Upper South

May, 2008
Regional Report

Tour Gardens

Garden clubs, community organizations, and other groups often sponsor tours of private gardens at this time of year. These offer an opportunity for lots of inspiring ideas for landscape design using a wide variety of plants, including "ordinary" ones as well those that are new and different. There are also ideas for hardscaping, including garden ponds, patios, fencing, garden furniture, and art. Check local newspapers, Master Gardener clubs, Extension offices, botanical gardens and arboreta, and local garden centers for announcements about these events.

Welcome Hummingbirds

Ten species of hummingbirds have a range that extends significantly north of the Mexican border. Of these, the ruby-throated hummingbird has the widest range, migrating across the Gulf of Mexico and then spreading out over the eastern half the United States and into Canada. Welcome hummingbirds to your garden by providing feeders filled with sugar water in the proportions of one part sugar to four parts water. Warm the mixture until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved, then cool. Refresh the feeders once or twice a week. Also plan to include brightly colored nectar flowers to the garden.

Plant Main-Season Vegetables

Granted, there have been occasional late-May snowfalls, but the odds are in your favor for planting the main-season vegetables, both from transplants and seeds. When transplanting tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, it's best to plant in the late afternoon or evening, preferably just before a rain; otherwise, water well. Beans, corn, squash, and melons top the list of crops to start directly from seed into the garden. For summer greens, look to Swiss chard and heat-tolerant varieties of spinach. For me, no summer would be complete without okra, too.

Enjoy Asparagus and Strawberries

There are a number of foods that are part of the joy of spring eating, including peas, arugula, a wide variety of lettuces, Asian greens, and rhubarb. But none are more relished than asparagus and strawberries. If you're not growing your own, buy some plants and get them into the ground soon for upcoming years. Meanwhile, visit a farmer's market or u-pick farm to get the best locally grown of these treats. Try roasting asparagus on the grill and serve with lemon. Be sure to pickle some for next winter. Strawberries need very little adornment. Make some preserves, too. And don't forget strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Plant Trees

Deciduous trees planted on the south, east, and west sides of your home will provide shade in the summer that will help to cool the house and reduce air conditioning bills, while the winter sun can shine through the leafless branches, warming the house. Choose high-quality, long-lived trees, such as red or sugar maples, thornless honey locust, red or white oaks, and lindens. Avoid the fast-growing trees as these are often weak. For yards with limited space, try smaller-growing trees like serviceberry, American hornbeam, dogwood, or redbud. Plant evergreen trees on the north side of the house for protection from winter winds.

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Special Report - Garden to Table

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