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Growin’ Green

Prune Brown Parts From Cold Damage

By Brent Gray

Cold damage from last week’s Arctic experience should be apparent on everything by now. Prune the brown parts away and apply a fungicide to help prevent disease incidence.
The ups and downs of temperatures will cause many vegetable plants to start flowering.  Plants that start to grow flower stalks should be harvested and used quickly.  Eating quality of the plant declines once the plant starts sending its resources into the flower stalk rather than the leaves
January’s end and February’s beginning are good time to plant some vegetables. Irish potato planted now will have time to produce large tubers before hot weather starts. Be sure to get certified seed potatoes to help avoid problems with viral diseases. Potatoes from the grocery will eventually sprout (some may have already started), but there is a possible threat from many different viruses that are transmitted in the potato.  Be sure to bury the seed piece deeply since the new tubers are set above the seed piece.
It seems strange to talk about tomatoes when the temperatures are still regularly dropping into the thirties, but it will soon be time to start seeding for transplants. Seed racks are appearing at garden centers and there is still time to order from catalogues. There are many new varieties every year.  The one constant to remember is tomato spotted wilt tolerance. Remember to rotate the tray every few days if you are growing the seedlings in window light.  The tendency of plants to grow toward light is called phototropism. Plants bent in one direction will be more difficult to transplant.
Be a Garden Detective.
If we garden, we are going to have plants that die. When this happens, don’t just cut them down or dig them up—look at their roots.  Examine them for problems that might have killed the plant. For example, if a dead plant has roots growing in circles, as if they were in the pot, it could be that when the plant was planted it was already pot bound and someone (certainly not you!) failed to tease the circular roots loose before planting.  Or it could just mean that you need to amend the soil in the garden.  You’ll might find that the soil is so hard roots could not penetrate it.  If the roots have rotted you can assume the culprit is poor drainage, soil fungus, or both.  Modify the bed to improve drainage or build a raised bed.  Loosen the soil and add organic matter so the water runs through it more quickly.
Be Aware of Lack of Rain
It may seem as if your entire summer was spent dragging a hose and sprinkler around the garden. What some of us may not realize is that plants need water in the winter as well, particularly broadleaf evergreens.  Pay close attention when a hard freeze is forecast or cold windy weather is forecast, as these conditions could cause damage to water stressed plants.   Make sure, if it hasn’t rained in a week or more, to water the garden to ensure your plants will not be affected by these conditions because of lack of water.
Purchasing Leafless Plants
When you go to the nursery to select a plant that is already leafless, you may be at a loss to determine whether it is alive or not.  First look for a plant with good form.  If the nursery does not have a greenhouse or cool frame house, a covering of soil, hay, sawdust, or similar material should insulate the pot or root ball.  Lift the pot, and look for signs of white roots at the bottom of the pot. Black roots are a bad sign.  Examine the twigs as well. If the buds are firm and the twigs do not break when gently bent, it is probably a healthy plant.  Finally, ask about guarantees.  Most nurseries will ensure that the plant will sprout leaves in spring.

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