50 March 18, 2009

I hope you have heard it and seen it. In the early morning the birds are singing away. Tulip and Daffodil shoots are coming up out of the ground. On the days with no breeze, you can stand in the sun and feel the warmth. What you are seeing and hearing is the slow arrival of spring.


I need to answer a bunch of questions that have cropped up in the last week.

It is time to start your annuals and vegetables from seed. Most plants will need 8 to 10 weeks to go from seed to a plant that you can set out into the garden. If you figure Memorial Day weekend as planting time, you are on track to have plants for that time if you start seeds now. As is the case with all things in life, there are some exceptions. You only need about 4 weeks to start cucumber, squash and melons. If you start them now, they will be tremendously overgrown by the end of May.

There is also the debate over using grow lights to help your seedlings grow properly. If you have a south or west facing window where you can grow your plants, you probably don’t need to use grow lights. If you cannot get your plants at least 6 to 8 hours of sun, it would be easier to use grow lights. There are kits that you can use that have an adjustable stand that allows you to control the height of the lamps above the plants. When you use grow lights, the lights want to be 3 to 6 inches above the plants. The height is determined somewhat by the intensity of the light required by the plants. There is also the debate over using regular fluorescent light bulbs verses using wide spectrum type of grow light bulbs. Most of the newer types of grow light bulbs have the same wavelength of light as natural sunlight. To my way of thinking, this would be a better type of bulb verses a regular fluorescent bulb. I have heard the arguments on both sides, but for a bit more money, you have the best light frequency by using grow light bulbs.

Sometimes people have trouble germinating seeds in their home. In many cases, the temperature in the home is too cool for proper germination. You can buy a heat mat that allows you to set your seed trays upon the mat. The mat is plugged in and uses bottom heat to warm the tray. By using a heat mat, you can sprout seeds even in a colder home.


The skunks have come out of hibernation. You may see small holes dug in your lawn. The holes are not deep and the grass looks as though it has been pulled back. This is usually the work of the skunks looking for food. They use their keen sense of smell to locate grubs and worms in the lawn. When they smell the grubs or worms, they use their sharp claws to pull back the grass and locate the food. A quick munch and it is on to another section of lawn. It is not unusual for one or two skunks to lay ravage to 1,000 square feet of lawn in a night. If the grubs have become active in your lawn, you may have to apply grub control to  your lawn. If this is the case, you can use a 24 hour grub control. It is applied to the lawn and watered into the soil. This will kill the grubs overnight. Organic controls include milky spore and Neem. Milky spore takes time to work. In some cases, complete control can take from 1 to 3 years. However, once the Milky Spore is in the soil, it will remain active for up to 20 years.  Neem is a contact insecticide that kills the grubs. It is an extract from the Neem tree. It also works well on chewing insects.


As the snow melts and your soil dries out a bit, you should do your raking to clean up any winter debris. If you want to control crabgrass with the Step 1 formula, wait a bit longer to apply this product. Crabgrass seed germinates at a soil temperature that is the same soil temperature that makes the forsythia go by flower. The crabgrass control forms a barrier on the surface of the lawn. If you put the crabgrass control down too soon, activity on the lawn may damage that barrier. Any spot where the barrier is damaged is a place where the crabgrass seeds can grow. If you are using just regular lawn fertilizer, you can apply that as soon as the soil is a bit drier.


Well, hopefully that has answered some of your questions. If you look at the bottom of the column, there is an e mail address where you can send questions. I can’t always get to all of the questions, but I will try my best.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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