June 15, 2008
Consider the plum
Gardeners who are short on space, but who would like to grow their own fruit, should consider plums. Store-bought plums are often hard, and tasteless while those fresh from the tree are sweet and juicy. Plums are ideal for small lots since the trees tend to stay in the 8- to-10-foot range. If planting only one, make sure to get a self-fruitful variety; otherwise, plant a few different types. There also are some shrubby cherry plums that produce cherry-sized fruits. All plums need plenty of sunlight for best performance.
In other fruit news, researchers at Oregon State University have found that thinning hardy kiwis before flowering will yield larger, more abundant fruit. This is true with many fruits - thinning the flowers by about a quarter will lead to better fruit set. In apples, which tend to produce heavily every other year, it also helps keep fruit set high.
Looking for some extra color? Try planting unusual summer bulbs, including Angel's Fishing Rod (Dierama), Bessera, Pineapple Lily (Eucomis), Kaffir Lily (Schizostylis), and Shellflower (Tigridia). Many summer bulbs come from hot, dry areas such as South Africa and Mexico, and like blazing, baking conditions. Most of these do well planted in sand or fine stone where they have perfect drainage.
beat the heat
As the temperature heats up, make gardening easier. Drip hoses are a great way to water without wasting. They can be laid out permanently and turned on when necessary. Group container plants together to keep the humidity higher so they dry out slower. Do yardwork early to take advantage of the cooler temperatures, and take lots of water breaks .
For Father's Day give Dad some potted herbs to place around the grill. A sprig of fresh-plucked rosemary adds depth to grilled steaks, tarragon does wonders with fish and Thai basil spices up teriyaki chicken. Herbs placed straight on the grill also provide a wonderful aroma.
Mark Weathington is the assistant director of the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, N.C. Reach him at [email protected]
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