2008-05-22 / News

The Island Garden

By Roger Marshall

It's not been very warm lately, and most of my heat-loving plants are still in the greenhouse, a far cry from a few weeks ago when it looked as if winter had gone for good. In spite of the cooler temperatures - its spring in New England, after all - things are getting planted out.

Several squash plants were stout last weekend, as were broccoli, cabbage, many, many, annuals and more than 300 dahlia tubers. (That's about a 50 gallon garbage bin full of dahlia tubers.) Unfortunately, I was traveling a lot last fall and could only dig the tubers after the fall frosts had killed them. That meant that I have no idea what the colors are and have to wait and see what comes up. This probably means that large purple dahlias are next to tiny yellow flowered ones, but it will teach me to label the plants before I go off on business trips.

I hope you made it to the Quononoquott Garden Club Plant Sale last weekend. There were a ton of plants on sale and at far better prices than at various garden centers. If you didn't, well, you missed many plant bargains. The money goes to many of the plant projects that you see around town, including the fire station garden and many other projects, so give them your support.

Vegetable garden

Asparagus is sprouting about as hard as it can go and can be harvested heavily (as long as your plants are more than two years old.) You've got about another month of asparagus harvest before you should let the spears develop into ferns to generate food for next year. Mulch the asparagus bed to keep weeds down. Sorrel, too, can be harvested now. I make sorrel soup base, freeze it, and use it all winter for a quick nutritious lunch with a piece of French bread.

Just about everything can be planted out about now. It would seem that frost season is over and plants (and weeds) are growing fast. Tomatoes should be planted a lot deeper than they are in the pot to help create a greater root system. As the spring warms up make sure your tomatoes are watered consistently or they may develop blossom end rot. Hit garlic, shallots, leeks, and onions with some high nitrogen fertilizer or high quality compost as they start to bulb out. This will also help to keep weeds down.

Soft fruit

If you haven't done it, check your blueberry, red and white currants, raspberries, and other soft fruits and side dress with compost or a good all-around fertilizer. The plants are in flower right now so keeping them fertilized will increase your yields.

In the greenhouse

The unheated greenhouse has a fine crop of lettuce and other greens that have been harvested for the last three weeks. Now they are starting to bolt so we're having to eat real fast! The peas are more than 3-feet tall, with artichokes about a foot tall. Strawberries are being harvested, as is the rhubarb. Strawberry-rhubarb tart anyone?

In the heated greenhouse, the heat was turned off in mid-April, but the artichokes are near fourfeet tall. Most of the fig, olive, and citrus trees have been moved onto the patio for the summer. The last key lime pie got made last week, so that harvest is over. These trees will come in again around late September. Soon it'll be time to do the maintenance on this greenhouse before planting it up for the fall and winter.


If you grow your lawn organically, don't worry too much about weeds, dig out dandelions by hand and just fertilize and mow. If you want a pristine green lawn you'll need to hit it with a broad leaf weed killer and fertilizer about now. Then stay off it for at least a week.

Flower gardens

As I say at this time every year, remove the seed pods on daffodils and other bulbs and feed the plants with high quality fertilizer. Do not cut the leaves for at least another six weeks. The leaves make nutrients for next year's flowers. Plant out your annuals for spot color in any bare spots. Spray Deer-Off or other deer sprays to keep the pesky animals from eating your flowers. It doesn't do much for your flower scent, but at least you can enjoy your flowers. Jamestown Hardware has Deer-Off or a similar spray.

Fruit trees

Put Tanglefoot® around tree trunks to prevent ants from bringing aphids up to the growing tips. Spray with fungicide just before bud break or just after the petals have dropped. Make sure that you have a supply of sticky red balls to trap coddling moth and apple maggot flies. Hang them out now.

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