Question: I like having birds in my garden, but what can I do to keep them out of my strawberries?
Answer: The best solution is to buy lightweight netting and drape it over your plants. Make sure that the netting is rests on top of stakes so that it doesn't sit on the plants -- if that happens, birds just eat your strawberries through the holes.
Question: I planted snapdragon seeds in a large container. They sprouted and are 3 inches tall. I'm ready to transplant them. The roots are tiny and close together. How do I separate them? Can I put them directly in the garden now?
Answer: Pop the entire mass of plants out of the seed-starting tray and gently tease apart the roots with a pencil once your plants have at least four sets of leaves. Handle the tender seedlings by their leaves rather than grabbing the delicate stems, which crush easily.
Rather than transplanting these little seedlings directly into the garden, you'll have better luck potting them up into individual pots. Grow the separated seedlings in the individual containers for several weeks to reestablish a healthy root system, then transplant them into the garden.
Question: Does it matter how early I plant my vegetable garden? We've had a lot of rain, and it doesn't seem like a good idea to plant while the soil is wet. But my neighbor says I should be planting now.
Answer: You are absolutely right. Unless your soil is mostly sand, tilling or working it when it is wet turns it into a sticky mess. In any season, wait until the soil dries enough to pass the squeeze test: Take up a handful and squeeze it. If the soil forms a tight ball, it's too wet. Ideally, it should be slightly more crumbly than cookie dough.
It's usually okay to delay planting of tomatoes, peppers, beans, and other plants that like warm weather. However, if you wait until days become long and warm to plant cool-season crops such as lettuce, spinach, or peas, their flavor suffers and they quickly go to seed.
Here's a solution for next year: Prepare the soil in raised beds in fall and cover them with plastic film over the winter. The film will keep excess moisture off the soil as well as warm the bed earlier in spring so you can get an early start on the spring planting season.