The Garden Plot

Ray Baird

Planting perennials in the month of May: May is the ideal month to start perennial flowers in containers and pots for flowers and foliage through all four seasons of the year. You can choose from many varieties that endure the heat of summer and the cold of winter. You can choose from creeping phlox, dianthus, sweet William, bugle weed, red coral bells, royal purple coral bells, thrift, red hot poker, dusty miller, hen and chicks, lobelia (Cardinal flower), columbine, candy tuft, veronica, forget-me-nots, American bee balm and black-eyed Susan’s. Perennials perform well on decks and provide beauty in the dead of winter with very little care. All you need is some fine textured flower potting medium and some medium-sized pots or containers to start them off.

Starting a summer season of four o’clocks: With the middle of May almost here, it is the time to start a packet or two of four o’clock seeds that will produce colorful flowers and green foliage all the way until frost. Packets cost around two dollars and come in colors or red, white, yellow, pink and wine. They thrive in all types of soil and will grow on the edge of gardens.

A colorful row or bed of zinnias: The old-fashioned zinnia is a summer favorite that produces a rainbow of colors in flower beds and gardens. They come in every color of the rainbow except blue. You can purchase seed packets in assorted colors and also in individual color packets for about two dollars per packet. You can broadcast them in a bed or sow them in rows of individual colors for an unusual display all summer long. Zinnias are a wonderful flower because they attract butterflies and finches as well as other birds.

Time to start all warm weather crops: The days are getting warmer and the nights are comfortable and pave the way for all the warm weather vegetable varieties. Corn needs to be planted this week because it is a vegetable that requires a long growing season of 90-days. You can choose from Silver Queen, Golden Queen, Early Sunglow, and Candy Korn, How-Sweet-It-Is, Illini Chief, Butter fruit and Golden Bantam. Corn needs to be planted now to allow enough time for it to be succeeded by a late summer vegetable crop. Plant at least three rows to allow wind pollination. Allow 2 1/2 to 3 feet between rows for weed control and harvest.

It is strawberry time in Carolina: The Wonderful season of the strawberry is in full swing in the Piedmont. We love the tartness of the Carolina strawberries and the atmosphere of a Piedmont pick-your-own strawberry fields and the warm spring sun shining down on them wafted in with the aroma of honeysuckles and ripening strawberries. Picking strawberries is an unforgettable experience. If picking berries is not on your time schedule, you can call the strawberry patch and order the berries you need, and pick them up for about a dollar more per gallon bucket.

A good tip on freezing strawberries: Be careful when preparing strawberries for freezing. Strawberries have caps and not hulls. The first step is to remove the caps. Never run water over strawberries because this does two thigs. 1) It makes the strawberry mushy. 2) Washing destroys the small seeds on berries. Run cold water in the sink and carefully place the berries one quart at a time in the cold water for a minute and gently remove from water. Lay them on a dry towel for a minute. Gently place the whole berries in quart plastic freezer containers. Do not pack berries in the boxes. Later, when you use these berries, they will be like fresh berries.

The sweet perfume of honeysuckles on a May evening: What is as rare and unforgettable as the essence of honeysuckles on a night in May? No other flower has the aroma of honeysuckles except maybe the

Carolina jasmine. It is the scent that makes your nose want to retain the fragrance. Take time, not only to smell the coffee, but also to smell and enjoy the honeysuckles.

Setting out the tomato plants: Warm May soil makes tomato plants thrive. This is the second week in May and it is time to start off the rubies of summer’s garden. The very best tomatoes are Big Boy, Marglobe, Rutgers, Homestead, Parks Whopper, Early Girl and Beefy Bow. A good hint in purchasing plants is to make sure stems are blue-green in color. Never ever buy a tomato plant that is blooming, legged out of their containers or packs or that already have green tomatoes on them.

The Best old-fashioned tomato varieties: There are as many as 350 types of tomatoes and the number continues to increase every season. We still like and trust the old-fashioned and time-tested varieties such as Homestead, Marglobe, Rutgers, Big Boy, Better Boy and Roma. The Rutgers is best all-around variety and has proven itself for well over one hundred years. An interesting productive fact about this tomato is Rutgers University developed this variety for the Campbell Soup Company for condensed tomato soup. This tomato performs well in the heat of the summer and also does well as a cool weather storage tomato in late summer and early autumn.

Sweet perfume of the honeysuckle: The sweet scents of the white and light orange honeysuckles fill the roadsides and woodlands with their sweet scent that is kind to the nostrils and attractive to the hummingbirds. NO other scent except for the Carolina jasmine and maybe the rose can surpass their wonderful scent.

Remember all Mothers this Sunday.

Ray Baird

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