Warm weather is blessing and a curse

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 29, 2016

We received a light sprinkling of rain, but some areas are still hurting. I hope we will get enough rain this week to help our farmers and gardeners. Here are a few questions we have received this week on gardens:

Question: I like to plant by the signs, but I have not purchased my almanac this year; do you know if it is time to plant my sweet corn?

Answer: I know many people follow the almanac on how to garden but being an Extension Agent, we teach people to use research-based information on planting their vegetable gardens. I have spoken earlier about our last frost date and when it is the safest to plant, which is around April 15. If you cannot remember that, think “after tax day, it is safe to plant.” Now that our soil has started to warm up, we are safe to plant many crops that are temperamental based on soil temperatures. Sometimes, corn can be fussy if the temperature is not right, and I have received calls where people have planted too early and their germination was not very successful. But since we are past our last frost date and the temperatures have been pretty toasty, now would be the perfect time to start planting your sweet corn.

Question: My broccoli is very small, and it is already starting to have yellow flowers. What is wrong with it, and what can I do to fix the problem?

Answer: This is called bolting, and it means that the broccoli head was not harvested in time. This is a natural progression but with warm temperatures, bolting can happen in a shorter amount of time. With 80-degree days, it does not take long for many cool season crops like lettuce, spinach and broccoli to start bolting so that they can hurry up and bloom to have seeds. To remedy this and at least have a few broccoli heads to eat, you will need to check your garden more frequently and harvest heads sooner than you would like, especially if the head of the broccoli starts to get loose. See the photo to view the difference between a tight head of broccoli versus a loose head of broccoli.

Question: Is it too late to prune my trees and shrubs? Some are getting too large, and I need to cut them back.

Answer: It depends on the plant but for the most part, it is too late. For azaleas, we recommend pruning them about two weeks after blooming so that you do not lose too much of next year’s blooms. For crape myrtles, hollies, blueberries, etc., I would say that if you are doing any major pruning you need to wait until next year around February to early March. Another thing I would ask you is, “Do you really need to prune?” If there is anything dead, diseased or damaged, you can prune that out anytime of the year. If you want to do major pruning to shape plants up, we only recommend taking a third of the plant at a time. Fruit trees and shrubs need pruning almost every year, and pruning typically takes place in February to March. Some plants, such as fruit trees, can take a summer pruning, but I think that is a topic to discuss in next week’s article.

If you would like to learn more about planting vegetable gardens, growing broccoli, or pruning, call your local Cooperative Extension agent, Danélle Cutting, at 704-216-8970.