April 2013
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Compost Tea

Several years ago, we bought a compost tumbler that has made easy work of turning our green kitchen scraps into a soil amendment. This past season, I noticed extra moisture from inside the tumbler was dripping through, so we started collecting this great compost tea to fertilize our garden, especially the edibles. If you have a tumbler, take a look at what might be dripping from the bottom! It’s a valuable by-product.

Pink Spirea

Most spireas are white and early flowering, but there are a few pink selections really expanding the palette of these shrubs. Pink spirea cultivars such as Anthony Waterer and Goldflame (chartreuse foliage) bloom in late spring or early summer offering nice bouquets of pink blooms on neater, mounding shrubs than the traditional white types whose branches cascade. Consider these in mass in a spot where they will get at least a half day of sun to bring out their blooms.

 



Left, the by-product from a compost tumbler makes a good fertilizer for the garden. Above, pink spirea have neater, mounding shrubs as opposed to the traditional white types whose branches cascade.

Pencil Boxwood

Containers by the front door always look good when anchored by an evergreen. This tall and narrow pencil boxwood fills the space without getting in the way. The pots are large enough to allow for seasonal color to be planted around the base of the shrub and then replaced as needed. In my experience, boxwood is a great container plant - relatively slow growing and capable of missing a watering without a lot of fuss. I hate to admit that we’ve had a variegated boxwood in a container for five years without repotting and it still looks good. I don’t recommend that kind of neglect, but it is certainly a tribute to the plant. This year it is getting some fresh soil and a larger pot. It has earned it!

Lemongrass is Ornamental, Too

The proliferation of delicious Thai restaurants and cookbooks may prompt you to plant some lemongrass. It is perennial in the southern half of the state and should winter over with some protection in the northern half. We grow ours in a container where it makes a beautiful, wide, wispy plant with a great tropical quality in the summer. In winter, it turns brown and we cut away the browned foliage so it will come back neatly when warm weather arrives in the spring.



Left to right, containers by the front door always look good when anchored by evergreen like these tall, narrow boxwoods. Lemongrass planted in a container makes a beautiful, wide, wispy plant with a tropical quality.

 

Reasons to Plant Dill

Dill is a popular leafy herb that offers many harvests. The leaves are the uniquely flavored "dill weed" often used in potato salad. The yellow blooms make pretty cut flowers in a vase. The seedpods forming on blooms left on the plant offer well-known flavor to homemade dill pickles. If there is anything left in the garden after all that, the swallowtail butterflies will find it to lay eggs. Just like parsley, it is a favorite of these beautiful native butterflies. That alone might be a good reason to tuck a few plants in your garden!

Roma Tomatoes Make Thick Sauce

A friend of mine who makes tomato sauce had an epiphany one day during a conversation about Roma tomatoes. It turns out her sauce was too runny, but when she learned Roma tomatoes were meatier and contained less moisture than slicing tomatoes, she made the switch to Roma for sauce, and it worked. They much more quickly cooked down nice and thick. If you like making tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce or even ketchup, try growing your own Romas this year. Most are also bred to ripen their fruit within a short time so you can cook up huge batches at once. When the plant finishes producing, pull it up and replace it with a heat set tomato for a late summer slicer.

Handy Garden Bags

Have you discovered the pop-up garden totes to help with messy garden tasks? They collapse for storage and are extremely strong for their light weight. We keep these around for gathering daily trimmings, leaves, weeds and other bits of garden refuse that always seem to be within reach. When you’re looking for something just a little more convenient than a can or wheelbarrow, a collapsible garden bag might be it.



Left to right, dill, like parsley, is a favorite of swallowtail butterflies to lay their eggs. Pop-up garden totes are perfect for messy garden tasks.

 

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