Traditionally Good Friday is potato planting day. I remember when I was young the farmers in our neighborhood telling me to “plant your potatoes on Good Friday”. It was always a little puzzling to me since the date of Good Friday changes every year. My guess is that it was their way of remembering that seed potatoes needed to get into the ground early.
Cool weather crops are about all that can be planted this time of year; things like peas, lettuce or spinach. Potatoes are resistant to moderate frost and can tolerate cold soil conditions so I suppose they can be considered a cool weather crop too.
Check your garden soil; if it is dry enough to work in, it is alright to plant your seed potatoes. Don’t be too concerned if you don’t get yours planted early; potatoes can be planted well into May and still have time to produce a crop.
Keep in mind that under these cool weather conditions it may take three weeks before you see a sprout emerging from the soil.
We brought out our two Valencia orange trees during the warm spell we had earlier in the week. I figured the really cold weather was behind us for the most part. These trees are about 5 feet tall and are in 18 inch terra-cotta pots.
The two trees are part of an informal experiment I have been conducting over the past two years. They were not kept in a greenhouse or even in the house in front of a south window; instead I put them into our semi-heated garage. They each received some sunlight from a small south window; the size of window you would expect to find in a garage.
The temperature ranged from the upper 30’s F to lower 40’s F through most of the winter. There were a few days when the heat was raised a bit up into the 50 degree F range.
I cut way back on watering. They received water only five or six times during the whole winter. I let the leaves start to wilt before I even thought about watering. Then I watered just enough so the water began to drain out of the bottom of the pots. Neither pot had a saucer under it so they didn’t stand in water. They didn’t get any fertilizer either.
About mid-winter, the trees looked like they went into a kind of semi-dormant state.
Even though the trees seemed to be hibernating, the oranges that were on the tree last fall turned orange and ripened. The fruit didn’t get much bigger which is no surprise considering the lack of water.
Last night it got down to 33 degrees F and I left the oranges outside. They looked perfectly fine this morning; they are used to the cool temperatures.
This is a good way to keep trees like these over winter if you are short on space in your house. You don’t have room in the garage either? … well I can’t help you there.
Fall is the best time of year to add lime to your garden soil. This gives the lime plenty of time to react with the soil chemistry and do its job raising the pH of the soil. The next best time to apply lime is right now, in early spring. There are several weeks to go until the gardening season is in full swing and any lime applied now will still have some time to react.
Some gardeners add lime to their gardens quite regularly without really knowing if the soil needs it or not. If you ask why often the answer is, “we always add lime”.
Lime is a generic term for different types of calcium products. It is used to sweeten soils or raise soil pH.
Adding lime without testing the soil first is setting you up for problems in the future. Too much lime will cause such a rise in soil pH that some nutrients in the soil will no longer be available to your plants.
Lime induced chlorosis is one typical problem we see. In this case the leaves of the garden plants begin to turn yellow due to lack of iron. Iron is needed by plants and is readily available in low pH or sour soils. As the pH rises, less and less iron is available for the plant to use until a point is reached where symptoms start to show up.
A sample of your garden soil can be tested by a soils lab. Soil pH is routinely tested along with critical soil minerals. The most reliable tests are available through the County Extension Office.
At the very least do your garden a favor, pick up a soil pH test kit from the garden center and test the pH yourself. Most of the pH tests are fine for home garden use.