In The Backyard Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Farewell Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:05:00 +0000 Early Season Lawn Weeds Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:04:00 +0000 Each year, the winter annual weeds chickweed and henbit run number one and two in the early spring. This year, it seems the henbit has once again regained the number one spot. Winter annual weeds can actually germinate in the fall, carry through the winter, then get going very early in the spring. They also are done by the heat of the summer, leaving seed to germinate again later in the fall. Right now chickweed stands out in yards because it is quite abundant, and has a lighter green color than grass and most other weeds. It is also beginning to set seed. There are two types: common chickweed and mouse-ear chickweed. Henbit is easier to identify since it has purple flowers and smells like mint. Henbit seems to be more prevalent this year, but both are present.

The straight 2,4-D that is used on dandelions seems to act like a fertilizer for chickweed and other problem weeds. 2-4D is a growth regulator, and if it doesn't actually kill a weed it does make it grow faster. Combinations that contain 2,4-D, MCPP, and dicamba are rated very effective on chickweed, henbit, red sorrel, purslane, white clover, and others. Triclopyr is a newer herbicide found in some combinations, and is used for hard to control broadleaf weeds and woody undesirables. Just remember the control time for most broadleaf weeds is early May, but the winter annuals are going strong now. These combinations are sold under several different trade names. You can find these at most hardware, discount, and lawn and garden stores. Just check the label under active ingredients and check for two long chemical names and dicamba. You can also check to see that it says it will control chickweed and henbit. This group of chemicals is effective in the 50 degree range and up. It just takes a lot longer for control with very cool temperatures.

As with any chemical control, read and follow label instructions very carefully. There will be some cautions on these product labels concerning injury to sensitive plants that you should be aware of. This is because dicamba can drift as a vapor for a few weeks after you apply it if the weather gets hot and sunny.

Pruning Roses Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:03:00 +0000 It is now time to prune roses, if you didn't jump the gun already and do back in February! The cold snaps have caused some additional dieback, so waiting has been a benefit.

The modern shrub roses, such as the knockouts, have been the most prevalent type planted lately. The rules for the modern shrub roses are: remove a third of the very oldest canes, identify and leave a third of the newest canes, remove remaining canes, cut back beyond the dead areas from winterkill using a 45 degree cut, and size according to your needs or desires. More information on pruning all types of roses is available at:

March Snows Thu, 16 Mar 2017 11:59:00 +0000 While the concentration is on snow in March, the real emphasis should probably be on the cold temperatures experienced over the weekend. Snow is a good thing. It provides an insulating layer for everything it covers. Moisture provided by the also a good thing.

Early blooming plants such as apricots and peaches may have been the most heavily damaged among fruit bearing plants. Exposed blooms were undoubtedly damaged. Those with swollen flower buds will be able to tell shortly, as damage will be seen as brown portions of the flowers. For now, I would continue on a regular spray schedule and see what develops.

Shade trees and ornamental shrubs will also be affected. Many trees and shrubs had some exposed leaf tissue. Evergreens may also experience dead areas on tips of branches. A freeze may also lead to misshapen leaves as the dead areas limit expansion of good tissue. It's not a bust, but things may not look picture perfect going into the spring.

Home Fruit Tree Spray Schedule Thu, 16 Mar 2017 11:58:00 +0000 The first regular spray of the year is applied when the green tissue is ½ inch out of the bud. This spray for homeowners usually consists of a multipurpose fruit spray (and sulfur if needed for powdery mildew). Multipurpose fruit spray has been re-formulated to include malathion, captan, and carbaryl (methoxychlor was eliminated from the mixture several years ago). This same mixture would be used when the fruit buds are in the pink stage (when fruit buds show color). After that, persistence and consistence pays off as you spray with the same mixture about every 10 days until we get to within two weeks of harvest. In our area, we need to continue spraying this late because of apple maggot and sooty mold.

