April To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

Hallelujah it is APRIL!! Real Spring is here. Statistical frost-free date is April 11. Get them tomato plants ready!! I mean if the seed packet says 65 days and you started the seeds in mid-February then you should be enjoying that first ‘mater sammich about Easter this year. Right? Well, maybe that’s pushing it a bit, but definitely by Mother’s Day. So, here’s a bunch of stuff to do while you are waiting for the tomatoes.

Lawn Care
This is the first month you may fertilize warm season grasses (i.e. Bermuda, centipede and zoysia) as they should be breaking dormancy soon. DO NOT fertilize cool season grasses again until fall.

Mow fescue and bluegrass at a height of three to four inches.

This is your last chance to put out pre-emergent crabgrass control. The deadline is when the dogwoods bloom. After that, the seeds will have germinated and pre-emergent by definition will no longer be a viable option.

Fertilizing 

  • See “Lawn Care.”
  • Fertilize any shrubbery that didn’t get fed in March.

Planting
Is this what everybody’s been waiting for, or what? By mid-month it is crazy time in the garden(s).

In the veggie garden sow, sow, sow. Melons, squashes, beans, cucumbers, pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes and corn. Presumably you have already amended the soil per your SOIL TEST recommendations. Be sure to plant enough to share with someone who might not have any at all.

Warm season grasses can be planted by the end of the month. Seeding is possible, though not recommended. Plugging and sodding are the better options with warm season grasses. Check out NC State Turf Files for detailed information on all lawn turf types.

Pruning

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Flowering cherry tree photo by Carissa Rogers from pexels.com
  • Remove any winter damage from shrubs and trees.
  • Wait to prune spring flowering shrubs [I.e. azalea (Rhododendron x hybrid), lilac (Syringa species), forsythia, spiraea, wiegelia, etc.] until after the blooms fade.
  • Prune fruiting shrubs [i.e. holly (Ilex species) and pyracantha] while they are in bloom to avoid removing all of this year’s berries.
  • If necessary, prune spring flowering trees [i.e. Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’), flowering cherry (Prunus hybrids), redbud (Cercis species)].

Spraying

  • ALWAYS check plants for pests before spraying (except for borers which you won’t be able to see).
  • Be on the lookout for the following insect pests: azalea lacebugs, boxwood leaf miners, euonymus scale, hemlock & juniper-spruce spider mites. Spray only as needed following label instructions.
  • Spray iris beds for iris borers.
  • Treat cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) for worms. An organic product containing BT is a good green choice.
  • Spray squash plants near the base of the stem at first bloom to control squash vine borers. Continue this procedure weekly until June 1 using only an appropriate insecticide.
  • Spray apple and pear trees while in bloom with streptomycin to control fire blight. Use two applications: one at early bloom and a second at full bloom. If we have a rainy spring consider a third application.
  • Begin weekly applications of fungicide on bunch grapes.
  • Continue a rose spray program (forever and ever).
  • Begin weekly fruit tree spraying after the flower petals fall off.

Other Exciting Things (or not) to Keep You Happily Outside in the Glorious Spring Weather
Mulch. Mulch, mulch, mulch. The possibility of a hot dry summer always looms large in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Shredded hardwood, pine needles (pine straw), shredded cypress and pine bark in its many guises are all good mulches.

When you are bored or desperate to remain outside to avoid painting the bathroom, dusting the ceiling fans, bathing the cat … whatever, there are and always will be weeds to pull. It is the environmentally sound way to get rid of them and the kids and/or grand kids can help (until they turn 11 at which time the helpfulness gene goes dormant).

It’s Spring y’all.  Go out and enjoy.

Further Reading
https://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/

 

 

Beware of Potentially Harmful Additives in Glyphosate Spray

poison-ivy
Glyphosate spray can help control poison Ivy, but beware of sprays with additives like diquat.

Glyphosate (sold under the trade name Roundup) is one of the most effective, widely used, and safest herbicides in the U.S.

But beware—always read the label. Ready-to-use herbicide formulations of glyphosate often contain diquat, a quick acting nonselective herbicide that may be harmful or fatal to humans if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. Skin absorption is particularly dangerous. In animal testing, prolonged exposure to diquat was shown to cause cataracts. It can also poison some species of fish and harm waterfowl.

The theory behind adding diquat to glyphosate is that it “makes the glyphosate work faster.” Ironically, a 2008 Study in Weed Technology showed that while the glyphosate-diquat formulation appeared to more quickly injure greenhouse plants, glyphosate alone had better long-term plant growth suppression.

I think I will stick with good old glyphosate—it’s been around since 1974.

That said, all herbicides carry risks—some studies have linked prolonged glyphosate exposure to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Always read the label instructions and use herbicides with care. I use them only as a last resort. Avoid windy days, wear skin protection, goggles, a safety mask, and foot covering. And be careful with pets—they shouldn’t walk in any herbicide that hasn’t fully dried. Exposure to wet glyphosate can cause pets to drool, vomit, have diarrhea, lose their appetite, and seem sleepy.

