In a normal year, by now we would be out pruning, digging and preparing the garden for planting.
This year it is still a good time to prune nonspring-flowering plants of all sorts, but working the soil is impossible. It is still frozen solid in too many areas, and professional landscapers are becoming concerned that our planting season will be delayed until the ground is dried out enough to work.
In fact, it may be early June before warm-weather flowers, bulbs and vegetables can safely be planted. This surely is the year when the word “patience” needs to be part of a gardener's vocabulary.
As we've talked many times, planting in cold, wet, soggy soil will hamper the growth of your plants, and seeds will not germinate under those conditions. So, raised beds will become more popular this year than ever before for obvious reasons.
Many of you have sown seeds and have transplants spouting; some may be getting quite large. Be sure to transplant them into larger and larger containers until you are able to set them out. Tomatoes like to be planted deep because they have an extensive root system, so be sure to give the transplants plenty of room each time you change containers. Also, you can't hurt them by planting the stems as deep as possible in the container. This will cause side roots to form, and your plant's stem will become sturdier.
Give them as bright light as possible, and fertilize to encourage strong growth. You can do this and have good results for all your seedlings and transplants.
I'm sure most of you know this, but I have to stress that you should never let your container plants sit in water. Always make sure the pots have drain holes and are high enough above the trays so that there is no standing water.
If you are anxious to begin cool-weather vegetables and do not have raised beds, I would wait till early to mid-April and, except for a few vegetables that really like it cool, use transplants. Always put them through the hardening-off process outdoors or use a cold frame even if you buy them from a nursery.
Make sure the soil is moist — never wet. To know when the soil is ready, take a handful, squeeze it together and open your hand. If the soil stays in a ball, it is still too wet. If it falls apart but is still lightly moist, it is ready to plant in.
Next week I'll tell you about an opportunity that will begin in April that Ricky Kemery, the horticulture educator at the Allen County Extension (assisted by Master Gardeners), is offering to Fort Wayne and Allen County residents. It is easy to do, fun and not expensive, but it will cause your garden and landscape to become sustainable. “Essentially, sustainable living involves living as lightly on the Earth as possible. Someone who succeeds at living a sustainable lifestyle will use very few resources and will leave the environment as untouched as possible…” ( www.regenerative.com/sustainable-living)
You will be offered the opportunity to learn how to do this and the freedom to choose whether you want to sign up to be part of living “green.” The hope is that more and more people will want to live this way — and believe me, it is easier and the costs are less than you might think. Many of you are probably doing what is necessary to live sustainable lifestyles and just do not realize it.
Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to email@example.com. This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of The News-Sentinel.