2007-06-07 / News

The Island Garden

By Roger Marshall

We are in what English gardeners call the gap period, when spring bulbs have died back and perennials are growing fast but are not yet in bloom. This period will last a week or three although most of us won't really notice it because many of our rhododendrons and other shrubs are in flower, which tends to give some color to the yard. When you are walking around your garden, take note of what time of year a particular plant comes into bloom. In fact, experienced gardeners write this information down. You can usually rely on the same plant to come into bloom around the same time each year. If you find that you have gaps in your color scheme, now is the time to find them and obtain a "fill-in" plant that will bloom to give you a little color when you need it. Of course, you don't really need to do this. You can simply go to a gardening store and buy a fill-in plant. But, in my opinion, you probably don't want to do that each year or you may find that your border becomes awfully crowded.

After several weeks of little rain, it was nice to get some from the remains of tropical storm Barry last Monday on what is in fact, only the fourth day of the official hurricane season. Obviously, hurricanes don't listen to the officials, as we had the first named storm about three weeks ago. It didn't come ashore so we didn't feel it, which leads me into a question a couple of gardeners have asked lately. What should you do in your garden if we get a hurricane? Frankly, there isn't a lot you can do unless you want to go to the expense of building plywood tents over your garden beds. I would suggest that you make sure that your chain saw is sharp, that you take your most expensive plants indoors if you can, especially if they are in pots and that you fill your rain barrel with clean water, cover it and put it in a sheltered place. Generally, I find that most of my fruits, like tomatoes and peppers end up in Providence or points somewhere north of that in a hurricane, so I pick them if a storm is forecast. Picking veggies is a good way to save them, as they'll last for a few days when there may not be any power or food supplies coming to the island. If the storm is powerful enough and you have to evacuate, make sure that anything you pick is sitting in a cool area, where if you can't get back and it rots, it will not do any harm.

In the Vegetable Garden Last Sunday and Monday, with rain and gray skies, were good days to plant everything out and to sow carrots, beets, and other root crops. It's almost too late to plant lettuce again, however you could try to squeeze in another crop but I wouldn't plant many seeds, they'll bolt very quickly and you'll have to eat a lot of lettuce quickly or lose it. Fertilize established plants, especially garlic and onions. Do not fertilize tomatoes with high nitrogen food, you'll get lots of growth but very few tomatoes. You might want to use grass clippings as mulch between the plants to keep the ground moist if we don't get much rain over the summer.

Fruit trees

Spray with dormant oil or orchard spray to control apple maggot flies immediately after blossom drop. Spray peaches with Bordeaux mix or a copper fungicide. Pick off any leaves that show signs of peach leaf curl.

In the Flower Garden

Plant out impatiens, dahlias, geraniums and just about any other flowers that you can plant out. But wait until the ground is reasonably dry. If you clump around in your flower garden in wet weather, all you are doing is compacting the soil and making it much harder for your flowers to grow.

In the Greenhouse

In my greenhouse I've moved all the citrus fruit, olive, and fig trees outdoors and am busily moving other plants out to their places around the yard. Each will get a liquid feed and be watered every day. Most of the citrus is either in bloom or has been in bloom so there's some hope for a good crop of oranges, lemons, limes, and key limes this year. With this greenhouse standing empty it will be cleaned and repainted, ready for the plants to come inside again in October. In the cold greenhouse, all the winter vegetables have been planted out into the garden and the beds have been treated with compost, fertilizer, bone meal, and blood meal, ready for melon plants to go in there in a day or two.

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