New England

May, 2010
Regional Report

Bring Home Healthy Transplants

Get your garden off to a good start by choosing healthy seedlings. Select plants with few or no flower buds. Gently slide the rootball out of its container for a peek; roots should be white and not circling around the inside of the container or in a dense mat. Skip over plants with any signs of insects or disease. Choose stocky plants with deep green leaves. Avoid extremely leggy plants or ones with many yellowing leaves. Remember plants purchased directly from a greenhouse or garden center may not be hardened off yet. If you're unsure, gradually accustom your new transplants to outdoor conditions before setting them in the open garden.

Thin Your Beets

What we think of as a beet seed is actually a dried fruit enclosing several seeds. So even if you carefully place your beet "seeds" an inch apart, you'll still need to thin them to give the roots room to develop. A week to ten days after the seedlings poke through the soil, thin to 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Make a second thinning a month later, leaving 4 inches between plants. Use the tops from this second thinning as greens in a spring salad.

Feed Your Lawn

Your lawn will make the best use of a spring fertilizer application if it is actively growing before you feed it. Wait until you have mowed a couple of times before spreading fertilizer. This is also a good time to topdress with a thin layer of compost to encourage healthy soil life; spread about an inch over the lawn and gently rake it in.

Support Your Perennials

Get supports for tall or floppy plants in place while they are still small. Wire peony rings are great for keeping the big blossoms of double-flowered varieties from drooping, especially after a rain. Many of the single-flowered peony varieties are self-supporting. The tall spires of delphinium usually need stakes for the individual flower heads to look their best.

Pinch Off Your Strawberry Blossoms

Pinch off the blossoms on your June-bearing strawberries the first season they are in the ground. This will produce plants with stronger, healthier root systems and runners, and you'll get more berries the following year. If you are growing everbearing (or day neutral) varieties, pinch off the blossoms until about July 1, then let the plants set fruit.

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Special Report - Garden to Table

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