Opinion

HELEN LANG: Prepare vegetable beds and get ready to defend them

Do you have a perfect green  lawn, spread out smoothly in front of your home? But, wait. What is that yellow spot? Actually there are several — could they be dandelions? I believe they are! They’ve gotta go!

Thus spoke the irritated home owner! It is said that a weed is just a flower in the wrong place and that’s the way I feel about dandelions because they really are beautiful.

There is a large congregation of them across the street from a church on Fourth street. They probably started out with one or maybe two plants and now there’s a sizeable family. I suppose someone who objects will come along and spray weed killer on them. I’ve heard that in England people actually plant dandelions in their flower gardens.

It is amazing that we humans seem to try to improve on what nature has provided. What about calendula, and ranunculus, which look like aristocratic dandelions?

I was at a nursery and in a display there was a sassy-looking gold ranunculus. I swear it smiled at me so, of course, I bought it. Its first bloom is over but there are two buds left. I should never be allowed in a nursery when I have my purse with me, otherwise I come home carrying something that is going to require loving care.

If you have your vegetable bed ready, you could plant transplants of broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower any time now but please don’t seed your corn. Wait until lilacs bloom —  an old gardener’s hint and I found it works. Corn wants a warmed soil to get it growing. Still too early for tomatoes, peppers and green onions unless you are going to cover them with a row cover of remay cloth  or plant them in a plastic tunnel where they are sheltered. They could also be placed in one of those tomato cages with a plastic coat wrapped around the sides. I used to use clothes pegs to hold the plastic in place.

Remove the tunnel when nights are warmer than they are right now and either remove it during the day or open the tunnel ends so that there is good air circulation.

Tomatoes and peppers are only safe outside at night in early May and even then watch the weather for nights cooler than 10 degrees. Cover them for sure if that temperature is forecast.

I remember one spring when I had just set the tomato plants outside to harden off during the day when, without warning, we had  hail. I was panic stricken as it beat down on my precious tomatoes. They survived but their leaves were pitted with tell-tale white marks where the hail stones had hit them. Just one of the hazards a home gardener has to face.

Then there are wandering dogs who tend to relieve themselves on your sturdy peppers. If you see them doing it, scream at them and rush out and turn the hose on the peppers. The dog will be startled but unlikely to take offence, thinking you just a trifle strange! But the peppers will be saved and probably taste exactly the same as the others not piddled upon.

Next time don’t forget to close the gate.

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.

Her column normally appears every Wednesday — it was bumped form last Wednesday’s edition due to space constraints.

 

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