cow pots, or seed trays all work well. Make sure they have good drainage. -A misting bottle works great for watering the new seedlings – not so invasive and east to control the water flow. Also used when applying water soluble fertilizers.
-Regular florescent lights work just fine for growing seedlings indoors (use one warm and one cool). Make sure you keep the lights within 3-6 inches of the tops of the seedlings, and keep the lights on for at least 12-16 hours each day. -And here’s an important tool for starting seeds indoors – a small fan placed away from the plants. Very important to keep the air moving around the plants to help reduce disease, rotting, and it actually helps promote stockier plants. -And make sure you don’t start your seeds too early. Check the seed packs to see how long it takes from germination to planting outdoors. Count backwards from our frost free date (May 15 or so) and that’s when you start the seeds indoors. For example, tomatoes take about 6-8 weeks, and that means starting the seeds mid to late March. Always better to start a bit late rather than too early.
“Can I apply a pre emergent herbicide now?” -You can, but personally, I would wait a bit longer. Crabgrass and other spring germinating weed seeds start to think about germinating when the air and soil temperatures reach 50-55 degrees consistently. According to my soil thermometer, the soil is at 41 degrees. So you have time. And if you’re using pre emergent herbicides that last 45-90 days, I’d wait a bit just so they’ll last longer into the season before I’ll need to re-apply.
“My spring bulbs are showing lots of foliage now. Should I mulch them over to help protect against a cold snap?” -Nope, let them be. Adding mulch could make things worse. They should be fine.
“When is the best time to cut back my Japanese yews and Boxwood?” Do your pruning before they leaf out in the spring, and don’t be too anxious to do it while it’s really cold. After they put out the first flush of new growth, and that ‘hardens off’, then feel free to come back with a light second pruning by hand to even-up and longer branches as needed.
“Can you tell me your golden rule of pruning flowering plants again? I always get that confused.” Sure! As a general rule of thumb, for the interest of the flower, prune spring flowering trees and shrubs after they finish flowering (yes, there are exceptions to the rule, including fruit trees, etc). If the plants flower in the summer (after June 1), prune in the spring. If you are not concerned about the flowers on spring flowering plants, they can be pruned early spring before they leaf out.