It’s cold now, but gardeners will be battling weeds again before we know it!

— Marty Fisher, EMGV

Sources and more information:

http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/dienochlor-glyphosate/diquat-ext.html

https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/risk/rcd/diquat.pdf

http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/glyphogen.html

http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.1614/WT-07-181.1?download=true

 

 

Poison Ivy: Get it Before it Gets You!

By Jane Malec, EMGV

Few things scare me in the garden. Copperheads, brown recluse spiders and wasp nests come to mind. Now, poison ivy has climbed nearly to the top. Sure, you most likely won’t die from a poison ivy rash, but you may want to at a given point.

I had an encounter, unknowingly, with this vine and the rash is just abating after nearly three weeks. I have been on steroids and antibiotics and will end up with some scars. I did nothing after coming in contact with the poison ivy which made things much worse.

Recognizing Poison Ivy
So, we are going to pretend that this gardener surveyed her yard adequately for all poisonous vines before cutting in new beds. Let’s look at recognizing these plants and how to get them out of your yard. Keep in mind, in areas that you do not plan to garden, compost, or sit and enjoy the scenery, leave the plants alone. Nature has a purpose even for these devils.

poison-ivy
Here’s an interactive QUIZ to help you identify poison ivy.

As a review, poison ivy is a very prolific perennial vine/shrub with the distinctive three leaves. It can be found nearly everywhere in the landscape in both disturbed and undisturbed areas such as roadsides, hiking trails and wooded lots. This woody perennial spreads by runners and will grow in all types of soils. Also, there are many species of birds that eat the berries and pass them directly through their systems which get deposited in other areas to yet be eaten by different types of animals. They in turn redeposit the seeds in your garden. Interestingly, the animals who eat the seeds do not have an allergic reaction to the volatile oils. Lucky them! This process, together with the runners, greatly increases the likelihood that you will have a poisonous creeper of some kind in your yard.

Control with an Herbicide Containing Triclopyr
Armed with this information and knowing the result of an encounter with the plant, being proactive is the best measure. Every article I read online at 2:30 a.m. when the itching kept me from sleeping started out with “the easiest way to avoid contact is to be aware and get it out of your environment.” Not what I wanted to read at that point, but it’s the truth. The options for control really boil down to utilizing an herbicide containing triclopyr which is a woody brush killer. Yanking, pulling and digging are time consuming, risky, and ultimately not effective.

The herbicide should be applied directly to the leaves of the plant. Spray your target not the area. Spring and summer are excellent times to control poison ivy because the plants are actively growing so the herbicide will travel through the plant. Weather also plays a role. Temperatures should be in the range of 60-85 degrees F and avoid windy days. Check the label for dry times to make sure effectiveness is not lost during a rain shower.

Oftentimes, this is not a once-and-done project. You may need to spray again, but wait two weeks or more to give the first application time to work. Look for new growth when you are circling back and, for the best results, spray open leaves only. Be vigilant in your search as resprouting may occur several months later. Once the fall color appears on these plants, do not apply any more herbicide. Wait until spring when the leaves open up and the plants are growing.

Keep in mind that it may take more than one season to rid an area of poison ivy or oak. Check areas carefully and never be over confident. Remember our winged friends are spreading the berries!

Beware of Virginia Creeper
Poison ivy or oak are not the only plants that can cause problems. A very small number of people, myself included, have reactions to Virginia Creeper. Although not as allergic as poison ivy,  raphides, the sap of this vine can cause rashes and blisters if the skin is punctured.

Virginia Creeper is a popular native ground cover or climbing vine due in part to its beautiful fall color and blue-black berries. It is often planted by gardeners and spreads quickly once established. Most people are unaware of potential problems and don’t take precautions with a five-leaf plant as we do with the dreaded three leaves.  If you have had a severe reaction to other poisonous plants, you would be well served to avoid Virginia Creeper.  Follow the same steps previously outlined for poison ivy control if you wish to remove this plant from your environment.

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Virginia Creeper

Finally, here are some important reminders:

  • As with any treatment product, read the label carefully.  Avoid the “this is good enough” method. Also, wear protective clothing.
  • Be very careful cutting down poison ivy plants as all parts of them are poisonous including a dead plant. Do not compost any parts of them; Carefully trash them.
  • Never burn any part of these plants. The smoke and ash can cause a rash and inhaling them can win you a painful trip to the emergency room.

I cannot warn you enough … do not be over confident!

Learn to protect yourself from poison Ivy: Avoiding Poison Ivy’s Wrath

Resources

MSU identify the plant

U of Minn poison ivy control

UAB Virginia Creeper reactions