Friday, March 21, 2008

A New Link

I just added a new link at the bottom of the blog to view the slideshow "Best New Plants for 2008." Kim Hartmann from the greenhouse department put this together for a presentation given at the Garden Clubs of Illinois District 9 annual meeting by Jennifer Hunt, flower shop manager. We are getting pretty tech savy at Countryside and I hope to post more of these links as we develop presentations on various topics. Also, if you are looking for speakers for your garden club or other organization, we have put together a list of Countryside personnel who can speak on a variety of topics. Call Lori at 815.459.8130 to get more information.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Seed Starting

If you haven't already started your garden seeds, now is the time. Last week I went over to Mike's house to take a look at his seed starting operation. He started his cool weather crops, both vegetable and ornamental, back in February. This past weekend he was going to transplant those seedlings into larger containers and start some of the warm season vegetables.

He puts his seed trays on heat mats and uses an adjustable fluorescent light system. the lights hang down from the ceiling on chains that can be adjusted upward as the seedlings grow. Because he plants so many, he doesn't use segregated packs but instead plants the seeds altogether in larger containers. When the second set of true leaves emerge, he pricks out the seedlings and replants them in individual containers.

Mike doesn't have a fan going but I know several gardeners that start plants from seed and use a fan. This helps reduce disease and actually makes the plants stronger. Mike does use yellow sticky traps for the fungus gnats that sometimes infect plants, including house plants. White flies are also attracted to the color yellow, so if you have problems with insects in your house plants, put a few yellow sticky traps out.

A new plant Mike is growing this year is our favorite Red Bore Kale. This is an ornamental kale that is a great container plant. We first saw it down at the Ball Seed Trial Gardens last year. It looks great planted in the ground, also.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spring Chores

The weather seems to have broken, and none too soon as far as I am concerned! We can now get into the garden and here are some spring chores that need doing:

Now is a good time to do some pruning on your trees before they start to leaf out and the structure becomes obscured. Gerard took me out the nursery last week and showed me some pruning techniques. He also gave a great presentation last Saturday at the store. If you missed it, stop by and ask for the handouts.

Examine your trees and remove any branches that are crossing or rubbing together. Also remove any branches that are brushing up against your house or other structure. Remove any sucker growth or water sprouts. When making your cuts remember to make them with a 45-degree angle.

Sometimes the branch is too big to cut with a pruners and must be sawn. If this is the case use the 3-part method to cut the branch. Make the first cut from the bottom a foot or so away from where the final cut will be made. Make the second cut from the top just over where you made the first cut. Make the final cut at the correct place as shown in the example on the left.
KC reports that now is also a good time to begin spraying Dormant Oil, Oil and Lime Sulfer Spray and/or Fruit Tree Spray. These products kill hibernating insects by suffocating them and inhibit fungal growths. The key is applying them at the right time. If you have any questions about how and when to apply these products, call or stop by and talk to one of the nursery pros.