Timely tips for your garden!
Your Community Gardening Newsletter
April 2021 Volume 9 Number 4
KEEP gardening SAFELY
One year ago when we sent this newsletter we were plunging into the Pandemic Abyss. Now we seem to be climbing out and "the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands." But we still need to be careful. Not everyone who wants to has been able to get vaccinated yet and others are not able to or choose not to. Friends, family and neighbors are still vulnerable. So we still need to be careful, even if we have been vaccinated. Gardening is a great way to get exercise, fresh air, connect with nature, and relieve stress. Let's Grow Akron notes that "Social distancing while gardening is a great way to stay connected with your neighbors and community in a safe way while contributing to our local food supply." Just be sure to wear gloves, avoid sharing tools, wash your hands, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, and stay home if you are feeling sick. Also, avoid touching communal surfaces. This includes railings, doorknobs, handles, and other frequently used areas of garden sites. If you touch these surfaces, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer immediately. Help keep us on the path to those broad, sunlit uplands.
Upcoming Events
April 1, 2021
Crown Point Ecology Presents: Control What You Can Control with Gina Krieger
This is the first in a four-part series. Nutrition & Lifestyle Strategies for Better Health & Wellbeing Promoting Crown Point Ecology Center's mission of protecting the environment by incorporating sustainable, natural practices for self-care, nutrition & lifestyle.
$30 (plus applicable credit card fees)/workshop includes a 2-person household!
**Online, Interactive, Live Workshops**
**Geared to decrease critical health risk & improve energy & vitality**
**Designed so participants can personalize for the greatest benefit**
 Each Wellness Workshop is held from 7-8 pm virtually. You can purchase single or multiple events. 
Contact Kim Hemminger with questions at 330-714-2465
 
April 7 and 21, 2021
Summit County Master Gardeners are hosting a Spring Educational Series in April, May and June. April 7th will be NEW AND NOTEWORTHY (and Low Maintenance) ANNUALS presented by Pam Bennett, OSU Extension Educator. April 21st will be INSIDE THE HIVE: A Closeup Look at the Honeybee’s Home presented by County Bee Inspector, Randy Katz. All classes are being held at 6:30 PM. Click the title to register.
 
Past Online Programs 
The State Master Gardener Coordinator for Ohio presented a series of webinars last spring and summer on a variety of topics. If you are interested in seeing what they were and watching some, or all, of them, click HERE.
 
For some of the webinars the Summit County Master Gardeners have hosted, click HERE.
 
The United States Botanic Garden is sharing virtual tours, online programs (including weekly online yoga and cooking demos), plant spotlight stories, at-home activities for kids and families including coloring pages and lesson plans, videos, and more. As the Garden celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, it's also sharing photos and stories from its deeply-rooted history. Check out all they have going on HERE.
Interested in starting a vegetable garden?

There has been increased interest in vegetable gardening in the last month. Let's Grow Akron and OSU Extension have created this resource sheet to help you get started. Click here. The Summit County Master Gardener Volunteers have provided additional info. Click here
Were you looking for something to do?
  • Apply fertilizer based on soil test recommendations
  • Prune back old perennial growth before new growth has started
  • Plant tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds indoors early in the month
  • Begin cleaning up the garden and preparing the soil for future planting as soon as the soil is workable. But WORKABLE is the key! Your soil should not be too wet (or too dry). If you work the soil when it is too wet, you will damage the structure and can end up with concrete. To test your soil's moisture, dig down a bit and take a handful of soil and squeeze it. If the soil remains in a tight ball when you release your grip, it is too wet, if it crumbles when you release your grip or when you poke it gently, it is dry enough to work.
  • Harvest radishes, spinach, lettuce, beets and asparagus as they become ready
  • Continue succession planting of onions, beets, lettuce, spinach and carrots
  • Appreciate the awakening spring garden!
Free Coffee Chats (BYO Coffee)
The Springfield Coffee Chats are now Virtual!
Join us on Zoom. Fridays at 9:00 am.

