Taking an environmentally sensitive approach to pest management
While many are at home during the coronavirus pandemic, this is a great time to tidy up after a long winter and start spring gardening projects. Rainy days are good for those indoor projects such as houseplant care. Use this time to shift houseplants to larger pots, change the potting soil, and fertilize them. Another gardening activity with quick results is to grow sprouts indoors. Most sprouts are ready to eat within a week of seeding. More information about growing sprouts is available at: https://ipm.missouri.edu/MEG/2015/1/Grow-Some-Sprouts-Indoors/.
This time can also be used to plan your outdoor garden. It can be an in-ground planting or simply large containers placed in sunny locations. It's not too late to order seed for flowers and warm-season vegetables for planting after the frost-free day (early May) or for cool-season vegetables for fall planting. A good resource for vegetable recommendations on planting, spacing, and harvesting is: https://extensiondata.missouri.edu/pub/pdf/agguides/hort/g06201.pdf.
Growing your own warm-season transplants indoors is a fun way to begin the gardening season. Find a warm indoor location for seed germination and a well-lit area or use indoor lights to promote seedling growth after emergence. Any container with holes for water drainage can be used to germinate seeds. Make sure to use the correct planting depth for seed, as well as a potting medium marketed for indoor purposes rather than garden soil. To speed germination, containers can be covered with clear plastic wrap to retain moisture and heat. For information about starting plants indoors, see: https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6570. Once transplants are ready, make sure to slowly acclimate them to harsher outdoor conditions before planting.
Before outdoor projects are started, clean and sharpen outdoor tools. Tips for cleaning and disinfecting tools are available at: https://ipm.missouri.edu/MEG/2018/1/cleaning_pruning_tools/.
Use the rain-free days to get your lawn, landscape, and garden in order. Tidy up the landscape by raking leaves and removing burs, cones and unwanted plants. Dig out overgrown shrubs and consider replacing them. Finish pruning fruit trees and grapevines as soon as possible. Ornamental trees and shrubs also require pruning, but wait to prune spring flowering shrubs, such as forsythia, lilac, viburnum, spirea, etc., until after bloom so the flowers can be appreciated. Application of fertilizer just before rainfall promotes movement into the soil where plant roots can take up the nutrients.
Another outdoor project is to create new planting spaces that may be temporary (in containers) or permanent. Consider proximity to water faucets for ease of summer watering and placement irrigation tape. Make sure soil is well-drained before turning it over to avoid clumping. Early to mid-April is an ideal time for planting cool-season vegetables and herbs, such as lettuce, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, peas, radish, greens, and parsley. Wait to purchase warm-season plants until early May when temperatures stay above freezing to avoid setting cold-injured or straggly, light-deprived transplants.
Lawn maintenance also begins in April. Start the season by sharpening lawn mower blades. Avoid heavy spring fertilization of turf which tends to stimulate growth, increase the mowing frequency, and increase disease severity. Recommendations for fertilizing cool-season turf can be found at: https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6705.
Mowing the lawn before it becomes too tall is also a priority in early April. Once mowing has begun, set the lawn mowers at a 3 to 4 inch height for cool-season lawns (turf-type fescues, bluegrass, and ryegrasses) or 2 to 3 inches for zoysia or bermudagrass. Before April 15, apply preemergence herbicides for weed control. Since excessive rainfall is predicted for this growing season, crabgrass will likely occur, especially where turf is sparse.
Most garden plant retailers are offering pre-ordering online and curb-side pick-up of transplants and garden supplies. More now than ever, your support of these businesses is appreciated as plants were started before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Alternatively, take advantage of the time at home to learn more about a gardening topic. A wealth of gardening information can be found at: https://extension2.missouri.edu/find-your-interest/agriculture-and-environment/plant-health-and-production/horticulture-and-gardening.
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REVISED: April 2, 2020