Gardening Wit and Wisdom
11:08 AM EDT, June 12, 2013
I hope your plants survived the frosty temperatures last week. We are actually experiencing the weather the Farmer's Almanac forecast last year. I checked out one of my favorite gardening sites and this is the frost information provided for the 49770 zip code area. Each winter, on average, your risk of frost is from Oct. 9 through May 26. Almost certainly, however, you will receive frost from Oct. 26 through May 13. You are almost guaranteed that you will not get frost from June 7 through Sept. 23. Your frost-free growing season is around 136 days.
'Growing season days'
It's important to know your "growing season days" when selecting varieties of veggies to plant. Check your seed packet for "days to harvest." If you expect to start early or go later, you need to be prepared to provide protection for your crop. Take this into consideration when planning the layout of your garden. Plant crops like tomatoes and peppers close together so your cover will reach. Basil hates cold weather and will turn black if cold temperatures hit. Don't use plastic to cover your plants as they can experience frost burn where the plastic touches the plant. A gardening program I recently watched on TV suggested going to a thrift store to purchase old sheets to use for frost covers.
When is a tomato cage not a tomato cage? When it's holding up raspberries, peonies, or other plants that tend to flop over. I also use my tomato cages at four corners of an area I need to protect from frost and drape my frost cover over top, securing it with clothes pin to the cages. Cages come in so many pretty colors that they've become garden art. I even spray painted a few of my older cages that were the old sturdy kind.
They sure don't make 'em like they used to. The new painted ones are great, but the new unpainted are pretty flimsy. If you find your tomatoes are not supported by your cages you can attach a stake to your cage to hold it up.
Speaking of plants that fall over, did you know if you prune back your asters, phlox and obedient plants back by half around the Fourth of July, like you do with mums, you will get a shorter thicker plant with more flowers. Yes, mums! That's how growers get that nice round full shape that looks so great in fall.
If you're new to growing rhubarb, remember to remove the flower stems. This will prolong your harvest and keep the great flavor. Rhubarb hit by a frost or freeze can still be eaten provided the stalks are still firm and upright. Leaf injury may be noticeable with some brown or black discoloration on the edges. If the stems appear soft and mushy, do not eat them. Severe cold injury may cause the oxalic acid crystals in the leaves to migrate to the stalks increasing the likelihood of poisoning problems. Even though the leaves are poisonous to eat, they are great for the compost pile.
Cydney Steeb, Advanced Master Gardener, can be contacted at Emmet Conservation District, 3434 M-119, Harbor Springs (231) 439-8977 or email@example.com. Her Gardening Wit and Wisdom column runs every Wednesday.