Upper South

May, 2011
Regional Report

Eat Asparagus

For those into eating locally, this is the time of year to savor asparagus, whether from your own backyard or a farmers' market. Asparagus can be eaten raw, and the purple type is especially sweet this way. Or, simply steam it and serve with wedges of lemon, although butter is preferred by some. Grilled asparagus is great, too. Asparagus makes a great addition to quiches or omelets, and a creamed asparagus soup is good as well. Preserve some by pickling or freezing.

Give Your Houseplants a Summer Vacation

Houseplants set outdoors in a lightly shaded place will reward you with luxuriant growth. When moving them to the outdoors, try to choose a period with cool, gray, damp weather to help them adjust to the brighter light. If that's not possible, first move them to a shadier spot, then a spot with less shade, all in the name of preventing sunburned foliage. Feed them regularly with a balanced fertilizer, according the manufacturer's recommendations. Remember, too, that the soil will dry faster outdoors, so check them regularly.

Be Good to Your Soil

With the recent rainy period in much our region, the soil is saturated, so don't get in a hurry to dig or till, as it will be harmful to the soil's structure. Besides not digging, try to avoid walking on garden beds until they have gotten drier. Once they dry out somewhat, then you'll have to literally dig in to catch up with the weeds. Whenever you're weeding, be sure to remove roots and all. Once these are removed, if you haven't already fertilized and mulched, then hurry up and do so.

Shop for Both Unusual and Common Annuals

Garden centers are filled much more these days than just petunias, impatiens, wax begonias. Not that these are bad or that they should be dismissed. They are indestructible, long-blooming, and some should be in every garden. But, don't be afraid to try some of the lesser-known plants, like argyranthemum, bidens, lemon licorice, angelonia, or nemesia. Calibrachoas are available in an ever-widening array of colors. Be sure to include an old-fashioned heliotrope in a planter near a door, so that you can drink in that wondrous vanilla scent.

Look for Special Plant Sales and Garden Tours

Botanical societies, historical homes, garden clubs, master gardener groups, even zoos often have special plant sales, garden fairs and festivals, and garden tours in the spring and early summer. These often provide a great opportunity to buy new, rare, or unusual plants not often seen at retail as well as items for decorating the garden, or the tours give you the chance to see beautiful gardens and new ways to use plants in the garden. Check your local newspaper regularly or contact your local Cooperative Extension Service office.

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