Upper South

June, 2012
Regional Report

Dive Into Blueberries

Depending on the variety, blueberries ripen in our region from late May through early July. If your grow your own, your biggest obstacle to the harvest is having the birds get to them first. There are a variety of "bird-scare" tactics, but the most effective way to protect your berries is by building a mesh cage around them. Keep the ripe berries picked every two or three days. Or visit a local U-pick farm or farmer's market. Whichever way you get your blueberries, enjoy them fresh but also preserve some for year-round enjoyment by simply putting them into freezer bags and freezing.

Give Roses a Boost

Many of us have had roses blooming three or four weeks earlier than usual this year, so your roses may not have waited for the traditional June blooming period. To get the most flowers from reblooming roses, give them some extra care after the first round of flowers. Cut off the faded blooms, preferably back to a five-leaflet leaf and an outward-facing bud. Feed them with a fertilizer recommended for roses and make sure the plants get an inch of water each week.

Battle Biting Insects Safely

Your plants may not be the only thing bothered by insect pests. For those who enjoy working in the cooler hours of the late afternoon and evening in the garden, mosquitoes can be an irritating menace. Although DEET is considered one of the most effective mosquito repellents available, there are both health and environmental concerns with its use. The Center for Disease Control has found certain plant-based repellents to be as effective as DEET but without the concerns. These include picaridin, geraniol, and oil of lemon eucalyptus. Look for products with these ingredients.

Keep Tending Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the easiest of the food crops to grow, which is one of the reasons so many of us grow them. To get the best harvest possible from your tomatoes, it pays to give them a little extra attention. Whatever support method you choose, keep at it as the season progresses. Even with the simple method of heavy-duty wire cages, it's important to keep the new growth inside the cages until the plants reach near the top. Also, feed tomatoes with a specially designed tomato fertilizer, following manufacturer's directions. Most important of all is to keep the soil evenly moist, either with mulch or regular watering.

Cut and Dry Herbs

Drying is the easiest method of preserving herbs. The best time to harvest many herbs is just before the flowers first open, but if you've missed that point, harvest anyway. Gather herbs in early morning after the dew has dried. A dehydrator is the the fastest, most effective way to dry a wide range of herbs. Sturdy herbs, such as rosemary, sage, thyme, summer savory, and parsley are also easily dried by simply tying them into small bundles and hanging them upside down to air dry in a dark place.

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