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Eager for spring, but don’t rush the season

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Sunshine makes me smile. It’s especially nice to see after a long, cold winter.
Here on the farm, my rain gauge has measured 15.5 inches of precipitation since Jan. 1. That’s lot of moisture and things are definitely going green.
This Sunday, spring officially arrives. The vernal equinox means we will be warming up and all the flowers will be coming up to celebrate. The sound of mowers will soon reach a frenzied pitch, as folks start leveling off the wild onions and dandelions sprouting in their yards.
Spring gardens are sporting lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, peas, carrots, kohlrabi and collard greens. With the price of food and everything else going up, I’m guessing that there will be more gardens than ever this year.
Those that don’t have a patch of land will be using containers ranging from half whiskey barrels to buckets. Just keep depth in mind. Lettuce and herbs don’t need but 6 inches or so of soil, but tomatoes and most other crops need double that amount.
Those of you with fruit trees and berries need to get going on their spraying program. Dormant oil can be found most anywhere. Even vegetable oil works. The oil helps prevent fungal rusts and mildews. You should only spray before it sets fruit.
Fertilization of fruit trees and bushes is also key now. A healthy compost is the easiest way to fertilize fruits. Spread a layer all the way around from the trunk out to the edge of the canopy. After the spring rains have dried up you can add a little mulch.
This is also the time to put in those permanent beds for asparagus and rhubarb and get planting! I’m going to increase the size of my asparagus bed this year and improve the soil by double digging and adding compost. I love this stuff and it rarely even makes it into the house.
I’ve had rhubarb here on the farm before, but for some reason the dogs like to destroy it. It’s really easy to grow and dogs are about the only pests you have to worry about. I’m going to be a little smarter this year and grow it in half whiskey barrels. I just want enough for a few rhubarb pies.
Of course I have to have strawberries in the pie, too. I have two long raised beds and two whiskey barrels full of strawberries. I have Junebearers and everbearers. It won’t be long before they start to flower.
You really don’t need to do much to strawberries now, except keep the weeds pulled. When they start fruiting, just make sure they get an inch of water a week. If you’ve had problems with slugs chewing holes in your berries you can do a couple of things to prevent it.
A wooden board is the easiest. Lay it on the soil near the plants and every morning lift it up and get rid of the critters. You can also place jar lids filled with beer next to the plants. Stale beer works as well as the fresh stuff.
Now, if the sun is out, you should be too. Relish it, because it’s going to be rare for a while. Get as many things done as possible, but don’t rush the season. It’s going to be a rough road of rolling weather before summer gets here. Happy growing!

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.