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Gardeners should think thin, thin, thin

Thinning you carrots helps them grow
by: John Brewington Chip Bubl, OSU Extension Agent for Columbia County.

Gardeners hate to thin. Your precious seeds have struggled to the surface and now you are asked to rip them out. You feel their pain. You won't do it.

You must. Most vegetables and flowers will not develop normally unless they have room to grow. If plants are crowded they can be stunted.

In the plant world, whoever gets to the light first wins. Adequate light will produce healthy leaves and vigorous roots. Weeds compete for light. That is why early weeding is crucial. It is also why vegetables need to be thinned.

Carrots need to be well spaced. Allowed to develop too close together, no one carrot can grow enough leaf area to capture enough sunlight to build that wonderful root we all like to eat. Instead, you get runty little excuses for carrots. So thin, thin, thin.

Corn is seeded with an ultimate 'between' row and 'within' row spacing in mind. A common practice is to seed the rows 30' apart and to thin within the row to 9-12' between plants. If you have a 36' row spacing, you might be able to thin down to a plant every 6'. It is all about each plant getting enough 'sunspace.' I have seen corn seeded in rows 12' apart. The corn may grow tall but only the plants on the outside of the corn plot get enough sun to produce ears. So put enough seed in the row (since all of them won't come up) and thin, thin, thin.

It is worth noting that you will always have to thin beets and chard. Their seed is 'compound,' meaning that there is more than one seed in each seed.

Sometimes, the thinned plants can be eaten, as in the leafy greens. Thinned corn can be transplanted to give a later crop since it will be set back a bit by the transplant process.

Read the seed packages for instructions on thinning. As a last resort, therapy for shy thinners may be available.

Other garden notes

Codling moth adults have emerged. If you don't want their larvae in your apples (the 'worm') you need to start control measures. Spinosad is an insecticide derived from a fungus found in Barbados, of all places. The fungus is cultured much like we get antibiotics and their insect-active compound they produce is purified and formulated into both organic and conventional products. These are now available to the home gardener under several trade names. It will be helpful against both the codling moth and the apple maggot. Sprays should be going on now and at about two week intervals throughout the summer.

Keep new trees and shrubs watered throughout the first growing summer. The evidence is very convincing that trees properly watered and mulched will out perform and out-survive trees that weren't.

Controlling tiny ants

There are a number of different species of 'tiny' ants. I use the term tiny to contrast with larger carpenter or the harmless thatching ('big mound') ants.

The moisture, sugar and other small ants don't cause structural damage. That is the good news. The bad news is that they can be very aggressive about foraging in your house and can often be difficult to control.

Most treatment starts with some bait stations. If all goes well, the ants will collect enough of the bait and, being gregarious, feed it to all their nest mates. You really want them to feed Queenie the full meal deal as soon as possible, since she alone can continue to keep pumping out eggs (unless it is a colony with multiple queens). Bait preferences vary among species and can even change over the season, so if one bait isn't taken try another. Most are sugar-based and can be either delivered through a gel or from a bait station. Make sure that pets and kids can't get at the baits.

If you can find, through careful tracing of the ant trail, the entrance to the colony, you can treat that area directly with an ant-effective insecticide like cyfluthrin (available under several different trade names).

Finally, caulking around plumbing pipes and other access points to your house can send the ant party to your neighbors.

Weed Management and Identification class

There will be a Weed Management and Identification class held at the Oregon State University Extension office in St. Helens on Wednesday, June 22 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The class will focus on garden and landscape weeds and some of the techniques, tools and herbicides that can help you manage them. Participants are encouraged to bring some weeds for identification. There will be ample time for questions. The class is free and open to the public. For more information, call the Extension office at 503-397-3462.

Plant extra vegetables this year to share with friends or local food banks!

Free newsletter

The Oregon State University Extension office in Columbia County publishes a monthly newsletter on gardening and farming topics (called County Living) written/edited by yours truly. All you need to do is ask for it and it will be mailed to you. Call 503-397-3462 to be put on the list. Alternatively, you can find it on the web at http://extension.oregonstate.-edu/columbia/ and click on newsletters.

The Extension Service offers its programs and materials equally to all people.