On April 12th you can learn about growing Container Vegetables.
On April 19th learn about Vegetable Gardening.
As a subscriber to this newsletter you will get an email invitation to register for these programs, so keep an eye on your inbox.
The Master Gardener Hotline is OPEN for the season.
You can call our Horticulture Hotline to ask a garden-related question and get advice from our experts.
Just call 234.226.6930  
Hotline Hours: Tuesday: 9:00 am - noon, March through October
You can also get Master Gardener advice online anytime by submitting questions at  Ask a Master Gardener
Be on the lookout for winter annual weeds
Winter annual weeds germinate in the fall and grow slowly throughout the winter. They begin rapid growth when temperatures rise in the late winter and can take over your spring garden if left to their own devices. They flower early in the spring, then set seeds and die, leaving the seeds for next fall.
 
Chickweed, hairy bittercress, henbit, purple deadnettle, and shepherd's purse are all winter annual weeds. Hairy Bittercress uses what botanists call ballistic seed dispersal, meaning it shoot the seeds out. It shoots seed from 2-4 FEET! And touch can trigger the seed to shoot, so if you are weeding in the spring you might get a face full of seeds!
 
The trick for dealing with winter annual weeds is the same as with most other weeds, get 'em when they are small, and NEVER let them go to seed.
 
So do yourself, and your garden, a favor and pull those winter annual weeds before they flower and certainly before they set seeds.
A tip for getting New Zealand Spinach to germinate
New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonoides) is not really a spinach but is a member of the carpetweed family. It is a warm weather crop grown as a spinach substitute during the summer. It has a flavor that has been described as "very similar to but milder than that of common spinach." If you have grown it before, you know that germination can take a long time and can be uneven. The “seeds” are actually fruits that contain several seeds. The usual recommendation is to soak seed 24 hours before planting to speed germination. But you might also try pre-sprouting. Fold your "seeds" in a wet paper towel and place it in a plastic bag. Put the bag in a warm spot, like on top of the refrigerator. Check your seeds every few days, and when you see the first roots starting to emerge plant them about 1/4" deep in potting mix. Plant them out after all danger of frost has passed. For more tips on growing NZ Spinach, see the Cornell Growing Guide.
Still trying to decide which varieties to plant?
Then you might want to browse Cornell's Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners. It's a citizen science program that allows gardeners visit the site and report what varieties perform well – and not so well – in their gardens. You can just browse, but why not create a profile and share your observations as well?
Vegetables for shade?
We have all heard it before. Vegetables need at least 6-8 hours of sun a day. And generally speaking, the more sun the better. That is because fruits and roots require a lot of energy to produce. And plants get that energy from the sun. For the plant, and for the gardener, sun = sugar. But not all gardeners have that much sun. Are they doomed to a vegetable-less existence? Maybe not!

First some definitions. According to the University of Illinois Extension:
Full Sun: is six or more hours of direct sunlight per day. This doesn't have to be continuous; you could have four hours in the morning, shade mid day, and four hours in the afternoon. As long as it is direct full, sun.
Partial Sun or Partial Shade: Partial sun means the amount of sun isn't full sun, yet not partial shade. Most references put this between 4-6 hours of sun a day. Partial shade means the amount of sun is less than partial sun, but more than shade, so we will define it as 2-4 hours of sun per day.
Shade: Shade by definition is lack of sunlight, but in gardening terms this means less than two hours of sunlight a day.
Unfortunately, not all sources use the same terminology. Some use light shade instead of partial sun. For our purposes, we will focus on plants that you can grow in 4-6 hours of sun per day.

Based on a variety of extension sources some vegetables can TOLERATE partial sun or light shade. The key word here is tolerate, because the plants will be less robust when grown in light shade rather than full sunlight. The plants may be leggy and the leaves may be thinner. But they will be tasty even though their growth is not as luxurious. The list includes lettuce, spinach, arugula, endive, cress, radicchio, Swiss chard, collards, kale,mustard greens, radishes, green onions, parsley, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, rhubarb, carrots and turnips. Lettuce, spinach and radishes may actually benefit from shade during the heat of the summer. Note that none of these crops are grown for their fruit. Fruit production just requires too much light.

The motto of both Lawrence University and the vegetable gardener is Light, more light. But if you have a shady spot in your garden give some of these shade tolerant vegetables a try.
Be on the lookout for
Pests. It may seem early, but our little friends will soon be waking up. Two of the keys to Integrated Pest Management are forecasting and scouting. Forecasting is having an idea about the life cycle of the pest, to that you know when to look for it. And scouting is just that, spending time in the garden looking for evidence of pest activity. You can download a Timetable from the University of Wisconsin on when to expect pest damage by clicking HERE. Just remember that Wisconsin warms up later than we do, so factor that into your scouting.

