Time for second round of plantings

WEEKEND GARDENER

April 11, 1992|By LINDA LOWE MORRIS

You begin to wonder if nature has a perverse sense of humor when the first perfect day for digging and planting coincides with opening day at the new stadium.

If you weren't one of those multitudes who skipped the game to stay home and dig in the garden, you'll have more chances now. The beginning of daylight-saving time last Sunday now gives us a little bit of after-work gardening time in the evenings.

As the weather finally warms, the chores multiply exponentially:

* More crops can be planted in the vegetable garden. Now you can add leaf and head lettuce, carrots, kale, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, collards, mustard, leeks, shallots, endive, horseradish, asparagus, salsify, beets, parsley and transplants of broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, onions and cabbage. You still have time to plant the earliest of the spring crops -- spinach, peas, potatoes, chives, garlic, rhubarb, turnips, onion sets, and potatoes.

* When your vegetable garden plantings begin to sprout, be sure to thin each vegetable according to seed package directions. Overcrowded seedlings will be weakened if they aren't thinned. Your yields for many crops will be both delayed and lessened if the seedlings aren't thinned.

* Trees, shrubs and flowering perennials can be planted now. Plant pansies -- near the doorstep or in among the flowering bulbs.

* After you've cleaned up the perennial border, sprinkle some timed-release fertilizer among the plants. Also fertilize the asparagus row in the vegetable garden.

* Roses should be pruned before their new growth takes off. Cut out dead or weakened canes and prune back the healthy canes to about 14 inches above the ground.

* You can prune spring-flowering shrubs such as forsythia and flowering quince after their blooms have faded. Instead of just giving them a crew cut at the ends of the branches, sit down and reach in toward the crown of the plant to remove the oldest stems at ground level. Up to 1/3 of the plant can be removed this way.

* Don't cut back the green parts of spring-flowering bulbs after their flowers have wilted. The leaves are still working to make food for the underground bulb which will produce next year's flowers. Let the leaves turn brown naturally before cutting them back.

* If your daffodil beds are producing lots of leaves but few flowers they're probably overcrowded. In a few weeks, after the foliage has died down, dig up and separate the bulbs. You can either replant them immediately spaced further apart or store them in a cool and dry place until time to plant bulbs in the fall.

* Check houseplants to see if their roots are crowded in the pots. If you pull them out of their pots and see a lot more root than soil, you'll need to repot them before their period of growth starts. Use a pot just one size larger than the current one.

If you have houseplants that grow larger by producing offsets (as African violets do) or rhizomes (as snake plants do), you might want to divide them now. Separate the plants by pulling apart gently or by cutting between plants with a sharp knife. Brush away the soil so that you can clearly see the connection between the main plant and its segments.

On a warm, sunny day, you may be tempted to put your houseplants outdoors or on an unheated sun porch, but resist that temptation. Wait until the second half of May when it will be warm enough for these tender tropicals to stay outside.

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