May 2015
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

  Bonnie Plants' new iPhone app is free from the App Store.

Try the HOMEGROWN with Bonnie Plants App

Would you like to take digital pictures of your garden and make notes on your phone, then save them to reference later? Bonnie Plants has a new iPhone app that will do that. As a gardener who likes to track the progress and harvests in my garden, I love this feature. I can capture pictures in the garden, attach notes and record it by date. A year from now it will be most valuable when I want to see a history of my tomatoes. The app is a great resource for beginning gardeners, too, giving growing information and variety information about vegetables, herbs and insectary flowers to help beginners grow successfully. Other features include a 10-day weather forecast, hands-free dictation so you don’t have to type, and a way to share your pictures and notes to Facebook and Twitter. There are also choosers to help you select from Bonnie’s many tomato and pepper varieties and ready suggestions for collections such as a pizza garden, easy herbs, salsa fixings and others. Download the FREE app from the App Store and give it a try. Bonnie wants suggestions on how to make the app more helpful, so send your feedback in an email to customer service.

Easy, Long-lived Herbs

The best way to get good-quality, fresh herbs for cooking is to have your own plants to cut from whenever a few leaves are needed. Packs of cut herbs from the grocery store are often wilted and expensive. Annual herbs such as basil and dill are great in a vegetable garden, herb garden or container. With perennial herbs, you have the benefit of their presence near your kitchen door for many years; just establish a permanent spot for them. The perennial ones I have found to be most dependable through summer and winter without troubles are chives, garlic chives, oregano, mint, rosemary, lemon balm, lovage, horseradish root and thyme. If you have some shade, no worries, as all of these will grow without full sun, too.

Late Tomatoes

When setting out your tomato plants, remember that the later it gets, the more likely the fruiting season will coincide with the really hot weather of July and August. When that happens, fruit set will take a pause. Be patient with plants that get caught in the heat; just keep them healthy and they will set fruit again when the nights cool down a little. In the meantime, be sure to include varieties that are most tolerant of hot weather. These include Heatmaster, Heatwave, Summer Set, Phoenix, Florida 91, and all the cherry and grape tomatoes.

 Match Plants to Location

This is a commonsense tip, but it bears repeating because sometimes we get excited about a plant only to find out the hard way that we really didn’t have the place for it. Before selecting any new landscape plants, know what kind of location the plants prefer. Tags offer some help, but it’s easy to get a lot more details online these days. Find out if a plant prefers sun or shade. How cold hardy and heat tolerant is it? Does it need soil that is well-drained, or will it tolerate heavy, wet soil? Don’t buy something blindly and then find out your yard does not provide the right environment. Do your homework to make the effort count.

  Can you find the eggplant, tomatoes and herbs in this picture? It’s hard to tell them from the ornamentals!

Veggies in a Flower Bed?

One way to grow a few vegetables in places you already have prepared is to add them to a flowerbed. This bed contains two Japanese eggplants next to Wendy’s Wish salvia and other ornamentals, adding their own beauty to the flower border. Beyond them are also a couple of tomato plants and some potted herbs. Some neighborhood HOAs won’t allow vegetables in the front yard (or even in the backyard in some places), but, if you make them part of an attractive planting, they will likely be more acceptable (and probably not noticed). Who’s to say that an eggplant isn’t pretty? The large leaves add a nice texture to the planting. A hot pepper plant loaded with red fruit is also beautiful. So if you’ve wanted to grow a veggie or herb but don’t have a designated garden, put it in with your flowers. Just be careful that there are no pesticides used that are not also labeled for the vegetable or herb.

Plant for the Monarchs

Milkweeds (Asclepias species) are critical plants for monarch butterflies because they lay eggs and rear their young on these wildflowers. In addition, the monarchs appreciate some good nectar flowers to feed on as they migrate from the Northern United States and Canada to Mexico. Scientists tracking monarch butterflies have observed a steep decline in their numbers over the last 2 years and suspect the decline is due to loss of habitat. You can check for a lot more information on how folks are pitching in to make sure there are more milkweeds in our landscapes and fields for the butterflies to breed and feed on. May is a good month to set out milkweed plants in your garden. If you can’t find them locally, try online sources for species such as Asclepias tuberosa, A. curvassica, A. incarnata and A. syriaca that grow well here.

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