Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Planting Rhubarb

If rhubarb is planted properly and receives good care, it can be a great crop for those who enjoy this distinctively different vegetable.

Rhubarb is a cold-climate crop.  It should have a well-drained soil and for best results it should be planted in a fertile loam containing a good bit of organic matter.  Early spring is the best time to plant.

Rhubarb requires high fertility for good production.  Dig a trench about 18 inches deep and 12 inches wide.  Add about 2 inches of soil mixed with manure, fertilizer and compost.  Moisten and pack the soil.  Place the rhubarb divisions upright at about 3 foot intervals and cover with top soil so they are 2 to 3 inches below the surface.  Apply a heavy mulch for weed control but maintain a bare area directly over the plants.

Soon stalks of rhubarb will appear but refrain from pulling any the first year.  The second year, only remove several of the stalks. This enables the roots to become established and for the crown to enlarge.  Any seed stalks should be removed.

In the fall, mulch your rhubarb plants with straw or manure.   If it is not too heavy, it can be left in place in the spring or removed only from the crown area.

Rhubarb, when well-established will produce an abundance of stems for many years.  Remove week or slender stalks in the spring in order to stimulate better development of those that are left to be pulled for food.  

Crown rot is the most serious trouble of the rhubarb.  It is more likely to occur in poorly drained soil after periods of prolonged rainfall.  Use of Bordeaus mixture or any other good copper fungicide as a drench is helfpul.  Should any plants die from this trouble, remove them to prevent contamination of the healthy plants. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Planting Asparagus

Asparagus is usually the first vegetable to push up through the soil in the spring.  This harbinger of spring arrives with the advent of warm days and nights.  It could be in April or as late as early May in central PA.  To enjoy this nutritious vegetable you must plan 2-3 years in advance.

~ Grow asparagus in partial or full sun (it performs best in full sun) in soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0; ammended with plenty of organic matter that is rich in potassium and phosphorus.

~ Make a 7-inch deep, V-shaped furrow (or more, depending on how many crowns you are planting), and in each one spread a handful of wood ashes, a handful of bonemeal and an inch layer of compost or well-rotted manure.

~ Soak the crowns in compost tea for 10 minutes or so and lay them on their sides on top of the organic matter, 12-16 inches apart, in rows 4 feet apart.

~ Fill the furrows gradually as shoots emerge, taking care not to cover any foliage; eventually the furrow will be level with the soil surface.  Don’t bother spreading out the roots; they’ll find their way down.

~ Give new plantings one to two inches of water a week; after that, only water when rainfall is scant.

~ Side-dress plants with a balanced organic fertilizer in late summer and top the bed in organic mulch in the fall.

~ Refrain from harvesting and spears during the plants’ first year in the garden.  Each spear needs to “fern out” so that the roots can grow stronger and more producting.  The second year, pick a few that reach about the size of an index finger.  The third year, pick finger-size spears for two to four weeks in the spring. In subsequent years, take all the finger-size spears desired for 6 to 8 weeks or until the spears that come up are thin and spindly.

~ Asparagus is well worth the three year wait it takes before harvesting the first full crop.  A well-tended bed will give tender, delectable spears year after year for a decade or more, at a tiny fraction of the price it would cost at the supermarket.

~ The experts disagree about when to cut down asparagus foliage.  In the fall to keep pests from moving in for the winter or in spring so that the foliage can protect the crowns through the winter.  The choice is the gardener’s, but if they are cut back in autumn, do it after a few killing frosts have struck and then mulch the bed.  If cutting back in spring, cut the foliage to ground level before new spears start popping through the soil.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Apply Preen NOW

(when the forsythia bloom)
Preen Weed Preventer stops weeds from germinating in flower and vegetable gardens, in ground covers and around trees and shrubs. Preen will not kill existing weeds. It will prevent new weeds from sprouting - eliminating the need for difficult and time-consuming hand-weeding. Without weeds, your valuable plants can grow larger and stronger.
Your beds will stay neat and weed-free all season long!
Get your PREEN products at Ashcombe!
Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which events are held worldwide to demonstrate supportfor environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network and celebrated in more than 192 countries each year!
National Herb Week is the 
1st week of May - Plant an 
herb today!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Onions are a cold-season crop, easy to grow because of their hardiness.
Onion sets can be planted without worry of frost damage and have a higher success rate than direct seed or transplants. Onions grow well In raised beds or raised rows at least 4 inches high.

