Decoding the words part sun, part shade

Don’t we just love to sit back, close our eyes and dream of warmer weather? Chances are your dreams were triggered by the pile of gardening catalogs that have been arriving on a daily basis, enticing you with pictures of delicious, mouthwatering vegetables, bright colorful flowers or trees and shrubs.

But something confusing appears as you are reading the descriptions.

Plant “A” requires full sun. No problem, which means don’t plant it in a shady location. You check out the requirements for plant “B.” The instructions state that the plant requires a shady location with little sun exposure. Bingo! That is once again a no-brainer. Now as you continue on through the catalog, picking out plants for possible purchase, you suddenly see plants that perform best in part sun or in part shade. You scratch your head and think, what is the difference?

Actually there is a subtle difference between the two descriptions. A plant with a part-sun requirement will want from four hours of sun upward to six hours. A plant listed as part shade does require sun, but would prefer more shade, especially during the peak sun hours.

Basically part sun means the plant will tolerate sun and part shade means it will tolerate less sun.

FEED THE BIRDS

The past month has been hard on wildlife, especially the feathered wildlife. Many people help birds by installing feeders in their landscape. Unfortunately some, without realizing it, are doing more harm than good.

In our homes, we practice sanitation when it revolves around food. We attempt to keep a clean work environment when we prepare our food. But what about the bird feeders — are you as fussy?

Cleaning your feeders at the start of the season is not enough. Birds, like humans, can transmit diseases to one another. Feeders that are not cleaned on a regular basis can harbor salmonella, e. coli, other bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungal diseases. I know it is cold, but if you have feeders, you must take extra time and clean them thoroughly with a soapy solution of water and bleach.

Oh, don’t buy that cheap birdseed sold in many box and grocery stores. Birds don’t like cheap!

WHAT WENT WRONG

A thought came to mind — no comments please, as I am sensitive — about the gardening catalogs that you like to peruse. You think that these pictures have to be enhanced because anything that you try to grow, never in a million years would come close to the pictures. Could the problem be you? Yes, face the fact you could be the cause. Digging a hole and putting a plant in that hole is far from enough. Now is the time to actually think back to the past growing year and list what went wrong.

The problem isn’t that you lack a green thumb; I would hazard a guess the problem is the soil. Not all dirt is equal! A lot of problems that I have heard from homeowners through the years come from people with newly-built homes. The good top soil was removed during the excavation and hauled away, and a poor quality top soil returned and placed on top of hard clay. Good soil should be dark or brown-red and should drain easily.

Consider a soil test. Checking your pH level will determine what will grow best. The soil test will tell you that, and what amendments in the form of fertilizer may be needed.

THE VINEGAR POLICE

Red beet pickled eggs made with a combination of water, sugar, pickling spices and vinegar is a favorite. But the ingredient vinegar has been reported having another use, as an herbicide. Studies have shown that vinegar does have weed-killing properties, especially annual weeds. But the vinegar that I use for pickled eggs probably is not strong enough to do much, if any, damage.

Also household vinegar is not labeled to be used as an herbicide, which means you would be breaking the law if you used it for that purpose. To date I haven’t heard of any formation of vinegar police patrolling the countryside searching for the scent of vinegar. Play it safe and keep a supply of pickled eggs handy to cause confusion, just in case.

There is vinegar that is not for household use that has been labeled as an herbicide. Regular vinegar is about 5 percent acidic. Vinegar that is labeled for herbicide use is at least 20 percent acidic.

Use of any vinegar must be done with extreme caution. Contact your Penn State Extension office for more information on the uses of vinegar, pros and cons.

QUARTS OF STRAWBERRIES!

Okay, truth be told, how many of you have pulled down the blinds, turned off all lights, turned off the TV or radio and locked the door when you spied your gardening neighbor walking down the street for the umpteenth time carrying plastic bags loaded with zucchini? How would you like to see that same neighbor with quarts of strawberries? Thought so!

You could be that friendly neighbor whom all would welcome. Consider growing strawberries. This very versatile fruit is relatively easy to grow. But once again, you just can’t dig a hole and put the plant in and expect wonders. Before you do anything, you should know a little about the plant and the different varieties.

There are the ever-bearing varieties, producing berries in the spring and again in the late summer, good plants for limited space. The second type of strawberry is the day-neutral. The berries tend to be smaller, but the plant will bear fruit during the summer growing season. The most common are the June-bearing plants. These plants produce berries for about three to four weeks.

I think I will wait until next month to actually get more into the ins and outs of what to expect when growing strawberries. In other words, I’m running out of space for this month.

Questions? Concerns? Contact me at qbs5000@ag.psu.edu.

Remember, it is easy to be green. Happy gardening!

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Quentin Stocum, former Clinton County Master Gardener Coordinator, can be reached at 570-726-0022 or qbs5000@ag.psu.edu.

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