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The Sauk County Gardener


May 10, 2018

“I once tried to raise two tomato plants, and they died in spite of the fact I fertilized them every morning. Duh.”  Clyde Ederton

April is National Gardening month. By the time you read this it will be May, but finally the weather feels like April. I hope you all got out in the garden this past weekend.  I spent the whole day Sunday trying to get quack grass out of my perennial beds.  I must lead a pretty dull life if I get excited when I pull a two-foot long quack grass root out.  If they break, you just get more of that devil grass!

Everyone is invited to the Rock Spring Public Library on Saturday, May 26th for a free, hands-on workshop on planting tomatoes.  There will be tips on growing season basics and every door prizes!  Rock Springs is the third village we have presented this workshop.   The workshop is followed up with a tomato tasting in late summer.  We taste all of the different tomatoes and food created by the Master Gardeners.  There is also a contest for the best tasting tomato.

Please do not plant tomatoes yet!  The end of May is best.  Bean seeds usually rot if planted to early so wait until June 1.  Plant cucumbers and peppers June 1.   I haven’t talked much about growing cucumbers but there are a few things they require.  They require a slow release fertilizer like 14-14-14 or a well-balance vegetable fertilizer.  They also like a rich organic soil so getting a bag of composted manure or your own compost is a good idea.

Cucumbers started indoors do not do as well as a cucumber started by seed right where they will grow.  Time is important!  The seeds will not germinate unless soil is at least 50 degrees.  If you fortify the bed with a sheet of black plastic, they bed will warm faster since the black attracts the heat.  This also works well for peppers and okra.   Put the plastic down at least two weeks before planting.

I finally have onions, leeks, and shallots in.  When planting green onions (the small bulbs you can buy in bags), plant them deep so you have more of the edible white parts.  Plant leeks the same way, deep so tops show just above the ground.

Planting onions and shallots is different.  Plant both of these about one-inch deep. Onions and shallots grow close to the surface.  Two weeks after planting, I spread on a high nitrogen fertilizer between rows (not on top of plants).  This will get the onion leaves growing.  The more leaves, the bigger the onion.  Around July 1, it is time for them to start bulbing up.  That is the time to apply your second fertilizer but not nitrogen.  This time, apply super phosphate between rows to help bulbing.

If you have had a problem with disease or bacterial rot, start a spray program.  Start this at the end of June.  Bacteria enters between leaves then enters into bulbs causing the centers to rot.  I use a copper spray.  The onions I grew last year are still hard and perfect so it works but I had to learn the hard way.  This is the first year I am planting shallots from seedling.  I will keep you informed on my progress.  I used to plant from bulbs so this will be a learning experience.

There will be a Master Gardener class held this fall if there is enough interest.  Please call 608-355-3250 for details. 

Your questions are always welcome.  Feel free to contact me at or at the Sauk County UW Extension Office at (608) 355-3250.


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