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Ed Hume Answers Your Gardening Questions

Ed Hume cannot answer all of the garden questions he receives, but questions of general interest will be answered here every month.  Email your questions to HumeSeeds@aol.com.  Please note: we do not accept attachments.

Before submitting a question, be sure to check the index of previous questions and answers or search our site using key words.  Many questions have already been answered here on the site.

Other February Links

Donating Excess Produce

Hi, I was browsing your catalog on the web, how wonderful that you have all those pictures and detailed descriptions of your vegetable seeds.

I really enjoy using my computer to do shopping, banking, etc. and I'm always glad to see when another company goes online. I agree with you, it's a terrible waste of paper (hence trees) to send out hard printed catalogs.

Also, the number you give on your web page for information regarding donating "extra" produce to hunger organizations is a Washington number, do you have a similar number in the Portland area?

In any city you can contact local food banks, soup kitchens or homeless centers. In Portland Oregon a possible contact is Northwest Harvest at (503)281-9770.

Planting Raspberries

I am wanting to know if this is a good time to transplant raspberries, and just how to go about it.

Yes, the winter dormant season is the best ime of the entire year for transplanting raspberries. Use the new canes (the ones that grew this past year) discarding the old ones that fruited this past season.

The stalk will show a soil mark. Re-plant at that same depth. Be sure to mix organic humus into the new planting soil. Processed manure (well rotted, not fresh) and compost are the best.

Plant raspberries in a bright sunny spot where there is good drainage. Space the plants about 2 feet apart in rows that are 3 to 6 feet apart. Spacing depends upon how much space you have available.

Take steps to control birds when the berries ripen. Bird scare Flash Tape does a good job. It is available on the Ed Hume seed rack.

Tomato Blight

Last year the leaves of  my tomatoes turned black.  Do you know what caused this?

That condition is known as 'tomato blight'. You can help keep it under control this season, by simply placing a polyethylene cover over your plants.

Here's an easy way to do it! Place four stakes at the corners of the tomato bed. Next, with 1 X 1" lumber make a frame and simply tack or nail the poly over the top of the frame. This keeps the rain-water off the foliage.and should help keep the blight under-control.

Preparing the Vegetable Garden

What can I do in the vegetable garden during the winter months?

During January or February, whenever the ground is warm enough and workable, it is advisable to begin getting vegetable garden soil ready for the planting of peas, potatoes and other early crops. What you do at this time of year will have a great affect on the growing and harvest results later in the year.

Any left-over plant parts from last' years 'garden should be gathered and added to the compost pile, as soon as possible, because the leaves and twigs of old vegetable plants are places where insects and diseases often remain over winter.

Weeds or grasses That have been in the vegetable garden area over winter should also be pulled and added to the compost pile, before they flower and go to seed again. It is surprising how many weeds and grasses flower and set seeds during the winter, if left in the ground.

Once the weeds and old plant parts are removed from the vegetable garden, the soil is ready for tilling. Plot size, soil and convenience will determine the type of tool to use for tilling. Small areas can be turned with a spade or spading fork, while on the larger areas it will take less time and be more convenient to use a garden tiller for the job.

Actually, when possible I recommend that you use a tiller on any size vegetable plot because you get such a thorough mixing of the soil.

Organic, well-rotted manure, like cow manure, chicken manure, rabbit or horse manures, can be added before tilling. It is important to use well-rotted manures, as most types are too hot when they are fresh from the barnyard. About a two-inch layer of manure is sufficient.

Should you have decomposed compost from your compost pile, add about a two-inch layer before spading or tilling. Lime should also be added to the soil at this time of year. Use either agricultural lime or dolomite lime. Follow application directions on the label.

As you till the soil, remove all large rocks and debris, like sticks, etc.

Till the soil to a depth of eight to ten inches or more. And till in at least two directions, so you thoroughly mix soil, lime, manure and/or compost.

It is advisable to have your soil tested in the vegetable garden area, so you can best determine the needs of the particular soil and so you will know if deficiencies exist. Your local county extension agent has the forms and containers for sending soil samples to W.S.U. for testing. There are also some fine independent soil-tasting firms here in Washington State. Check your phone directory for the nearest one to you.

Heavy or clay-type soils will need peat moss, compost or organic materials added to help increase drainage and aid soil composition and fertility. The addition of sand or a sandy loam soil will also aid in correcting soil drainage. A two or three-inch layer of these materials is usually sufficient, when they are mixed thoroughly into the soil.

Remember that the peat moss, compost or organic matter serves several purposes. The sandy soil, it greatly increases the water-holding capacity and it supplies food for the helpful bacteria needed to keep soil fertile. In heavy or clay soil, it helps drainage, while also assisting the bacteria and loosening the soil.

Once you have completed tilling or spading the vegetable garden soil, it is most important that the entire area be raked level, so all low spots are eliminated. Water from rainfall is apt to gather in low spots, thus keeping the area too moist and the soil will be too slow to warm up for planting purposes.

At planting time it may be necessary to side-dress your vegetable plants with another application of fertilizer, to supply the needed elements, nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, to develop healthy plants. Here is where your soil test will be of real value in determining what type of fertilizer is needed.

If you are limited for space and do not have room for a vegetable garden, consider making room between flower and shrub plantings for a few vegetables. Soils in these areas should be prepared as soon as possible, too.

Fresh vegetables directly from the garden are unbeatable for flavor. If you haven't tried growing some before, why not prepare an area in your yard and try some this year.

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