We are halfway through the month of May and progress in the fields has been minimal, to say the least. On Mother’s Day back in Morgan County, I went to pick strawberries and the berry crop, just like everything else, could use some heat to aid ripening. It’s pretty tough to make a good pie with green strawberries.

Jim Noel from the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, suggests in this week’s C.O.R.N newsletter that in the second half of the month we will experience a warmer, drier weather pattern. One can only hope.

If soil begins to dry out to a point where crops can be planted in the next week or two it will be an extremely busy planting window. As farmers work to get a crop in the ground, remember to practice safety on the roadways. Tractors with large implements and sprayers have larger blind spots than the normal car or truck. Please be patient when behind farm machinery, as being behind a tractor for a couple of miles really isn’t that much different from hitting a couple of red lights here in town.

As it continues to warm up outside, it is time to set out tomato and other vegetable transplants and there are a few things to keep in mind. First, don’t set out a plant with any fruit on it. Why? The first thing a transplant needs to do is develop a good root system to support fruit production later on. Developing fruits have priority over roots and shoots for the plant’s energy. When the plant is still small, fruits will draw away energy that should go to root growth. Even extra fertilizer can’t make up for the extra drain to the fruit when the plant is young.

The ideal tomato transplant should be 6-8 weeks old and have 6-9 true leaves without having lost any leaves. The leaves should be deep green and the stem should be stocky with well developed white roots when transplanting.

As you set out annual flowers, consider “pinching” the plants, which you can accomplish by removing the top 1-2 inches from the growing tip and leaving three or four leaves. Plants that are pinched right after planting produce more flowers during the growing season, even though the earliest blooms are often sacrificed and the plants look a little small afterwards. This is particularly true of petunias which often get leggy, so pinch them several times throughout the summer to increase branching.

Finally, yesterday marked the beginning of my third year as Extension educator here in Henry County. While it has taken the past two years to get used to living in the “flatlands,” the people have made it a truly great experience. I owe many thanks to those farmers that I have had the pleasure to work with thus far, and I hope to work more closely with many more going forward.

I’ll end this week with a quote from Helen Hayes: “Everybody has talent, it’s just a matter of moving around until you’ve discovered what it is.” Have a great week.

Garth Ruff is the agriculture and natural resources extension educator at The Ohio State University Henry County Extension.

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