  • Select a location with full sun where your onions won't be shaded by other plants.
  • Soil needs to be well-drained, loose, and rich in nitrogen; compact soil affects bulb development.
  • Till in aged manure or fertilizer the fall before planting. Onions are heavy feeders and need constant nourishment to produce big bulbs.
  • At planting time, you can mix in some nitogen fertilizer, too, and side dress every few weeks until the bulbing process begins.
  • Seeding? Onion seeds are short-lived. If planting seeds indoors, start with fresh seeds each year. Start seeds indoors about 6 weeks before transplanting.
  • Plant onions as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring.  Make sure temperature doesn't go below 20 degrees F.
  • For sets or transplants, plant the smaller sets 1 inch deep, with 4 to 5 inches between each plant and in rows 12 to 18 inches apart.
  • Think of onions as a leaf crop, not a root crop. When planting onion sets, don't bury them more than one inch under the soil; if more than the bottom third of the bulb is underground, bulb growth can be restricted.
  • Practice crop rotation with onions.
  • Fertilize every few weeks with nitrogen to get big bulbs. Cease fertilizing when the onions push the soil away and the bulbing process has started. Do not put the soil back around the onions; the bulb needs to emerge above the soil.
  • Generally, onions do not need consistent watering.  About one inch of water per week (including rain water) is sufficient. If you want sweeter onions, water more.
  • Onions will look healthy even if they are bone dry, be sure to water during drought conditions.
  • Make sure soil is well-drained. Mulch will help retain moisture and stifle weeds.
  • Cut or pull any onions that send up flower stalks; this means that the onions have "bolted" and are done.
  • When onions start to mature, the tops become yellow and begin to fall over. At that point, bend the tops down or even stomp on them to speed the final ripening process.
  • Loosen the soil to encourage drying, and after a few days turn them up and let them cure on dry ground. Always handle them very carefully-the slightest bruise will encourage rot to set in.
  • When tops are brown, pull the onions.
  • Be sure to harvest in late summer, before cool weather. Mature onions may spoil in fall weather.
  • Allow onions to dry for several weeks before you store them in a root cellar or any other storage area. Spread them out on an open screen off the ground to dry.
  • Store at 40 to 50 degrees F (4 to 10 degrees C) in braids or with the stems broken off.
  • Mature, dry-skinned bulbs like it cool and dry, so don't store them with apples or potatoes.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cleaning Up From Winter


Our harsh, cold winter is finally over (hopefully), but many of us are left with lots of damage to trees and shrubs.  Here are a couple of tips to help when dealing with broken branches and crushed bushes.  

Damaged tree branches should always be removed as quickly as possible, for the health of the remaining tree. It's also important to seize the benefit of dormancy and get the broken branches removed asap.  If you have smaller bushes that have been crushed by large felled branches, pull the branches off and leave the shrubs alone until they start to green up.  Once they are showing substantial spring greenery, prune away all of the dead and severely damaged parts.  

A positive note in regards to the stretch of exceedingly low temperatures we endured through the winter.  It may mean fewer insect pests this summer.  Mosquitoes, for instance, overwinter in the adult stage and do best in warm winters.  The cold winter should cut their numbers severely. (Especially if people set out traps for the few that do survive; just treat standing water with BTI granules instead of dumping it. That way, the few female mosquitoes that do make it will lay their eggs in water that won't allow new adults to emerge.) 

And the wooly adelgid-the white, furry aphid that's been decimating hemlocks-requires warm winters to thrive. That makes our otherwise-wretched weather DOUBLE good news for the hemlocks, as they suffer when winter doesn't get cold enough, and were on their last legs in many parts of the country following this recent stretch of warm ones. The weather that has made us so miserable may well have given this entire species a second chance.