April 2017
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Made with Cake Flower


Try clean, fresh flowers for decorating a cake.

One quick way to decorate a cake is to carefully place a few fresh flowers atop the frosting. Just be sure to use flowers that aren’t harmful and haven’t been treated with pesticides. This is not to suggest that you eat the flowers, they are primarily for decoration, but you would want to choose some that aren’t harmful. Some edible flowers include lavender, rose, pansy, nasturtium, daylily, dill, chives, chrysanthemum, bachelor’s button, dandelion, citrus blossom, bee balm and marigold. Simply clip them from the garden and place them at the last minute so the cake is cut before the blossoms wilt without stems in water.


Pots Are Easy When Set Up Correctly

Plants growing in containers are easy to manage and keep handy near your door, but remember they do depend on you for soil, food and water. Give them the best so they will grow well. Always use a premium potting mix for whatever you plant in the pot because potting mixes are especially blended to provide the proper balance of air and water, critical for good root growth. A container doesn’t hold water as long as the ground and will need to be watered more often. One way to simplify watering is to set a pot up on a drip system with a timer so it takes care of itself. Because nutrients are often washed out of a pot by frequent watering include timed-release fertilizer in the soil when potting.


Stretch Out Tomato Season

Plant early-, midseason- and late-maturing tomatoes for a long harvest season.


Enjoy tomatoes the longest time possible by planting early- and late-maturing varieties, including determinate and indeterminate types. You’ll know you’re doing well if you stretch your harvest to the point where you’ll feel guilty leaving plants for vacation. Mix it up with early-bearing varieties such as Early Girl, Celebrity or Better Bush for the first harvests, and Better Boy, Big Boy and Bonnie Original or Super Fantastic, Black Krim and Roma types for the main season, followed by the biggest tomatoes such as Cherokee Purple, Brandywine and German Queen that need two or three weeks longer to produce the first ripe fruit. If you spray to protect against diseases and water steadily with drip irrigation to prevent fruit cracking, you’ll be in tomato heaven from June until nearly Thanksgiving. You may also have a big harvest of green tomatoes to bring indoors before the final killing frost.


Citrus Trees Need Special Food

Whether you are growing citrus in the ground in South Alabama or in a container elsewhere, now is the time to fertilize your trees with citrus food if you have not already done so. Citrus needs a special fertilizer containing magnesium, manganese, zinc and iron, as well as the more common nutrients found in most complete fertilizers – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Without these extra nutrients, the leaves will be yellow and the plant will not thrive; so go the extra mile and give these little trees what they need to produce a good crop. One great thing about citrus is that they hold their quality on the tree for weeks, getting sweeter and more flavorful. Our 3-year-old kumquat in a 20-inch pot offered 6 pounds of delicious kumquats last December and January. Our satsuma yielded 27 very sweet, delicious fruit last year in a 20-inch pot. The fruit was so much more flavorful than store-bought because it stayed on the tree until I was ready to eat it. Meyer lemon will load up with blossoms and then drop many of them naturally, so don’t be spooked by that. Finding citrus in nurseries is getting easier these days, especially in early spring. Look for full, healthy trees with a good leader or main stem that will grow into a small trunk. With good care your tree will live for years and just get bigger and better. At some point you may even need a hand truck to move it into the garage or greenhouse for the winter. That is success!!


Save Yourself a Big Hassle

Are you taking on a new landscaping project? Do you know where your underground utilities lie? Digging holes in the ground near utilities can be dangerous or require costly repairs if the lines are disturbed or broken. Before you start work, call 811, the national Call Before You Dig number, or make a request online at call811.com. This service notifies local utilities to send a locator to the requested site to mark the position of underground lines. 


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