Pollinators. Bees are waking up, and they need food. In addition to honey bees there are bumble bees and a number of native solitary bees, like mason bees. Mason bees are small solitary bees that nest in hollow twigs. They are great pollinators. But they need nectar and pollen early in the season, so leave a few dandelions for them. One bite in every three we eat needs an animal for pollination. And these include essentials like COFFEE and CHOCOLATE! And bees are some of the best pollinators.
For more information check out the Ohio Bee ID Guide.
Quick tips
Seed radishes and beets along with your lettuce. The shallow-rooted lettuce will grow near the soil's surface while the radishes and beets will push down into the soil. These root crops will naturally break up the soil, adding air and water space. Plant roots will provide a place for necessary soil microbes to live. Place onion sets among your greens for the same effect. If your greens die back or bolt, you can reseed another crop while allowing the root crop to fully mature.

If you are gardening with a child, write the child's name or initials in the soil. Have the child use their fingers to write their name or initial be making a shallow furrow about 3 fingers wide. Then sprinkle radish or carrot seeds in the furrow, cover lightly and water in. Soon the child will get to see their name magically appear in the garden. 
 
Beet and Swiss chard "seeds" are actually clusters of seeds. So sow them sparingly, one at each spacing, and then thin them to a single plant when they emerge. Also, if you have heavy soil, cover the seeds with a light potting mix to make it easier for the seeds to break through. 
 
Save those Styrofoam egg cartons from your Easter eggs and use them to start some seeds. Just be sure to poke some drainage holes in each compartment.
A little bit about growing Spring Vegetables!
By the time other gardeners are thinking about planting out tomatoes in May, you can have fresh peas and salads from the garden. Before anything can be planted in the garden, the soil must be ready. The soil must be free of ice and feel cool rather than cold when you pick up a handful. DO NOT WORK SOIL THAT IS TOO WET, IT WILL RUIN THE SOIL STRUCTURE! The water content of the soil can be assessed by squeezing a handful of soil. If cold water runs out of the muddy mix, it is too wet to plant. If the ball of soil BREAKS APART EASILY and feels comfortable, you can go ahead and start planting.  
There are several methods of speeding up the warming process and giving you that early start on spring vegetables. Raised beds filled with compost and potting mixes will both drain quickly and warm up faster than ground beds. A ground bed that has plenty of amendments (such as compost and peat moss) can be heaped up to create mounds that also drain quickly and warm up. Beds that can be heaped up even 2 or 3 inches can make a big difference in how quickly the soil will be ready to plant. Covering the beds with plastic can also make a difference in both moisture content and heat. Black plastic absorbs the sunlight and transfers that warmth to the bed during the day, some of which is retained overnight. A thick but clear plastic also works, but as your soil warms during the day, weed seeds are likely to germinate. Place the plastic on the soil or raised bed for about 10 days to warm and dry the soil before planting. 
The vegetables that you plant play a part in this jump start too. Peas can be planted as soon as the soil is ready in spring, are easy to grow and can tolerate a light frost. They can also be easily covered for very cold nights, though they deteriorate quickly in hot weather. Fresh lettuce is perhaps the best part of a spring garden. Start the seeds indoors or sprinkle them outdoors for an easy salad bowl of lettuce in a little more than a month. Loose leaf lettuce and mesclun can be harvested earlier than head lettuce. Sow a few more seeds every couple of weeks until warm weather arrives to ensure a long harvest.  
Potatoes can be planted in the garden early. Use seed potatoes from a nursery, cutting each seed potato into 3 or 4 chunks, each with at least one eye in it. Onions, shallots and leeks can all be planted early in the spring. Plant the sets (bulbs) or plants in patches and clearly identify your varieties as they all look very similar as they emerge. 
For more information look at this FACTSHEET from South Dakota State.
Some helpful links:

Submit questions online to be answered by Master Gardener Volunteers at  Ask a Master Gardener
OhioLine Yard and Garden provides fact sheets and information on a variety of gardening topics. 
The Michigan State Tip Sheets,and the Cornell Growing Guides also offer lots of gardening information that is suitable for Ohio gardens.


Buckeye Yard and Garden onLine provides timely information about Ohio growing conditions, pest, disease, and cultural problems. BYGL is updated weekly between April and October.