Editor’s note: Kelly R. Jackson takes questions called into his phone recently at the Christian County Extension Office and answers them in the Garden Corner column.

Question. When should I start spraying my fruit trees and what should I use?

Answer. When it comes to managing a backyard orchard, prevention of diseases is the best approach.

So long as you are willing to accept a few spots on your apples, it is not necessary to manage fruit trees at the same level done in commercial orchards. Although your yields may be reduced, it is usually plenty for a family. Many of the issues that apple, peach, plum, grapes and other fruit crops face could be avoided with cultural practices.

Every fruit crop is different but, generally speaking, pruning to open the canopy and increase air circulation, maintaining the vigor of the plant during a drought by watering, and amending nutrients according to soil test are three basic practices that help manage diseases.

If you have not yet planted your backyard orchard, always consider resistant varieties that give you protection from the most damaging diseases for that fruit. Concerning when to spray and what to use, the most immediate treatment (February/early March) for each of the major fruits are as follows:

Apples: Copper to manage fire blight

Peach: Chlorothalonil to manage black knot and peach leaf curl

Blueberries: Lime sulfur to manage phomopsis twig blight

Brambles: Lime sulfur to manage anthracnose, cane blight

Grapes: Lime sulfur to manage anthracnose

A complete guide for each of these crops is available through the extension office or online at ChristianCountyHorticulture.Wordpress.com.

Q. How soon can I start planting my vegetable garden?

A. You don’t need to wait for warm weather to start your vegetable garden. Several types of vegetables can be started as early as March. Radishes, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, onions and many more vegetables are all quite frost tolerant, and you can seed or transplant them in the garden from mid March to early April.

If you want to get an even earlier start, you could try covering an area with clear plastic film to create a mini greenhouse where plants will thrive. To try this season-extending technique first work up the soil for your plot and stretch some black plastic over the area for a couple of weeks. This will help warm the soil and give seeds and transplants an added boost.

After a few weeks under black plastic, the soil will have warmed a few degrees, and you can prepare the bed for planting and transplanting. Once planted, you should install a wooden or metal frame over the bed and cover it with clear polyethylene film. Anchor the film at the base with boards, bricks or soil, but remember that occasionally you will have to remove the poly to tend to the plants and to harvest the crop.

For this reason, it’s best if you don’t permanently attach the plastic to the frame. It will also be necessary to open sections of the covering for ventilation on warm sunny days. You can accomplish this by designing the ends of the covering so you can easily open or remove them during warm weather.

Details on how to build the plastic frame are available in ID-128 Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky book available for free through the extension office.

Kelly R. Jackson is the Christian County Extension Agent for horticulture. He can be reached at 270-886-6328 or visit Christian County Horticulture online at www.christiancountyextension.com.

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