Spring Is Bursting out All over; Tend to Plants' Food and Water Needs, and Check for Pests and Diseases

By Zerba, Raymond H., Jr. | The Florida Times Union, April 4, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Spring Is Bursting out All over; Tend to Plants' Food and Water Needs, and Check for Pests and Diseases


Zerba, Raymond H., Jr., The Florida Times Union


Byline: RAYMOND H. ZERBA JR.

Our plants have jumped off to a good start. With lots of tender growth, they face April, usually the fourth driest month of the year.

We've had plenty of rain the past few days, but if we don't get sufficient rain as the month progresses, be sure those sprinklers are working and watch the rainfall gauges. And, of course, it's a busy month for yardwork.

APRIL CHORES

- As you mow your lawn, don't collect clippings. By leaving these on the lawn you allow the nutrients trapped within to begin rotting and releasing nutrients back to the soil. This saves fertilizer and makes for a healthier lawn.

- To reduce diseases/insects in the garden, scout for pests weekly. Learn what problems each vegetable you are growing is likely to face and watch for them. Reacting early to a potential problem, will make control more effective.

To prevent many diseases, grow plants off the ground. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant can be grown in cages or tied to a stake. Cucumbers, beans and peas can be grown on a wire fence placed temporarily in the garden.

Never work the garden when it is wet (it's easy to spread disease then) and if you do pick off a diseased leaf/fruit, take it out of the garden; don't just throw it to the ground, where it can continue to infect other fruit.

- This is the month stinkhorns return to our area. This is a saprophytic mushroom that lives off decaying organic matter. It starts as a white ball and then opens as a three- or four-legged orange dome resembling a bishop's hat. The fungus smells liked putrid meat.

There is no control for it, except to pick it up as soon as it is observed, put it in a zip-lock bag and place it in the trash. Leaving them to attract flies, which spread the fungus from place to place, only means you will see more in the fall, when the fungus starts fruiting again. This fungus does not harm plants.

- Martins and hummingbirds are returning to our area now. If you have a martin house, be sure to pull it down and clean out all the old nesting material. Martins do not like to come to a dirty house.

If they aren't visiting your martin house, then perhaps it's in the wrong spot. They prefer houses out in the open where there are no trees nearby so they can swoop on their insect prey. They also need them to be set high (12 to 14 feet).

If you are putting out your hummingbird feeders, remember they need regular weekly cleaning, but never wash these with soap, which can kill hummingbirds. Use only vinegar solutions or plain water to clean with. Always place more than one feeder out to decrease the fighting that will occur by the territorial males.

- April is Earth Month, a time when we take stock of our planet's health.

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