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Pre-sprout your peas for good St. Patrick’s day luck

Stinkbugs emerge for early spring

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 5:05 am

Meet Mike next Sunday, March 25 at the at the Fredericksburg Expo Center for the Fredericksburg Spring Home and Garden Show. Mike will present “Get Your Lawn off Drugs” at noon and “Grow your Best Tasting Tomatoes Ever!” at 2 p.m.

Mike McGrath, wtop.com

Happy peas for St. Pat’s! That’s right, peas. St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just for wearing green, it’s also the unofficial kickoff to growing some delicious green-green peas.

Now, whether you prefer slender edible-podded snow peas, the more Southern style snap peas or common garden ‘shelling’ peas (where you only eat the peas, not the pods,) the weather is perfect for growing these cold-tolerant crops. But not for sprouting the seeds. Many of our soils are still much too cold for that to happen quickly enough.

So wrap your pea seeds in moist — not sopping wet — paper towels, slide the moistened paper towels inside of a plastic bag, but don’t seal the bag. Then, just leave them out where you can see them. Check them daily, they should sprout in three to four days. Plant them right after the seeds have sprouted.

The sprouted plants will do fine in the coolest weather, and peas must be planted between now and April 15 for you to get any kind of a harvest. This cool weather crop will wither and die when the weather turns hot. That’s why this little jump start is so important, you’ll be picking peas up to a month before your neighbors (who may not get many to any peas a’tall!).

(Note: all peas grow on vines that need some support to climb on. Read the package and plant them next to a trellis or fence that’s at least as high as it says the plants will get.)

Attack of the stinkbugs! (again.)

Yes, all of the stink bugs that snuck inside your house last fall to hibernate are now waking up and coming out of hiding to crawl all over your morning bowl of Lucky Charms. What can you do?

  • You can squish ‘em in a tissue (very emotionally satisfying, and the tissue saves your hands from the big stink.)
  • You can suck them up into a canister vacuum or a Dustbuster-type portable vac. Or even better, a dedicated Insect Vac, like this one, the original. There are several other types available.
  • Or, you can trap them, using light as your lure. Yes, light. If you hang a light — a black light worked best in research — over a sticky trap or a capture tube and turn off all the other lights in the room, the stink bugs will follow the light to the chemical-free doom of your choice. Here’s a stinkbug specific light trap powered by LEDs you can buy in stores. And there are several You Tube videos showing how to make similar traps.

Acorns = Ticks

Mary, who is new to Front Royal writes: “We have a lovely large oak in our new front yard. Are the acorns usable as a mulch type ground cover in the flower beds? They are plentiful, and it would be sort of a nuisance if we had to clean them all up.”

And how much of a nuisance would it be have an infestation of the type of ticks that carry Lyme and other diseases, Mar? Those acorns directly fuel the growth of your resident rodent population — increasing your numbers of evil squirrels, plant eating voles, and most importantly, the white footed field mouse, the number one vector for the so called ‘deer ticks’ that carry Lyme disease. (They’re really ‘mouse ticks’.) So buy or rent a yard vac or have a raking party. Those acorns aren’t mulch — they’re Mouse Chow.

Corn gluten — great for new lawns, bad for crabgrass

Stan in Upper Marlboro is one of many asking questions this week about corn gluten meal. He writes: “Will corn gluten harm a lawn that was newly seeded this past September? And what should I use to treat for weeds at this time?”

That’s a double yes for corn gluten meal, Stan. This all-natural springtime weed and feed only prevents new seeds from sprouting — like the dormant crabgrass seeds lurking in many lawns right now. All of the seed you — very wisely — sowed back in the fall has germinated already. Corn gluten applied anytime over the next month will feed that new turf perfectly with just the right amount of natural nitrogen to get it ready for the summer, and it’s natural pre-emergent properties will prevent the germination of warm season weeds like crabgrass that try and take over when summer heat arrives.

For best results, spread the corn gluten and water it in, right before a predicted dry spell.

Evergreens are prone to browning down below

Rob over in Huntingtown writes: “I have several cedar trees around my home, and about five or six years ago, I noticed a couple of them had turned brown and brittle, but only on one side, and only the lower one-third of the tree. Since then, a couple of trees a year have also turned brown in the same way. What could be causing this, and what can I do to reverse it?”

Unless you’re killing the trees with mulch piled too deeply (more than 2″) or mulch piled up against their trunks, the cause is lack of sunlight, Rob. And there’s really no way to reverse it. This situation is common to all evergreens that are positioned in crowded landscapes. If you look carefully, the specimens that are perfect all the way to the ground are always found out in the open, receiving sun on all sides.

Just prune the browned out branches off. That’ll greatly improve the look.

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