By Carl Shafer
During warm spells, dormant sprays can be applied to fruit trees and vines this month. For specific recommendations, check the NC Chemical Manual, (http://ipm.ncsu.edu/agchem/agchem.html), and
always follow label directions. For additional information see: Disease and Insect Management in the Home Orchard. For the dormant spray only, dormant oil and lime-sulfur may be combined. When leaves are present this combination will burn the leaves.
Finish pruning fruits if needed before spraying. Peach trees and grape vines normally need the most pruning.
Plan your vegetable garden now! Check our Planting Guide for details. Notice that many cool season, direct seeded vegetables can be planted starting in February, some even in January. These include: garden and edible-pod peas, beets, carrots, lettuce, onions (seeds, sets, and plants), radishes, Irish potatoes, and spinach. Note also that some of the cool season vegetables can be transplanted starting in February. These would require starting seeds in December/January or buying transplants. If you use the earliest dates, you will need to have row cover or other season extension products available if a hard freeze is predicted. Be careful to not work the soil when it is too wet. For planning purposes, note that the average last frost date (32 degrees F) for the Henderson area is April 21 and average last 28 degree F date is April 6.
Start seeds early this month of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower for transplanting in mid to late March or sooner. Start seeds of eggplant, pepper, and tomato later this month for transplanting in late April and early May. See Growing Vegetable Transplants for the Home Garden. Buying a bag or two of seed starting mix is preferable to trying to make your own mix. Buying a “Seed starting heat mat” to provide bottom heat will result in quicker and more complete germination. To provide the bright light that is needed to grow stocky transplants a 4 ft 2 tube shop fluorescent fixture works well. Use one “cool” and one “warm” bulb. A simple timer allows you to set the time for the light you want – 16 hours is usually recommended. I found the following extension plans for adjustable light stands: (www.gardening.cornell.edu/factsheets/growlite/index.html) and
(http://umaine.edu/publications/2751e/) . I find that I need to start eggplants and peppers about two weeks before the tomatoes. If you are buying transplants, check local sources but note you may need to check expand your search if you want organic and/or open-pollinated (heirloom) varieties.
There is still time to check seed catalogs/web sites for the “Newest”, “Best”, Exclusive, All-American Selections, or just different varieties to try this year.
The 2015 Winter Issue of Extension Gardener is available at www.successfulgardener.org.