February 2009
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?


Lawns sown in fescue should be growing again soon.

Fescue Lawn Care

If you have a fescue lawn, it will be growing vigorously again. Remember, the optimum growing height for most turf-type fescues is 2½ to 3 inches. Don’t mow too low because it only weakens the grass and encourages weeds. Taller grass will also have deeper roots that will come in handy come summer! Fertilize lightly if the lawn looks too yellow and weak, but otherwise a very thin topdressing of composted manure (1/8 to ¼ inch) will probably suffice. The ideal time to fertilize fescue is in the fall.

It’s time to plants onions. Get your Bonnie transplants now at your Co-op.


Plant Onions Now

Get your Bonnie onion transplants in the ground now. Onions take up such little space in the garden, yet provide pounds of seasoning for months, particularly if you let them cure and then store the bulbs with good air circulation in a cool, dry place. If you like green onions, plant extras you can pull early or cut the tops without worrying about impeding development of the bulb.

Master Gardeners Meeting Open to Everyone in 2009

This year’s Master Gardeners conference is open to anyone—you don’t have to be a Master Gardener to attend. Take advantage of this opportunity to meet other gardeners from around the state and experience the camaraderie of the organization first-hand. The conference is April 2-4 in Huntsville. The agenda includes a number of garden speakers like Patricia Lanza author of Lasagna Gardening, numerous workshops, free admission to the Huntsville Botanical Garden (HBG) and lots of other gardening events. There are receptions and tours, too. You can get more information and registration information at the Alabama Master Gardener’s website, http://www.alabamamg.org/. See "Conferences" in the menu bar.

Master Gardeners is a national gardening organization with state chapters. To become a Master Gardener you go through great training by horticultural professionals and then volunteer a number of hours with the Extension service in return for your training. Normally, the conference is for Master Gardeners only, but this year it is open to anyone, so take advantage of this great opportunity!

All-America Winners Mostly Vegetables in ‘09


Honey Bear buttercup squash is an AAS Winner for 2009.

Three of the four All-America Selections (AAS) Winners for 2009 are vegetables (the fourth is a Johnny Jump-Up).

Honey Bear buttercup squash scored high for exceptional sweetness and flavor.

"The best tasting butternut on the market," said AAS.

It is also compact enough for large pots and small gardens, requiring about the same space as a zucchini plant. Each bush-type plant should bear three to five very dark green fruit weighing 12 to 16 ounces. The plants are also tolerant to powdery mildew, which is a big plus as this is often the biggest threat to this crop in late summer.

Gretel eggplant is another AAS winner.


Gretel is an early-maturing, small-fruited, white eggplant that will make heads turn. The glossy, finger-shaped, white fruit are borne in clusters; they are sweet with tender skin even if they mature beyond the ideal fruit size of three to four inches long. This means you have a longer window to harvest. The plants are relatively small, about three feet wide and equally tall, so they also fit well in small gardens or large containers. White eggplant is a common ingredient in Asian cooking.

Lambkin is a new melon type to me. It is classified as a Piel de Sapo, or Christmas type, with the most important trait being its flavor. According to AAS, the oval shaped melon weighs between two and four pounds with a thin rind surrounding sweet, aromatic, white, juicy flesh. It comes from a breeder in Taiwan. Other gourmet melons of this type mature much later than the 65 to 75 days of Lambkin. Because of the early harvest, the vigorous vines can produce more melons. It also stores longer than other melons in the refrigerator. Sounds like an interesting one to try.

Proper Shade Lowers Summer Cooling Costs

Auburn University Professor David Laband in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences reveals how much shade trees can reduce electric bills during summer. Compared to a house with no shade, electricity usage will be 11.4 percent less if a house has just 17.5 percent heavy shade coverage.


A third AAS Winner is the lambkin melon, which stores well.

"The keys are heavy foliage and late afternoon shade," Laband said. "We looked at the amount of shade in the early morning, early afternoon and late afternoon. If you have trees on the west side of your house, you will have a much lower power bill."

The year-long study of 160 houses in the Auburn area primarily focused on the months of May to September. Using local power company rates for kilowatt-hours per day, Laband said the 11.4 percent savings would equal $31 to $33 per month. The study, which categorized shade into light, moderate and heavy, also found a house covered with 50 percent of light shade would save 10.3 percent.

Thermostat settings were important as well.

"For each degree you raise your thermostat, you will save 3.3 percent on your power bill," he said.

Now is a good time to plant a tree! Choose long-lived, sturdy species like oak. They will grow faster than you think with proper water and fertilizer.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Garderner’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.