2010-05-27 / News

The Island Garden

You can learn a lot from what doesn’t grow
By Roger Marshall

The strange winter we had – with a lot of warm weather in early spring – was great for earlyfl owering fruit trees, such as apricot and plum, which often come into flower and then get snowed on. This year, the apricot tree is showing a lot of fruit, but with the cold snap we had a couple of weeks ago, the apple trees did not fare as well.

The upshot of this is that it’s time to spray the fruit trees again. This should be the fourth spraying of the year so far – the first two sprays were in the cold weather when dormant oil and Bordeaux mix were sprayed to control overwintering insects and fungi. The third spray was immediately after blossom drop and now, we spray again to control plum circulio, apple maggot and coddling moth.

I use an organic Neem-based spray for these critters, but most garden centers have other organic sprays based on rotenone and pyrethrins as well. These sprays are mostly made from plants grown in India and Kenya, and break down in sunlight after a few days. They are safe on fruit up to a few days from harvest, which is a long way off yet.

While you are looking at your fruit trees, check any new growth in the center of the tree. If it looks like a new watersprout is beginning to grow, simply snip it off now. Doing it now will save time next spring and be less harmful to the tree.

Also on your to-do list for the garden is to trim shrubs and bushes. As soon as new growth has settled down and turned dark green, you can trim your shrubs and bushes. For some bushes, that might be a while yet, but many other shrubs have already made good growth and can be trimmed.

In the vegetable garden, start a few more lettuce seeds to keep a continual supply of lettuce coming. With the price of lettuce in stores at approximately $2 a head, growing your own makes economic and tasteful sense. You might also want to plant another row of peas. They should be harvestable before it gets really hot, hopefully, and you’ll get fresh peas – snow, snap or regular – for summer salads.

If you plan on growing winter squash this summer, dig a lot of well-rotted compost into the ground and then plant your squash. Squash plants tend to be heavy feeders and need manure, compost and water on a regular basis to get the best from the plants.

If you can’t set them in wellrotted compost or manure, add a little fertilizer to help them grow big and fast. Having a pile of fresh squash and pumpkins for the Thanksgiving table can be quite attractive and quite tasty.

Be wary of squash beetles, though, that can damage vines by boring into them. Squash beetles seem to appear overnight and can ruin the plant in a matter of days. I find the best way to cut down on their meals is to wrap the stem of the squash plant in aluminum foil. Then, the beetle cannot bore into the plant – some say it’s scared off by its own reflection – and you benefit from a ton of squash.

Planting corn is often a problem for the home gardener. You set out a packet of seeds, only to find that you’ve fed every mouse within half a mile and there’s no sign of corn. I get around this by germinating corn indoors and setting it into the garden on a one-foot-square grid. It is usually three to five inches high by the time the corn is planted out, and there is little sign of the corn seed that is so tasty to animals. Without the corn seed, the corn grows fast and tall, and I get almost 100 percent of the seeds in the packet.

It is only by trying many different ways to germinate vegetables and grow fruit that one becomes a gardener. Remember, it’s not how many plants you grow that makes a gardener; rather, it’s how many plants you kill and learn from.

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