Don’t let spring fever ruin your garden or your lawn

Pre-sprout those pea seeds indoors and plant them around St. Patrick\'s Day. (Thinkstock)

Meet Mike McGrath in Fredericksburg. He will appear at the Fredericksburg Home and Garden Show at the Fredericksburg Expo Center. March 15 to March 17

Mike McGrath,

Spring fever case #1: Don’t sow seeds outside yet

Tina, who cares for plot 105 in the Newark Street Community Garden, has a bad case of spring fever. She recently emailed her fellow gardeners: “The high temperature this Saturday is supposed to be 45 degrees! Is anyone else planning to get out there and prepare their planting beds? I’ve heard that we can direct seed spinach and peas already!”

Whoa there, girl. A high of 45 degrees is still pretty chilly, and the soil temperature is much colder – way too cold for germination. Those poor seeds would just rot. And we’re going to drop down into the bone chilling 20s tonight.

You can start your first runs of lettuce and spinach indoors now for planting outside a few weeks from now. The young plants don’t mind weather that’s too cold to sprout seeds. And you can pre-sprout those pea seeds indoors in a few weeks and plant them outside around St. Patrick’s Day. We’ll provide details next week, But direct seeding time in the naked soil is still a ways away.

Spring fever case #2: Corn gluten timing – look to the bay

Barbara in Springfield writes: “You recommend spreading corn gluten meal as a natural pre-emergent herbicide when the local forsythia begin to bloom. But with the odd, warmer than usual weather we’ve been experiencing, my crocus and tulips are already several inches tall. I’ll bet that if I had forsythia, it would be budding. Is it time to use the corn gluten now? Or am I overeager?”

We’re all overeager for the lawn and garden season to begin, Barb. The secret to successfully applying any pre-emergent to prevent summer crabgrass is to wait until the soil temperature reaches 55 degrees, measured 4 inches down, and that’s still a ways off. If you don’t have forsythia, look to your local red buds

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