Are we going to have an early spring?
I got this question from calls into the office and from people I meet.
We are going to have an early Easter this year, and when Easter comes this early we could have an early spring. This didn't seem to answer the question, so I looked at what the experts had to say. It turned out they were unable to come to a consensus. Some of the groundhogs said that we would have an early spring and some said that we would have six more weeks of winter.
The question is still unanswered. I can tell you that there are signs that spring is right around the corner. Last week, I saw daffodils blooming and forsythia buds starting to swell. These are some of the earliest blooming plants we have. Another plant that blooms early is rosemary, one of my favorite plants in the landscape.
A lot of the plants that we grow in the garden have many stories and rosemary is no exception. In ancient Greece, rosemary was thought to help increase memory, so students would twine sprigs of rosemary in their hair or wear garlands of rosemary while they studied.
Another tale was that rosemary would not grow more than 6 feet tall in 33 years, so it would not be taller than Jesus of Nazareth. Another legend suggests that the flowers on rosemary once were white, but the Virgin Mary hung her cloak on the bush while fleeing from King Herod's soldiers with the Christ child and the flowers turned blue. In the Middle Ages, men and women would place sprigs of rosemary under their pillows at night to keep away bad dreams.
Rosemary is a perennial evergreen shrub that is grown in our area. If you are looking for a plant that is easy to grow and has few pest problems, try rosemary.
Rosemary has a scaly bark and green needlelike leaves that give the plant a grayish color. This color makes it an unusual plant in the landscape. Another benefit is the pale blue flowers that are produced. Rosemary will flower from December through April. The blooms will attract bees to your gardens in early spring, which is an added benefit to your vegetable garden.
Rosemary does best in a soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. The soil needs to be well drained. The biggest problem that I see with rosemary is too much water. If rosemary gets too much water, it will get root rot. The first sign is the plant starts to turn yellow.
I have a rosemary that is 4 or 5 feet from a downspout. When we are getting a lot of rain, the plant will start to turn yellow. At one point, I lost about one-third of the plant. When the soil dried out, the plant recovered.
The other major requirement for rosemary is full sun. I have some in partial shade and the plants do well, but they don't flower like the ones in full sun. Rosemary requires very little or no fertilizer. If you use too much fertilizer, you will reduce the health of the plant and the oils in it that provide its fragrance. Use a light mulch to help control weeds and keep the soil loose.
Rosemary comes in two forms. The upright form will get around 6 feet tall. The other form is prostrate. The prostrate varieties make great ground covers and can flow over walls. Both the prostrate and upright forms can be used in cooking. The leaves and flowers can be used as a garnish. I have used the twigs and limbs as skewers on the grill.
When harvesting parts of the plants, prune no more than 20 percent of the plant at a time. If you prune more than that, you will reduce the plant's vigor and it will take a long time to recover. New plants can be started from cuttings. Start with a cutting that is 3 to 4 inches long. Usually, rooting hormone isn't needed for success. Stick the cuttings in moist soil, and in a few weeks you should have a new plant.
Another benefit that I have found with rosemary is that it is deer resistant. Deer don't like rosemary, so I use it around plants that deer like to eat. Rosemary is an easy plant to grow and it will fit nicely into all gardens.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Extension Web address is www.ugaextension.com/columbia.
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