KENNEWICK -- Spring is here! What a difference some warm weather and sunny days make.
While it's still prudent to keep an eye on the weather forecast, now is finally the time to get busy out in the garden.
In the vegetable garden, it looks like the danger of frost is past. If you have transplants you've been wanting to get planted, you can get started. Don't forget about "hardening" those transplants if they have been sitting in the house or garage a while. Sudden exposure to full sun and wind can damage plants and delay their growth and production.
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You can harden your transplants by putting them outside in a sheltered location where they'll get two to three hours of direct sun and be protected from harsh wind. Over the next week, gradually increase the time exposed to direct sun and decrease their watering, but don' allow them to wilt.
If you purchase your transplants from a nursery where they've already been exposed to sun, cool temperatures, and wind, you don't need to harden them before planting. However, avoid purchasing older, larger transplants. They're slower to resume growth after transplanting and end up being less productive than younger, smaller transplants. Look for healthy, medium-size, stocky, dark green plants that aren't already flowering.
The air temperatures have finally warmed up for us, but the soil is still cool. I would wait another week or more to plant seeds for crops of melon, squash, and cucumbers. They need soil temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees for good germination.
If you haven't already fertilized your lawn for the first time this year, now is a good time.
With warmer weather, lawn irrigation for the season has started. Check for even coverage using straight sided soup cans. Place the cans uniformly throughout the zone you're checking, staying within a foot of the perimeter and at least two feet away from spray nozzles. Next run your regular cycle for that zone. After the cycle is complete, compare the depths of water in the cans
If the depths vary widely, try to determine the reason. It could be poor design, but the cause could simply be an obstacle, such as a tree branch or tall ornamental grass that's stopping the water stream, or you may need to adjust the flow of some sprinkler heads or replace worn ones. More even distribution can help you save water.
It's always a good idea to check your drip irrigation system each spring, especially if you didn't drain or blow out your system in the fall. You may have cracked lines or clogged emitters. Experts recommend flushing your mainline before you start your drip started in the spring along with cleaning the filter to remove any dirt. After flushing, cap the system and turn the water on to check the emitters. If they aren't operating correctly, either unclog or replace them if needed. Many of your plants on drip have probably grown. Consider if you need to add more emitters to provide them with enough water.
Drip irrigation is a great way to conserve water and to reduce weeds in your garden.
Do you want to learn more about drip irrigation? A super new online publication is available from WSU Publications, "Drip Irrigation for the Yard and Garden" by Dr. Troy Peters, WSU irrigation specialist. This free publication discusses how to set up a drip irrigation system for a small yard or garden space.
You can find it at https:// pubs.wsu.edu.
* Marianne Ophardt is a horticulturist for the Washington State University Benton County Extension.