May 27, 2004 at 3:45 p.m.
I planted my new potatoes April 17. They are Norland Reds and I feel lucky that I took the time to cut them in pieces a week earlier. Planting them immediately after cutting leaves too much moisture in the potatoes, especially with the cold spring we’ve had. Still, they just popped out of the ground last week. They were white with frost and I will have to wait and see just how much damage has been done. If the tops are damaged they will fall off. It won’t kill the plant, but may set it back some.
Last fall, for the first time I covered my strawberries with leaves rather than straw. I’m sure it helped protect them somewhat. However, with all the snow root damage was not an issue. Straw or hay not only protects the berries from root damage, but you can also control when you take off the cover. Also you can delay the blooming time. As I walked around I noticed that a few of my strawberry plants were blooming. I suspect that those blooms will turn black. If they do, they will stunt the growth and cause the berry to be a nubbing.
Many gardeners are now harvesting asparagus. Some asparagus started coming through a couple of weeks ago and we have had two or three hard frosts since that time. That early asparagus was damaged by frost as the ends were limp and turned brown. I cut off all damaged spears so they could start growing again.
We are considering adding asparagus to our list of Master Gardener bare root crops. Last year we sold strawberries and raspberries. We added grapes and blueberries this year and we sold and distributed 5000 plants in total.
One of the concerns with adding asparagus is that some gardeners don’t realize how long it takes to establish an asparagus bed. Usually gardeners buy bare roots that are two to three years old. Then one should leave the plants alone for another two years. By the fifth year it is recommended that you take only one cutting. I realize that anxious gardeners start harvesting asparagus much earlier and have great asparagus beds. However, it isn’t like raising strawberries and raspberries where one can see some fruits of their labor the same year.
Rhubarb is now being harvested. When you harvest, pull the stalks straight up and discard the leaves. You may have some strange looking stalks that have a seed head on the top. This is quite normal but rather than pull the stalk up, you should cut it off at the base and discard.
Wait until the end of the month when both the air and soil temperatures are warm before planting heat loving vegetables. They include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and melons.
You can sow old-fashioned flowering annuals soon.
Bachelor’s buttons, cosmos, marigolds, and zinnias can be planted outdoors as soon as garden soil can be worked easily and night temperatures remain above freezing.
Eastern tent caterpillars can build webs in crotches of fruit tree branches. Despite their unsightly appearance, trees are rarely injured by them. The easiest control is to pull out the webbing while caterpillars are inside, and then destroy them.
Wait to prune spring-flowering shrubs such as forsythias, azaleas, and lilacs until just after they are done blooming. Prune junipers, yews, and other small evergreens once the new growth begins to expand. Prune selectively but don’t remove all the new growth.
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