Timely tips for your garden!
Your Community Gardening Newsletter
March 2020 Volume 8 Number 3
Upcoming Events
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Home & Harvest Food Swaps are gatherings of cooks, bakers, growers, and general DIYers; they bring homemade and homegrown items to swap via silent auction style bidding.  The swap will be held on the third Tuesday of each month, starting at 7 pm. Click  here  to check out the Home & Harvest Food Swap website.
Friday, March 13 th and March 27 th , 2020
3/13/2020  Seed Starting; presented by Lee Paulson
3/27/2020 Best Practices in Home Pesticide Use; presented by Jacqueline Kowalski
Summit County Master Gardeners and the Vegetable Gardening Practicum Committee will be offering a new series of free Coffee Chats during the 2020 gardening season at the Lakefront Community Center located at 2491 Canfield Road, Akron 44312. All chats start at 9 am. 
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Phenology : Using Nature’s Calendar to Predict Plant Bloom and Insect Activity,
presented by Denise Ellsworth, Program Director, Pollination Education. OSU Dept. of Entomology/Extension. Please join the Summit County Master Gardener's Meet Me in The Garden committee for our free gardening programs at F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm, 1828 Smith Rd., Akron. Programs are the 4th Wednesday of the month and start at 7:00 pm. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Fruit Tree Pruning and Care. Fruit trees need maintenance to perform to their fullest potential. Learn tips and techniques from OSU Extension Educator, Jacqueline Kowalski. West Hill Community Orchard, 138 S. Maple Crt., Akron, OH 44302. Bring a chair. 6 pm start time.

Countryside provides classes and webinars, visit their  Website.  
Were you looking for something to do?
  • When the soil temperature reaches 40 degrees F, plant all cold crops (peas, lettuces, spinach, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc). This could be around the middle of the month, or by the end of March at the latest. 
  • Seeds for any herbs should be started indoors
  • If weather conditions allow, apply granular fertilizer and composted manure and work into garden soil if the soil is not too wet 
  • Do some weeding 
  • When soil thaws, have garden soil tested, if needed
  • Place last-minute seed and nursery orders
  • Prepare a supply list for the garden including fertilizer, tools, transplants, materials for staking and mulch
  • Clean and ready tools
  • Celebrate the first day of spring - March 19th! 
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
The Extension Office has Soil test Kits
The Summit County Extension Office has soil test kits for sale. The tests are $14 and are performed by Penn State. You can stop in the office at 440 Vernon Odom Blvd., Akron OH 44307 on Tuesday or Thursday from 8:30 - 4:30.
Seed Sharing
Many gardeners like to harvest and save their own seed from year to year. It is also fun to share seeds. But you do not need to harvest your own seed to share some. According to the Colorado State University Extension Service "all vegetable and flower seeds will store on a shelf at room temperature for at least one year without significant loss of germination." And with proper storage you can save them even longer. Just think the opposite of what they need to germinate--save seeds in a cool dry environment. For more information check out this fact sheet on  Storing Vegetable and Flower Seeds.

Many packets contain way more seed than you can use yourself, so sharing is an easy way to try something new and let someone else try a variety that has worked for you. 

Another option is the Seed Sharing Library at the Main Branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library. This project makes locally appropriate heirloom seeds available to local gardeners, community volunteers, children and library patrons. The Seed Sharing Library is located in the Science and Technology Department. In addition to the seeds themselves, there are binders with information about the seeds from the seed packets and rating as to degree of difficulty, as well as books and other resources related to seed saving. 

So sort through your left over seeds and see if you have some seeds to share, and then find someone to share them with.
Safe water for seeds and plants
Are you worried about using chlorinated water to start seeds or water your plants? According to Dr. Margaret (Peg) McMahon, Associate Professor, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at Ohio State "the amount of chlorine in municipal water supplies is not enough to affect seed germination and other stages of plant growth and development. In fact, because it can help inhibit bacterial and fungal activity it may actually be beneficial."

Rainwater, however is a different issue. Water collected in a rain-barrel can contain bacteria and fungi, including fecal matter, from animals that fly over, land on, or climb on the roof. It can also contain chemical residues from the roof itself or that settle out of the air, like heavy metals and pesticides.

Dr. Mike Dietz, Assistant Extension Educator at UConn with expertise in water management recommends “not using roof water on anything leafy that you are going to eat directly. It would be OK to water soil/plants where there is no direct contact”. This is consistent with recommendations from other experts who suggest applying the water directly to the soil and avoiding contact with above-ground plant parts. An ideal set-up would be to hook up a drip irrigation system to your rain barrel(s). Pressure will be improved when they are full and if they are elevated. A full rain barrel can be pretty heavy, at about 500 lbs. for a 55 gallon unit, so make sure they are on a solid and stable base such as concrete blocks.
If possible, and this is done in larger collection systems automatically, don’t collect the ‘first flush’ of water off the roof. This would be the first few gallons. In a ¼” rainfall as much as 150 gallons can be collected from a 1000 ft 2  roof surface (3). The first water to run off tends to have higher concentrations of any contaminants because of them building up on the roof since the previous rainfall event.

