Middle South

May, 2011
Regional Report

Fill the Gap Between Pavers

There are many plants that will thrive between garden pavers, shrugging off the abuse of foot traffic while softening the appearance of concrete and stone. If conditions are sunny and dry, consider one of the many creeping thymes, such as the tiny Thymus serpyllum 'Elfin' or Thymus praecox 'Pseudolanuginosus', better known as woolly thyme. For woodland paths, try creepers that require shade and moisture, like Corsican mint, Mentha requieni, or the lush and lovely Veronica repens.

Sprout an Avocado

An avocado pit easy to sprout, and though it won't bear fruit indoors, it can make a handsome houseplant whose leaves can be used as a seasoning in Mexican recipes. Simply stick three or four toothpicks around its middle and place the wide end of the pit over a water-filled glass with its bottom third submerged. Keep in an area with bright light but no direct sun, wait for roots and a shoot, then plant the pit in potting soil with the top third of the pit exposed.

Try Wild Arugula

If you come across a plant called wild arugula with leaves that are narrower and darker green than the usual Eruca vesicaria ssp. sativa, you may have a plant worth trying. Diplotaxis tenuifolia, also called perennial wall-rocket, is an erect mustard-like plant that had fallen into oblivion but is fashionable again because of the popularity of Italian cuisine. If you taste them together, the differences will be obvious, as the wild herb is both more pungent and sweet. Wild arugula has a distinct advantage, though. While typical arugula becomes tough and distasteful once it flowers, wild arugula can be cultivated by the cut and come again method for a second harvest.

Choose Flat Parsley for Recipes

While on the subject of herbs, it's worth considering the difference between flat parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum) and curly parsley (P. crispum). Flat parsley is preferred for recipes, as it has a stronger flavor and is easier to wash, while the curly type is the more decorative choice for serving plates and tussie mussie bouquets. Another valuable tip is to purchase small plants whenever possible, as parsley will bolt to seed as quickly as possible if its roots are damaged.

Conserve Peat Moss

There's been lots of concern lately about the unchecked use of peat moss, since it takes hundreds of years for a virgin bog to return to its original condition once harvested. Whichever side of the issue you fall on, there are times peat can easily be replaced with a substitute. Though there is currently no suitable replacement for the peat in seed-starting mixes, opt to store summer bulbs in newspaper or shredded coconut fiber, and improve the water-holding capacity of soil with compost or leaf mold.

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