It's Spring: Time to get out in the garden
The calendar says it is April, but the weather has been a little chilly. In spite of this, the gardeners in Ferron are ready to go. Utah State University County Extension Agent Dennis Worwood conducted a gardening workshop recently in the Ferron Library.
Workshop goers were welcome to ask questions about their special gardening questions and how to address conditions specific for Emery County garden growers.
Worwood explained the Utah State University Website (http://extension.usu.edu/) and what a resource it can be for all types of gardening questions in all types of soils. The website lists all types of vegetables and how to plant them and take care of them throughout the season. It also has listings for fruit trees and their care. Another important aspect of gardening is pest control and the website lists different pests and methods of control and when to spray and treat your plants. Worwood said the website is a very valuable tool in learning more about gardening.
Worwood said one of the biggest obstacles the gardener in Emery County faces is the soil. The soil here is clay, and each year organic matter needs to be mixed with your soil. This organic matter can take many forms. Some people use leaves, grass clippings, manure, etc. Worwood suggested the growth of a crop to till into the ground such as a winter wheat. You plant it in the fall and it will come up and grow until cold weather stops it. It resumes growth in the spring and can be turned back into the soil when the garden is tilled. This is what is known as a green manure.
Worwood suggested planting a second crop of peas in mid-summer for a fall crop of peas. You can also till under a patch of turnips to add green manure to the soil.
Worwood was questioned about the grinding of tree branches to add to soil. He said this is good, but brown materials are cellulose without a lot of nitrogen, and are harder for the soil bacteria to break down. The soil bacteria need a source of nitrogen in order to break down whatever material you place in your garden. When bark, wood chips or sawdust are added to soil, the bacteria will take nitrogen from the surrounding soil to break it down. This can cause nitrogen deficiency in plants. "Add nitrogen to your soil," suggested Worwood, "Nitrogen doesn't stick around in the soil." Urea and Ammonium Sulfate are two common nitrogen fertilizers.
"Add organic matter each year and it will help with your clay soils. Just add it and till it in. One good local source of topsoil is the upper end of Millsite Reservoir. They used a lot of it when they were building the golf course," said Worwood.
Soil can also be tested to see what will work best as an additive. You can send a small sample of your garden soil to the Utah State lab and they will tell you your soil's nutrient content, along with pH, texture and salt content. Most of the soil here has a lot of lime in it, so it is not necessary to add lime or gypsum.
Worwood recommended spraying or tilling or just pulling to get rid of weeds before you start your garden. If the weeds come up from seed each year then tilling will kill them. Perennial weeds which come up by root each year need to be killed by killing the root system.
"Before you plant an area, weed it so your vegetable seeds will have a fair start. It's important to stop weeds from going to seed each year to control your weed problem. Dandelions and morning glory are not native species to our area. Work in your garden every day or every other day for weed control. Make it convenient and make your garden a manageable size. Take care of it. I always plant thickly so when the vegetables get up the weeds can't compete," said Worwood.
Worwood instructed gardeners if they are adding grass clippings to a garden to keep it a thin layer because if added too thickly the grass clippings can get slimy.
Worwood recommended sprinklers for gardens. He said sprinklers can be used for frost protection. On spring or fall nights when frost is expected, you can turn on the sprinklers just before you go to bed. So long as ice is forming on the plants, they will not drop below 32 degrees. Plants generally are not damaged until they reach 28 degrees. The plants are protected by the heat released by the water as it freezes. Leave the sprinklers running until the temperature rises above 32 degrees.
Questions were raised on how much water seeds need to come up. Worwood said carrots and other small seeded crops should be kept damp until they sprout. With big seeded plants you can make planting furrows, run water down the furrows, and plant the seeds in the muddy soil. Cover the seeds with dry soil to prevent crusting. Worwood said to just keep an eye on your plants. If they look wilted then they aren't getting enough water. If your potatoes are an odd shape when you dig them then maybe they didn't get enough water. If the leaves roll on the plant and the potatoes are small is also a sign of water deficiency.
If tomatoes get blossom end rot, that can be attributed to a calcium deficiency. This can also be caused if the plant gets dry then the plant couldn't move calcium to the fruit which results in the blossom end rot.
If corn gets too much water it can turn a yellowish color. When corn is tasseling make sure it gets plenty of water, you don't want drought stress during that time.
"Just watch your plants. Put down a fair amount of water. Water in the morning so plants have time to dry out. For your lawns put an inch of water on the lawn about twice a week," said Worwood.
One person wondered about tomato varieties. Worwood said he uses Celebrity, champion, Ball's beef steak and others. The Balls looked like a softball and were the first to ripen. Worwood plants a variety of tomatoes.
With corn he plants an early corn and a late variety to extend the corn season. He also plants an early planting and later on he plants again so all the corn doesn't come on at once.
With carrots he recommended a Nantes which has a stumpier root. The Scarlet Nantes is a good variety. Worwood says he likes to try a lot of varieties of all he plants. Some people store their carrots in sand in ice chests in the garage for the winter.
Worwood recommended everyone have an enjoyable gardening season and just have fun out there.