Another more practical way to minimize risk of pathogen/bacterial contamination is to treat the collected water with bleach. Rutgers University recommends treating 55 gallons of water by adding one ounce of unscented household chlorine bleach to the barrel once a month (or more often if rain is frequent). Allow this to stand for 24 hours before using the water for irrigation so the bleach can dissipate.
Apply collected water in the morning. Wait until leaves dry in the sun before harvesting. Ultraviolet light from the sun will have some disinfecting effect.

It is recommended to have the rain barrel water tested for E. coli. Be sure to follow the testing lab’s instructions for collection, storage and time sensitivity of the samples.

Thoroughly wash all harvested produce. In addition, you should always thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water after they are in contact with collected water.

In summary, there are risks to using collected rain water for irrigation of food crops. In most cases, the risk appears to be low, and using the above sanitation practices can reduce risk.
Some Garden Apps
Pamela Bennett is the state Master Gardener Coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. She recently offered a list of apps that she finds useful:
Armitage's Greatest Garden Plants
All of Purdue University's Dr. Apps (Annual, Perennial, Tomato, Tree, and more)
Great Lakes Early Detection Network
Virginia Tech Tree ID
Dirr's Tree and Shrub Finder
Midwest Ornamental Grasses
Plant Families
Fields Area Measure (measure the size of a garden to determine how much mulch, topsoil or other amendments you need)

So if you love apps, try some of these out.
Be on the lookout for Tetanus
Tetanus also known as lockjaw. According to the Centers for Disease Control "all adults should get a tetanus vaccination every 10 years." The CDC explains that
Tetanus lives in the soil and enters the body through breaks in the skin. Because gardeners use sharp tools, dig in the dirt, and handle plants with sharp points, they are particularly prone to tetanus infections. Before you start gardening this season, make sure your tetanus/diphtheria (Td) vaccination is up to date.  
For more CDC recommendations click on Gardening Health and Safety Tips
Quick tips
Some of the best crops to grow in spring or fall are broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, peas, radishes, Swiss chard and spinach. All of these vegetables are somewhat cold tolerant and can extend the life of your garden beyond summer.

Very small seeds can be mixed with a bit of sand before sowing. This not only makes them easier to sow, but also prevents them from being sown too thickly.
If you get plants in nursery trays that have an open lattice bottom, turn the trays upside down and put them over areas you have just seeded. They will keep out birds and digging mammals until the plants are strong enough to take care of themselves.

If you forgot to clean off our tools last fall, now is the time to catch up. First remove all the dirt. If there is any rust a flexible sanding sponge will make short work of it. Sharpen if necessary. And remember to wear gloves when working with sharp tools to protect your hands from cuts and scrapes.
A little bit about growing Spinach
Spinach is a nutritious, cool-season crop with edible leaves that are used as greens for salad and for cooking. The leaves may be either flat, "savoyed" (curly), or semi-savoyed. Savoyed leaves keep better but are harder to clean than flat leaves. Spinach is sensitive to warm air temperatures, long daylight periods, and dry soil. All these conditions can cause it to "bolt" (flower and go to seed). It must be planted early and grown when air temperatures are cool. Planting late results in bitter leaves and plants that bolt quickly.  Plant early or use bolt-resistant varieties.  

Plant seeds in early spring, as soon as soil can be worked and soil temperature is between 40˚ F and 75˚ F. Plant seeds ½" deep, 1" apart in rows 12" to 18" apart. Seeds sprout in 6 to 21 days, depending on soil temperature. Thin to 6" apart. For additional harvest, plant again 2 to 3 weeks later, and again in mid to late summer for a fall harvest. 
Avoid overcrowding to keep from bolting.  Spinach is slow to become established. Although seeds take longer to germinate in soils with cool temperatures (about 3 weeks at 50˚ F), they may germinate poorly or fail to germinate at all in warm soils. If the soil is warm, gardeners can try either: (1) increasing the seeding rate; or (2) placing the seeds between sheets of moist paper towels kept in a plastic bag in refrigerator until they sprout.  
Provide consistent moisture and keep the beds free of weeds. Mulch after the plants are well established and use row covers to prevent insect damage.  Provide later plantings with light shade.  
When you harvest you can keep plants producing by pinching off the outer leaves when large enough to use; but do not cut more than half the leaves. To harvest a whole plant, cut near the ground. 

For more information see the  Michigan State Tip Sheet, or the  Cornell Growing Guide
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.