Friday, April 29, is Arbor Day. There are many ways to celebrate Arbor Day. The most obvious is to plant a tree in your landscape. No room for a tree? Then donate one to your community. With municipal budgets being stretched, most towns would be appreciative. If planting or donating a tree is not an option, at least hug a tree on Friday. Such behavior may result in odd looks, but will be less conspicuous if we all join in ... you go first!
Tasks to tackle
Put your arms around these tasks this week:
• Transplant seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other vegetables and flowers into individual pots or into flats before they get crowded in the original seed flats. Apply a dilute solution of a water-soluble fertilizer or a liquid organic fertilizer, such as a fish emulsion or kelp extract, to the transplanted seedlings. Whatever fertilizer you choose, use it at half the rate listed on the product package. Make applications every 7 to 10 days.
• Set out transplants of onion, leeks, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. To reduce transplant shock and get the young plants off to a good start, cover them with a light-weight row cover. Though row covers are light enough to prevent damage to the transplants, I use bamboo or metal hoops to support the row covers. Another option for supporting row covers is to insert one-foot-long pieces of rebar into the ground, leaving five inches above ground, and then insert flexible plastic tubing onto the rebar.
• Cut seed potatoes at least one day before planting to allow the cut surfaces to dry.
• Start seeds of summer and winter squash, pumpkins, melons and gourds indoors later this week. Since these grow fast and will be ready for transplanting to the garden at the end of May or beginning of June, sow seeds in individual pots rather than seed flats. I like to use biodegradable pots, such as peat pots, coir pots (made from coconut husks), paper pots, or cow pots (made from cow manure and not the cow itself, in case you're wondering). These pots make transplanting easy since you plant pot and all.
• Hold off for another month before transplanting marigolds, zinnias and other tender annuals outdoors. However, you can set out snapdragons. In fact, they bloom best in the cool temperatures of spring and early summer. Though blooming often slows or stops with summer heat, snapdragons will bloom again in fall if plants are continually dead-headed.
• Fertilize miniature roses with the same fertilizer as used for large roses, but apply slightly less than a tablespoon per plant. Apply fertilizer to roses in April, June and mid-July.
• Plant herbaceous perennials. Incorporate compost into the soil prior to planting. Protect the plants by covering with a bushel basket, hot cap or similar device if frost is in the immediate forecast. After a couple of weeks, the plants should be established well enough to tolerate frost.
• Pull up any garden weed that is flowering. If you wait too long, they'll set seed. Garlic mustard, now in bloom, is a particularly prolific seeder, each plant capable of producing thousands of seeds.
• Get in the habit of carrying a pair of pruning shears on daily treks through the landscape and gardens. There always seems to be a wayward shoot, dead or broken stem on trees and shrubs in need of pruning.
Do you have a burning garden question begging for an answer? Fear not. the Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners have started their hotline for the season at the Berkshire Botanical Garden. The hotline is staffed on Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon, and can be reached at 413-298-5355.