Fireflies are on their way


Ray Baird



THE SWEET ESSENCE OF THE CAROLINA HONEYSUCKLE

There is a sweet scent in the spring evening air beginning at twilight. The wild honeysuckle is now in full bloom as it creeps along the roadways, hills, and valley areas of the Carolina landscape. The clean, fresh, essence of the honeysuckle wafts across the garden plot and over to the back deck filling the nostrils with heavenly delight.

THE YELLOW DUST OF POLLEN SEASON OF MID-MAY

The pollen from one tree variety and then another has been floating around since mid-April. As one tree finishes its pollen cycle, another begins the cycle all over. The pollen dust clings to everything as it floats across the air and lands on vehicles, car doors, motors, decks, and carports as well as lawns. Keep the doors and windows closed to keep it from settling on the furniture and draperies. Keep the hose handy to rinse the dusty pollen from vehicles. Use a dusting rag to wipe it from inside car doors and off of car and truck motors. You may want to wear a protective mesh mask when mowing the lawn as well as some eye protection to avoid burning eyes. Rinse or blow off the carport and drive way. The pollen will be around for a few more weeks,

PLANTING MOST OF THE CORN CROP

Corn is a vegetable that requires almost three months to reach harvest stage so it should soon be planted so it can mature in time for you to succeed it with another crop later in summer. You can plant white or yellow corn, but yellow is sweeter. Great varieties are Silver Queen, Golden Queen, How Sweet It Is, Butter fruit, Illini Chief, Golden Bantam, Illini Extra Sweet, and Peaches and Cream (bicolor).Always plant several rows so the bees and wind can pollinate it. Allow plenty of room between rows for tilling, harvest, and weed control.

THE GRAND DEBUT OF THE FIREFLY SEASON

Last year was not an abundant display season for fireflies. Maybe it was because of the harshness of the previous winter that destroyed their eggs or maybe many of them were eaten by insects. We hope this will be a season of recovery for them and that we will be treated to a large display every evening. With the exception of the Northern Lights and the Milky Way, they are nature’s most beautiful light show.

PREPARING FOR A BOUNTIFUL HARVEST OF TOMATOES

As May comes to a close and June begins, tomato plants can still be found at hardware and seed stores. Plant a six-pack or two for continued harvest. As the earlier tomatoes that were planted in mid-May continue to grow, fertilize them with Vigaro pellet tomato Fertilizer or Miracle-Gro liquid fertilizer. Before they begin to bloom, add two cups of powered lime to a sprinkling can of water and pour around the base of the plants to promote growth, mellow the soil, and prevent blossom-end rot. When you use tomato pellet fertilizer, always sprinkle it on both sides of the plants and pull soil up on both sides to cover the pellets of fertilizer.

THE SWAN SONG FOR THE CAROLINA STRAWBERRY CROP

You still have another week or so to finish the harvest of the Carolina strawberry crop. The season is growing short so make that last trip to the fields to enjoy picking a few gallons, enjoying the fresh country air and the scent of strawberries and honeysuckles- it don’t get any better!

STAKING AND CAGING GREEN PEPPERS

It is a wise idea to stake and cage green bell peppers because they can grow quite tall over a long hot summer that can be filled with gusty thunderstorms and wind. The cages and stakes will provide wind protection and support for the peppers and they will also make harvesting the peppers cleaner and the peppers will not be on the ground.

TRYING TO STAY AHEAD OF THE WEED POPULATION

As we approach the month of June, everything is growing but the weed dynasty is in full swing and if we don’t control them, they can quickly overtake a garden plot. The best way to control weeds is the “Barney Way” (nip them in the bud). Weeds that are pulled up at an early stage before they develop long roots and then thrown out of the garden is the best method of weed control. Just one morning glory can produce thousands of seeds, so it makes good sense to pull them up before they flower, run, and seed. Lamb’s Quarters and Bermuda grass can also be pulled up and thrown out of the garden.

KEEP HUMMINGBIRD NECTAR CHANGED OFTEN

The spring days of late may are getting warmer and the hummingbirds are more active. Keep the nectar in the feeders changed often because the liquid will be warmed by the sun and ferment after several days. It’s a good idea to fill feeders only half full to avoid wasting food. You can buy powered mix or ready-mixed nectar that can be refrigerated. Make your own nectar with half sugar, half water and a few drops of red food coloring.

STARING A FEW TENDER EGGPLANTS

The eggplant loves warm soil and warm nights. A four- pack or six-pack of egg plants will produce all a family will need. It’s a good idea to stake and cage eggplants because insects like their tender leaves and so do rabbits and deer! Set the plants about one and a half feet apart to allow for stakes and cages. Keep plenty of Sevin dust sprinkled on the leaves to control insects and fertilize with liquid fertilizer poured around the base of the plants every week. Water plants every other day if it doesn’t rain. The cages allow great support for the good-sized eggplants and keep them clean and out of contact with soil.

A SPECIAL HINT WHEN FREEZING STRAWBERRIES

We mentioned earlier in the column about the final two weeks of the strawberry harvest in the Piedmont. You still have plenty of opportunity to harvest berries for the freezer or to make jam or jelly. When you freeze strawberries, never run water over them to wash them because this makes them mushy and also removes the small seeds from them. The best way to prepare berries is to remove the green caps (they are caps nut hulls!). After removing caps, run cold water in the sink and place berries one quart at a time in the water for a few seconds without rolling them around or stirring them. Place a dry towel on the countertop and gently place berries on the towel to completely dry tem. Place dry berries in plastic quart freezer containers. This winter, they will be almost as good as freshly harvested and berries will be dry and not watery, because the moisture stays inside the berries.

Ray Baird has been providing gardening tips to the community for years and can be reached at 336-969-9350 or at BSylvia1946@gmail.com.

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Ray Baird

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