It’s the middle of the merry month of May in this most unusual year. Bill and I spent time recently in our RV at a lakeside campground and fished daily. The fresh air was invigorating, and we wore jackets until noon each day. Social distancing is a bit easier with a change of scenery and I am thankful we have outdoor hobbies to keep us active. The weather has changed to a summer pattern of warmer temperatures and increased humidity.
There were garden chores waiting for me when we returned home. Weeds do not take a vacation. I mulched tomato and pepper beds after planting. Squash and green beans were seeded, and I apply mulch after the plants are up. The soil in raised beds is loose so weeding was done quickly with hand tools. For larger areas, a stirrup hoe makes quick work of weeding. Now I need to apply three to four inches of chopped leaves so weeds can be controlled.
Tomatoes have golf ball-sized green fruit, so it is time to feed. I will scatter one tablespoon of 21-0-0 about six inches from each plant and then water it in. Another method is to dissolve one tablespoon in a gallon of water and apply to the soil around the tomato.
Tomatoes need to be fed every three to four weeks for the best production. You may also use a water-soluble tomato food found at garden centers. Check the leaves for any signs of pest damage.
As cool season crops such as potatoes and onions are harvested, garden space will open up. Those areas may be replanted with heat-loving vegetables such as okra, southern peas, sweet potatoes, watermelons or Malabar spinach.
Since I have small raised vegetable beds, I don’t have room for southern peas or watermelon vines. I will plant okra and Malabar spinach after onions are harvested. The soil will need to be kept evenly moist while the seedlings are small. When the plants are a couple of inches tall, I will put layers of newspapers between the rows and wet them down. Then I’ll apply three inches of chopped leaves. This will retain moisture and control weeds.
Each year I plant my Easter lily in the flower bed. After a few weeks, the plant will die down and go dormant until early spring. This year the blooms were spectacular. Easter lilies make lovely cut flowers for late spring arrangements and their fragrance is delightful. In early spring I fertilize the area where they are growing with a balanced fertilizer and water in well. Choose a site that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. They prefer a well-drained garden soil rich in organic matter.
Purty Purple Stokes Aster, Stokesia laevigata, was in bloom along with the Easter lilies and echoed the blue-purple colors of spiderwort and Indigo Spires salvia. Stokes Aster is native to the southeastern U.S. It has flowers 3-4 inches across in late spring and will rebloom if flower heads are trimmed off before turning to seed. It likes moist, well-drained soil and tolerates heat, but not drought. Butterflies love it and it makes an attractive cut flower. Like many perennials, it seems to perform better each successive year.
Indigo Spires Salvia, Salvia longispicata x farinacea, has blue-purple flower spikes and dark green shiny foliage. It begins blooming in late spring and continues until frost. It’s also a nectar source for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. In mid-summer I prune it about one-third of its height to maintain shape and encourage more blooms.
Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana, is native to much of the U.S. It has grass-like strappy leaves and a three-petaled bloom. Each bloom lasts one day, but there are many blooms on a stem. They are blooming along the edge of shady roadsides now. After blooming trim, them back to about half their height. They may be thinned and transplanted in the fall.
Indigo, Amorpha fruiticosa, is a native shrub that is in full bloom in my flower bed. It’s about 10 feet tall and tolerates poor drainage. When the purple and orange blossoms appear, it is covered with native bees of all sizes. It grows in our area along streams and rivers.
Gardening is a year-round activity. It is especially rewarding when all the planning and effort comes together in successful vegetable and flower gardens. I hope you enjoy gardening as much as I do.