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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pruning Grapes, Sage, Muscadines

Ozarks Gardening Feb 16, 2011
Jim Long

Garden Fever

It may not feel like it with all the deep freeze cold and snow we’ve had, but it’s garden planning time. Mid-February to mid-March is the best time to plant peas, onions and potatoes if you want the best growth and the fewest insect problems. Ozarks tradition dictates peas be planted by Valentine’s Day, but I didn’t accomplish it this year. My garden was still under several inches of snow that day. Next week will be soon enough.

Potatoes, as I’ve mentioned in this column every winter for almost two decades, will tolerate a lot of cold in the spring. The earlier they are planted, the better you will avoid potato beetles. Onions too, benefit from early planting.

February is also the ultimate month for pruning grapevines and muscadines. Why so early? Because as soon as the daytime temperatures start easing upward, the sap rises in grapevines. If you wait too long to prune, the vines will “bleed” sap, sometimes gallons a day, for a week or more. Early pruning while the weather is still cold will prevent that.

This is also the month to prune back sage and lavender plants. Both herbs should be if cut back by two thirds in early spring before new growth begins to prevent die-out of the center of the plants. Hard pruning also encourages more vigorous growth and blooming.

Getting rid of garden debris such as last year’s old tomato plants, cornstalks and squash vines is good to get done now, as well. Last year’s pests have over wintered in the garden debris, so take them off of the garden space and burn or compost them. If you can till up the soil now it will help expose some of the Japanese beetle grubs, squash bugs and other pests that will soon awaken and start gnawing away at your produce.

I scatter my first planting of lettuce and radishes at the end of February, with additional seeding every two or three weeks. That way I have a continuous supply of salad greens and when planting early, the pests aren’t a problem, either.

You can find links to past columns, photos and previous Ozarks Gardening columns from this newspaper at my on-line blog (a blog is a web diary): Happy gardening.

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