Upper South

April, 2010
Regional Report

Keep Your Camera Handy

Taking photos of our gardens is both a fun pastime and a big help in planning for any changes in the garden. Unfortunately, spring seems to go by at a breakneck pace, and what was beautifully in bloom one day is often gone before you have time to take photos (let alone enjoy it). So, make sure you have your camera readily available, perhaps sitting near the door you most often use to go into the garden, and, if needed, get a new memory card. The best light for photography is early morning and at dusk. Try to avoid taking photos on a bright, sunny afternoon, when you'll get harsh shadows in your photos.

Choose Your Sunscreen Wisely

It's important to apply sunscreen before going out into the garden, but not all sunscreens are equal. Some contain ingredients with known or suspected health hazards, including octinoxate, oxybenzone, homosalate, or octisalate. One of the best choices for garden activities is Elemental Herbs Sunscreen Sport SPF 22, a zinc-based formula with a light tint. If you have sensitive skin, consider MyChelle Sun Shield SPF 28, which contains aloe powder and soybean oil.

Get A Kitchen Compost Bucket

Although a kitchen compost bucket is useful year-round, with the spring appearance of garden-fresh vegetables and fruits, it's usefulness become paramount. Unless, of course, you don't mind fruit flies zipping about your kitchen. Commercially available kitchen compost buckets have tight-fitting lids and activated carbon filters that trap food odors. They are variously made of plastic, stainless steel and glazed clay. Most are attractive enough to have sitting near the kitchen sink.

Enjoy Asparagus

Fresh asparagus is now available, either from your own garden or at your local farmer's market. In selecting asparagus, remember that size isn't an indicator of quality or flavor. You want bright green (or purple) spears that are firm, with the tips closed and compact. To store, wrap the cut ends in a damp paper towel, place in a plastic bag, and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Besides simply steaming fresh asparagus, try roasting or grilling some, adding to tortellini soup, or tossing uncooked pieces with olive oil and feta.

Know The Approximate Times to Plant

Even though some of may have experienced record-setting temperatures already, there may still be frosty night temperatures. Officially, for most of us, the last frost date is May 10. Seedlings and seeds planted too early can become stunted and fail to thrive, unless special protective measures are taken. Besides being able to plant tomatoes and peppers transplants after the last expected frost date, it is also safe to direct sow beans and sweet corn. Two weeks after the last frost date, the soil is warm enough to direct sow cucumbers, squash, melons, and pumpkins into the garden.

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