Not too early to start preparing for spring gardens | Lifestyles

Looking for something to do while we wait for spring’s arrival? No, don’t start your tomatoes yet.

Sharpening tools and mixing fertilizer are just a couple of fun jobs that come to mind. This is also a good time of year to order or purchase garden tools before the shelves are empty.

My short list of must haves: Corona by-pass hand pruners (at least 2 new ones every year), shuffle or stirrup hoe, a hand tool thingy with a flat hoe on one side a claw on the other, (sorry – it doesn’t ‘t really have a name)!

This year I need to add fertilizer, a job I talk about doing but seldom actually do (LGS – lazy gardener syndrome).

Here is a recipe I will share for organic fertilizer. For a balanced fertilizer to cover a 100 square foot area, mix together: 6 pounds alfalfa meal, 3 pounds bone meal, 4 pounds greensand and 1 pound kelp meal. Mix together and spread over the area and rake or gently dig it in with a shovel.

Organic fertilizers are slower acting as opposed to synthetics that are readily available to your plant. The real benefit of organic fertilizers will be more realized in the second year of growing in your garden. Knowing this you may want to supplement a bit of synthetic the first year if your soil is depleted.

During the growing season you can also spray plants with sea kelp several times over the course of the summer; like a big vitamin pill for plants.

So long, suckers

Walking around in my bit of woods looking for article inspiration — I spot it! Sucker growth that is 20 feet tall!

Sucker growth that occurs at the base of trees can be very unsightly. Removing it using a pruners or a small pruning saw may be easy, but it’s usually not a one and done project.

Sucker growth, starting out like the size of a pencil, can continue for years, especially on trees with softer wood-like silver maples. Prune this anytime of year, cutting the growth back as far as possible.

The growth is near the soil level so cover the wound area by mounding up a bit of extra soil. Excluding sunlight will help inhibit regrowth. There are also hormone powders you can purchase to apply to the cut area to reduce re-growth.

In the two pics, one is a young tree with numerous suckers growing from the base. The other pic which looks like a cluster of three trunks is also sucker growth! The big dead stump is in the foreground. This is what happens when a tree is cut down, or blown over and sucker growth grows unnoticed for let’s say 16 years?

Sucker growth can occur from the roots of a living tree or the remains of a tree that has energy left to spend. You guessed right — it is 2006 tornado leftovers. So today it is a decent 20-foot-tall clump on the outskirts of my property.

Fruit trees are famous for sucker growth and it should always be removed. These trees are nearly always grafted with a root stock being the lower piece and a scion being the top piece. The scion piece determines what type of fruit tree it is, a Sweet Sixteen apple or North Star Cherry. The rootstock determines the size, whether it is a dwarf or standard size tree. It also determines the hardiness of the tree as to what climate zone it can survive.

On younger fruit trees, you may notice different colored paint marks on the middle of the trunk. That is where the graft union is and the colors are used by the nursery staff for reference in their grafting work. Oftentimes there may be a bulge in the trunk where the scion and rootstock are joined together in the graft union, that is normal.

Any fruit tree whose top has died off should be dug out and replaced. Any new growth (suckers) you see from the bottom of a fruit tree, below the graft union, is just from the rootstock and will not be your desired fruit. The wild tree which successfully had regrown for me, was not a grafted tree, and therefore the same as the mother tree.

The final winter market for the Mankato Farmers Market will be held at Drummer’s Garden Center 10 am-noon Feb. 19. The outdoor markets resume May 7. Opening bell rings in 88 days.

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