Planting, cleanup are sure signs of spring

Although the soil and air can still be chilly this time of year, April is when sweet peas should be

Journal Entry: “April 8th — Planted sweet peas and sugar peas in the garden this evening. It was the first time this season that I dug in the soil and got my hands dirty. It felt wonderful.

“Peas like to get an early start and though there are snow mounds on the north side of the garden and the soil felt chilly, this is the proper time to plant peas.

“Three different sweet peas were planted on the diamond trellis that is part of the east fence. They are Burpee’s Wild Thing, and Renee’s Garden’s North Shore Sweet Peas and Botanical Interests’ Princess Elizabeth.

“These varieties will bloom in shades of scarlet magenta, purple blue and salmon pink respectively. All are fragrant and will make pleasant cut flowers for the kitchen table and be a great subject for an oil painting.”

That was my first garden entry for the season. So you know, sweet peas are not edible. Planted at intervals among the sweet peas are an edible pea — Burpees’ Dwarf Gray Sugar pea. I mixed them together for the color and charm.

Here’s a tip: nicking sweet pea seeds with a nail clipper to cut through the outer seed coat increases germination and should help the seeds sprout a few days sooner.

For those who ask where I get my seeds, the answer is I am always looking. I shop locally at the garden centers and through the mail. When I travel, I stop to shop and when I can, I trade seeds for seeds.

Garden Cleanup

I know spring has finally arrived because on the drive home from work I’m thinking through two questions: “What’s for dinner?” and “What can I do in the garden?”

I fell right back into my warm weather routine of changing into garden clothes, starting dinner — chicken in a mango curry sauce that, once started, can be left to simmer unattended on the stove — and picking up a rake, a trowel and the Felco pruner that are left by the back door.

Cleaning the garden is high on the agenda, as is looking around with a sharp eye to detect any problems.

While raking one flower bed, I noticed Bishop’s weed starting to poke through the soil. I took the trowel, dug deeply to loosen the soil and pulled out the roots of this very persistent weed. I also clipped off broken branches on shrubs.

Snow mold on lawn

As I walked over the lawn, which was snow-covered until April 7, I noticed matted circular, dead patches. The circles have a slight cast of either white to gray. The entire circle can be colored or just the margins. This is a fungal disease called snow mold.

There are two types of snow mold: gray and pink, The kind growing in my yard is gray snow mold (Typhula blight). If you notice pinkish patches in your lawn, that could be pink snow mold (Fusarium).

These molds begin growing when the ground is not yet frozen, but coated with snow.

The best growing conditions are when the ground is cold and wet. As the temperatures increase in the coming weeks, the molds will become inactive.

Snow mold is not a big problem. However, the lawn needs to be raked to promote drying. If the patch doesn’t green up, the spots will need to be reseeded in May.

Saratoga County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension assistant director, Sue Beebe, said the weather conditions have been just right for snow molds this year.

I suspect some of the reason I have snow mold is because the house shades this part of the lawn and the snow lingers. There is little air circulation in this north-facing section of the yard.

If you notice snow mold on your grass and are trying to decipher why, other factors that can contribute to it are too much nitrogen fertilizer in the fall, letting grass grow too long and get matted, and leaving leaves on the lawn in the fall.

Even with a few problems, it still feels nice to be outside.

Happy gardening.

Categories: Life and Arts

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