By Brent Gray
Tired of planting flowers every spring? Try these foolproof perennials that, once established, will give you years of flowers and enjoyment—some will probably outlive you and provide pleasure for your heirs.
For shady areas of the garden try Lenten rose, one of my absolute favorites. Few perennials can boost beautiful flowers in the shade that lasts for months! These plants prefer an alkaline soil so adding a little lime to acid soils will help these plants to grow best.
Hostas love the shade and come in so many foliage colors and sizes. The cream or white variegated cultivars lighten up those shady nooks and crannies of the garden. There are bright yellow-foliaged varieties as well—lovely lavender or white blooms in summer are a bonus. Southern Shield fern will spread happily throughout a shady part of the garden and will grow 3 feet tall. For sunny areas, try Autumn Joy sedum, butterfly weed, Goldstrum coneflower, purple coneflower, catmint, or any of several 100 daylily cultivars. These plants will thrive with minimal care, once established, and some will provide plant divisions to share with your neighbors and gardening friends.
After harvesting blackberries, you can remove these fruiting canes to make room for the developing new canes that will provide the fruit for next year. Prune the tips of these new canes to encourage branching and good fruit production.
Outdoor areas are often perfect for pots of flowers, herbs, or small ornamental shrubs. Good annuals for sunny spots include begonia, Madagascar periwinkle (annual vinca), and moss rose (portulaca). Coleus and impatiens are great for shade. Try adding one of the water-absorbing polymers like Watersorb to the soil in the container to reduce the need for frequent watering. Fertilize every 3 to 4 weeks with a water soluble fertilizer.
The cool wet spring continues to plague vegetable plants in the garden. Many onions have bolted and the towering seed stalk of some have opened to display the round flower head. These plants should be removed from the garden and used as green onions since the presence of a flower stalk signals the end of bulb growth.
Cucurbit growers should be scouting for early signs of disease. The wet, foggy mornings are allowing moisture to remain long enough for fungi to grow and affect leaves of watermelon, squash, and cucumber.
Rain patterns are shifting and we are experiencing several rain-free days. Remem-ber to water any week there is not an inch of rainfall. Tomatoes with fruit on them require two inches of water each week.
Sweet corn growers have a decision to make. There is a practice by some growers to remove the stalk above the ear after the pollination process is finished. The topping procedure is controversial and seems to work sporadically. After much re-search, the only advantages you can expect are easier harvesting and less bird damage.
Hot peppers develop capsaicin in response to both genetics and environment. The pungency is reported is Scoville units and can vary by several hundred to several thousand units based upon the temperature and sunlight the plant receives. Plant in the sunniest location in both day length and intensity to get the hottest pepper.