Middle South

May, 2010
Regional Report

Lure Hummingbirds

While hummingbird scouts usually arrive with the April bloom of the red buckeye (Aesculus pavia), May is the month these energetic birds become regular visitors to garden. Putting out a feeder will increase their numbers, but it's even more satisfying to lure them with red flowers, which they can see from nearly a mile away. For this purpose, plant pineapple sage (Salvia elegans), cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), bee balm (Monarda didyma), and red columbine (Aquilegia canadense).

Make a Tomato Cage

You can make your own tomato cages with concrete reinforcing wire, which is sold at hardware and building supply stores. Have a friend help you hold the roll of wire while you cut it into 6-foot lengths with a pair of heavy-duty wire snips. Curl the cut wire into a circle, overlapping the edges and bending the wires at the cut end to hook the cage together. The cages can also be used as leaf bins, or opened into arches to support cucumbers, running beans or other climbing crops.

Grow Five Easy Herbs

If you haven't grown herbs but want to get started, look for those that are easy-to-grow and will be most useful in the kitchen. In my case this includes basil, which I make into yummy pesto or green goddess dressing; chives, perfect on salads or baked potatoes; parsley, for cold chicken and ham salads; rosemary, to season lamb, chicken, and nuts; and thyme, which is essential for grilled-meat marinades and savory soups and stews.

Keep a Balance of Bugs

Attracting beneficial insects to keep pest insects in check is a good practice if you want to garden without chemicals. The best way to draw natural predators, such as predatory wasps, hover flies, and ladybugs, is to offer a diverse array of plants. Their favorites include fennel, mint, coriander, tansy, cosmos, and yarrow.

Guillotine Weeds with Ease

Turn your dull hoe into a weed weapon of mass destruction by sharpening the blade to a knife-like edge. Support the hoe, blade up, and use a mill file (a flat file with fine, double cut teeth) to do the work. To sharpen, simply draw the file away from the handle and across the blade at a 45-degree angle. Repeat the stroke until the blade has a precise cutting edge.

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