From Across the Field – April Showers

Everyone knows the saying “April showers bring May flowers.” As I wrote last week I think we can amend that old adage to say “April showers bring May planted corn.” Jim Noel from the National Weather Service suggested that change as he predicts a wetter than average April followed by a drier May in this week’s C.O.R.N. newsletter. As a reminder the Crop Observation Reporting Network newsletter comes our weekly during the growing season and can be found at

As promised this week’s weed of the week is Purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum). This particular weed is beginning to show up in landscapes now that spring has arrived and the temperature is getting warmer.  A winter annual, purple deadnettle is germinating now from the seeds they produced last year.

This weed can easily reach heights of 16 – 18″.  Purple deadnettle has a distinct four-sided stem, which are common to plants in the Lamiaceae (mint) family.  The leaves are opposite, triangular to heart shaped with a serrated leaf margin.   The leaves appear crowed near the upper part of the stem; they are overlapping and bent downward. These leaves are purple to red in color.  The lower leaves are larger and have longer petioles and tend to be deep green in color.  The flowers are light purple to pink. Once cause for concern with purple deadnettle is that it is an excellent host for soybean cyst nematode, especially in sandier soils.

Purple deadnettle can often be mistaken for henbit, another winter annual that is also in the Lamiaceae family.  Henbit is similar but the leaves are scalloped and are spaced evenly along the stem. It also does not have the purple to red color of the upper leaves.

As the weather gets warmer, we may be getting the “itch” to begin planting our gardens. One caution is to make sure the soil is ready to work. One of the best methods to make sure it is ready is to grab a clump of soil and squeeze it. If it crumbles, it is likely ready to work. If it does not, it probably needs to dry more. Once it is ready to work, what can you plant? We can plant several things as soon you can get in the garden. Cabbage, asparagus, onions, peas, radish, turnips and spinach can be planted now.  It is also about time to plant beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, parsley and potatoes. It is getting late enough that we can probably plant sweet corn. As we move into May, we can plant beans, summer squash, then tomatoes (watch for frost if you plant them before mid-May). Finally, in late May, we can plant cucumbers, melons, peppers, and winter squash.

Another suggestion is to consider planting a little at a time.  An example would be to plant radishes every seven to ten days for the next month. This will allow you to have fresh food over a longer period of time. You can also take this a step further with crops such as sweet corn, where you can stagger planting dates and plant cultivars that mature at different dates. Using this method, you could have fresh corn from mid-July through September. I’ll end this week with a quote from Alfred Whitney Griswold: “The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.” Have a great week.

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