Gardening Tips: Coming Home | Columnists


I returned from my stay in Florida just over a week ago and am thrilled to be back in the beautiful Catskill Mountain area of ​​the Hudson Valley. I love spending my winter seasons in sunny Florida, but this is my real home. When I left Florida it was already late spring there but the seasons seem to have subtle changes in that part of the country unless you are a native and much more aware than I am will ever be. There’s nothing subtle about spring when it comes to Greene County! Florida spring is creeping up on you, but it hits you hard in the face when you live in the far Northeast. The face slam doesn’t hurt too badly though, as spring wears a soft glove when it finally arrives.

People who think you can’t go back in time probably never traveled 1,400 miles north from central Florida to upstate New York in late April. You don’t even have to travel that far if you’re heading northwest into the Catskill Mountains from the Hudson Valley. Kingston to Hunter is a two-week time journey in itself.

I’m always afraid of missing part of the flowering sequence that starts in April, if I drag on too long. This year, that was certainly not the case! The woods that surround my house are still dormant and transparent. Wood thrush, ovenbirds, robins, chickadees and red-winged blackbirds sing their songs, as if the world depended on them. I just wish I had a few Tom turkeys gobble up too, nearby, so I can try to pull one out. Life and death are a natural state of affairs that we often take for granted. Two new babies, I am very happy to know, have arrived to witness their first spring, as I am witnessing on my 73rd. Welcome to the world, babies Corinna and Victor. Your parents will teach you some of what I taught them and that makes me very happy.

It’s the perfect time to start some seeds indoors for this summer’s vegetable garden. I remind you to trust your soil thermometer and not the calendar before undertaking any transplant. The floor temperature in a bed in front of my house has not yet reached 50 degrees. Lettuce and other spring greens can tolerate these temperatures, but not much else! A layer of black plastic mulch will warm the topsoil faster. There is no sign of my asparagus, or even any weeds in my garden. The four inch layer of straw mulch I put in last November keeps the ground cooler than bare ground and it will take at least a week or two longer for the beds to warm up enough to plant . My October planted garlic is about 3 inches tall now and it’s the only green thing in my garden!

If you are growing strawberries, now is the time to remove the straw mulch you should have applied last fall. Their flower buds fully formed last year in the short days of October and November. The slugs are already becoming active and you may also need to apply a protective spray against early pests. Put some fruit on the ground and check for slugs early the next morning to see if they are already there. I prefer a protective spray early in the season than spraying when the fruit is already formed and starting to ripen. Strawberries are very popular with turtles and chipmunks!

There is still time to prune your apple and pear trees, even if they have already flowered, but wait for peach, plum and cherry trees until early June. You can plant apple blossom branches in your apple trees, if they are flowering at the same time. Crabapples are excellent pollinators for all apple trees, and the extra blooms will make the trees more attractive to pollinating insects.

My lawn is still a few weeks away from needing to be mowed for the first time this season, but some of you have already had to mow twice or more. Crabgrass begins to sprout as the forsythia flowers wilt and for those of you who are concerned about crabgrass, consider using corn gluten meal as a preventative. The meal doubles as an organic fertilizer, containing 10% nitrogen and it is actually more effective the second year after using it. No need to apply any other lawn fertilizers at all yet. I’ve seen quite a bit of grub damage on lawns this spring and it almost always happens in fertilized lawns.

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