This spray schedule will also control borers on apples and pears, if you also thoroughly spray the trunk and main limbs of the trees. On non-bearing, young fruit trees where borers have attacked, you can spray the trunks every two weeks during June and July with a multipurpose fruit spray.

The spray schedule for peaches, nectarines, apricots, and plums varies a little bit. The dormant spray for them uses captan fungicide. This is the only spray that controls leaf curl and plum pockets. The next spray is when fruit buds show color with captan, followed by captan at bloom. When the husks begin to pull away from the base of the fruit we would then spray with sulfur, captan, and malathion. This mix would then be used every 10 days or so to within a week of harvest.

For borers on the peach group, you can spray or paint the trunk only with carbaryl (Sevin) on June 15, July 15, and August 15. We walk a tightrope with the loss of some of the insecticides since carbaryl can cause fruit drop or thinning on the peach group and some apples.

Fire blight has also been prevalent the past few years. Spray programs to combat this bacteria usually include spraying fixed copper as a dormant spray - or when green material is visible, but before a half inch out of the bud, and then a follow-up of streptomycin beginning at bloom (and on a four day schedule for no more than four sprays total). And, this is after you did a great job of pruning out material infected by fire blight to begin with.

Spring Lawn Maintenance and Seeding Thu, 16 Mar 2017 11:56:00 +0000 Here we are in the first half of March, and the forsythia is in bloom. This marks the beginning of the crabgrass germination. It is an entire month early, when compared to average. Applications of crabgrass preventers are usually repeated in four to six weeks, but two repeated applications may be suggested this year due to the very early season.

Use of a crabgrass preventer is very effective, and the most common way to attack the problem. There are a few products out there, and they are often combined with fertilizer. They all basically kill small seeds as they germinate. They will also do the same with grass seed you have sown, so the two operations do not work together. If you sow seed, you live with the crabgrass for the year. Timing is critical for crabgrass control, and we may have already missed the first flush of germinating seed due to the very early season. Unless, the young seedlings get frozen.

As for seeding grass, March 15 to April 1 is the recommended spring period in our area. It's a very narrow window, but with purpose. New grass seed needs time to germinate and develop a strong root system before hot weather arrives. The right type of seed to use varies. Sunny locations do well with Kentucky bluegrass, while shaded areas tend to do better with red or chewings fescue. Perennial ryegrass provides quicker germination and cover. Blending all three is a recommended practice, and you can even purchase blends already made up. The blends help with conditions, diseases, and insects. When one type struggles, the others can tolerate and help fill in areas in the lawn. The recommended seeding rates are four pounds per 1000 square feet in new seedings, and two pounds per 1000 in overseeding existing turf to thicken it up or help fill small bare areas.

Starting Transplants

Starting your own transplants can still be done for the warm loving plants such as tomatoes and peppers. We usually figure about six weeks from the transplant date for starting the seeds. The recommended outdoor transplanting time for these is going to be in May, after the frost-free date. You should use a sterile growing medium to start seeds in. There are several kinds of soilless germinating mixes, potting soils, peat cubes, and compressed peat pellets that are available. These media are generally free from insects, diseases, and weeds. Enough fertilizer is generally present in these to allow for three or four weeks of plant growth.

Garden Timing Thu, 16 Mar 2017 11:55:00 +0000 With the "confused" season we have been experiencing, to err on the side of caution would be my advice. That being said, as conditions allow, it would be time to plan to earliest garden crops which fall into the very hardy category. But, we may have to wait on the latest freezing temps and a bit drier soil conditions to proceed.

These very hardy crops would include kale, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, onions, peas, spinach and turnips. Transplants of asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, onion sets, potatoes, and rhubarb would also be appropriate to plant four to six weeks ahead of the average last frost date. Of course that is a bit subjective depending on whether you want a 50/50 chance of over 90 percent chance of success. These dates vary from mid-April for the 50/50 to about May 10 to be fairly certain.