2008-05-01 / News

The Island Garden

By Roger Marshall

It's May Day and the great planting out session begins. You can plant most of your flower and vegetable plants now, but I'd hold on tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers for a couple of weeks. We can still get a late frost, which will kill these heat-loving plants.

I've tried many ways to get earlier tomatoes and have come to the conclusion that only growing them indoors with supplemental heat will give you earlier fruit. Over the years, I've tried Walls-o-Water, glass cloches, cold frames, gallon jug "hats" and other techniques to get earlier tomatoes and the only one that has been consistently successful is to plant the tomatoes into the greenhouse. In the heated greenhouse, I can get tomatoes in late May, in the cold greenhouse, by mid June, outside by mid-July.

In order to get very early tomatoes, nighttime temperatures need to be at least 55 degrees and we simply don't get those kind of temperatures around here until June or so. Plus, you also need to pollinate early tomatoes, so even if you get blooms, hand pollination is usually in order.

When planting out, make sure you put most plants at the same level they were in the pot. Only tomatoes should be planted deeper than they are in the pot. Tomatoes have a way of turning stem into roots and by planting deeper, you are increasing the size of the root system to get larger plants and hopefully higher yields.

When planting tomatoes, do not fertilize with high nitrogen fertilizer, you'll get a huge plant but few flowers. Instead use one of the proprietary tomato plant fertilizers high in nutrients for tomatoes. Also, make sure that you water consistently. If the plant dries out, or is watered inconsistently, you'll get blossom end rot - big scabs on the bottom of the plant - that make the tomato inedible.

Lawns If you haven't fertilized already, do so as soon as possible. You probably have to make your first cut of the grass so, hop to it. At this time of year you may have to cut the lawn at five day intervals to keep it looking nice. If you do cut it at five day intervals, there is no reason not to leave clippings on the lawn. They'll rot down and add nutrients. If you plan on cutting at longer intervals you should probably collect the clippings. I usually collect clippings for the first one or two cuts to get rid of leaves and twigs that may have fallen over the winter.

Vegetable Garden

Plant spinach, lettuce, artichokes, brassicas, chard, peas, onions, leeks, and herbs out as soon as possible. Only rosemary and tarragon should not go into the herb garden right away.

Every two or three weeks until late May plant spinach and lettuce to get as many crops as possible. Keep the garden beds weeded and stay alert for cabbage white butterflies, potato beetles, and other pests. As soon as you see them, spray with bacillus Thuringiensis. BT is an organic control for potato beetles and other plant eating insects. If you have slugs, put some diatomaceous earth around the plants. It is organic and harmless except to crawling insects.

Flower Garden

Deadhead daffodils and other bulbs as the flowers die back, but do not cut the foliage. Instead fertilize the flower foliage with a good quality fertilizer. By doing this you encourage the plant to make more bulbs and increase the size of existing bulbs so that you get larger and more quantities of flowers next season. In about six to eight weeks cut the foliage. If you want to see what happens when you cut too soon, just look at the triangle at the top of Fort Wetherill Road, the plants come up, but with no flowers.

Fruit Trees

Spray with dormant oil just as soon as 80-to 90-percent of all the blossoms have dropped. Make sure that you have a band of Tanglefoot around the trunk to stop ants and caterpillars from crawling up to the growing tips.

Just remember, now is the busiest time of the year in your garden. If you can get through the next four weeks, your garden will reward you with flowers and fun for the rest of the year.

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