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COLUMN: Here’s hoping spring has sprung

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By Cheryl Steenerson

It’s almost May. I open the stand in 24 more days. Yikes. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting an average temperature of 65 degrees. Thank God. Mother Earth is warming up and here we thought it would never come. We could still have some cool days in May.

I remember my first Mother’s Day here because it snowed. It hasn’t since, so let’s let hope spring eternal. The rule of thumb around here is that you can plant the summer garden after Derby Day. That’s this weekend.

If your soil is still too wet, wait it out. If you till wet soil you will do great harm to it, especially clay. It really pays to wait, because things don’t grow as well in clumps. Clumps form when wet soil has been worked. It makes it really hard for hair-like new roots that are trying to push through the soil.

While you may think you’ve had enough of pruning trees after the last ice storm, now is the time to take a look at those pine trees. My hill is covered with cedar, but I don’t have any spruce or “store bought” conifers on the farm. If you do, then you should be seeing some bright green growth now.

Pine trees are funny because they have only one growth spurt a year and it’s happening now. If you would like to make your pine tree a little fuller or more precisely shaped, then break out the pruners, but be careful to cut only the ends of the bright green growth.

Those skinny, green shoots on the tips of the limbs are called candles. Cut the tips of the candles. The water and nutrients will be forced into that area of the cut. It’s like us driving down the freeway at top speed and all of a sudden we’ve got a detour and a road closed sign.

Everything gets backed up and the tree will be forced to put out the new growth below your cuts. If you get too prune happy, you’ll regret it. Don’t cut all the new green or any of the old stuff — unless you don’t want it to grow at all. Pines don’t regenerate new limbs. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t grow a new limb nearby, but it could look ugly for a long time. I made a Popsicle out of one in my back yard in Phoenix. The new owners cut it down.

Go figure.

Since we’ve had plenty of rain lately, it might be a good time to give your plants a little protection from disease. A chamomile tea spray really helps your plants stay strong and healthy so that they can fight off any diseases. A sprayed coating of leaves and stems or a drink of strong (3 bags to two cups of water, steeped then cooled) chamomile tea will build up the plant. During the hot months, give it a dose once a month.

Believe it or not, chamomile tea is also my favorite pesticide for my body. I use the same recipe and store a spray bottle in the refrigerator for the week. I spray my entire body, before getting dressed, if I’m going to be working outside. Chiggers love Queen Ann’s Lace and my farm is covered in them. It’s works for mosquitoes and black fly, too.

If you’re bothered with flying insects like flies, bees or wasps, trying to get in your house, I’ve got a cool trick for you. Use a Ziploc quart bag to keep them away. Fill it about half full or more with water and zip it closed. Tack it outside (above the seal line) to a wall, window or next to the door. Keep it up all summer. You’ll be amazed. Science is cool.

Now, go enjoy Mother Earth. Revel in the great outdoors. Smell the fresh cut grass and wonder at the new growth sprouting its way into the world. It makes you feel good. Besides, your muscles will be sore soon enough. Happy growing.

E-mail Cheryl Steenerson at cheryl@theandersonnews.com.