Garden Keeper

Adding a little lemon scent is easy

Finally, we've had a stretch of warm, sunny days. We really ccould use the rain (we're under a drought warning), but its hard to beat an afternoon spent outdoors potting up new plants. It's still early for planting out most things (remember the sleet and snow a few weekends ago?), there's plenty that can be done.

I'm holding off my planting not only because our frost date is May 15, but also because I haven't received all of my new plants yet. So, I'm storing the tubers and corms in a cool, dry area and potting up the bare-root plants to hold them until I decide where they're going.

My tabletop greenhouse is full with newly acquired herbs and flowers, a few seedlings and some beautiful plants I received for Easter. Although it is small, basically two mesh shelves with a plastic cover, it serves well for the transition from the house to the yard. The zippered opening flips up to allow air circulationon warm days but can be zipped down if we have a cold spell.

My other projects, while garden-related, had nothing to do with plants. With a lot of help, I fixed the birdfeeder, recushioned one set of chairs and refurbished (readsand, prime and paint) another comfortable but rusting set of chairs. These chores, like bringing out the umbrella, reconnecting the hoses and storing the snow shovels, are an important part of preparing the garden. After a few hours of weeding this summer, what better than to rest under the shade of an umbrella as I rock on my deck chair and sip a cool drink.

LEMON-SCENTED HERBS

Lemon is one of the most popular scents from the garden, but few gardeners have a greenhouse or sunroom large enough for to growing lemons in. Fortunately, there are manyan abundance of lemon-scented plants for that allowthe averagegardeners to enjoy this fragrance.

In my opinion, One of the best lemon scents (aside from lemons, of course)is lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla). Although not hardy, consider growing this small woody herb as a houseplant or as an annual. The leaves add a touch of lemon flavor to drinks, fish and poultry dishes or salad dressings.

Another popular option would be is the perennial lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). Used similarly fashion to lemon verbena, lemon balm is not as strong, so use abouttwice as much for the same flavor strength.

A third strong lemon flavor and scent comes from lemongrass (Cymbopogon citrates). Essential in Thai and Vietnamese cooking, lemongrass has become increasingly mainstream as cooks discover its culinary uses. Plants are available, but you can start your own from lemongrass stalks frompurchased in the produce market. It is tender but can be grown in a pot for year-round enjoyment.

Then, there's a second type of lemon-scented plants --: those where the lemon is a highlight to the overall scent or taste of the plant, including lemon varieties of basil (Ocimum "Mrs. Burns" or O. "Sweet Dani"); bergamot (Monarda citriodora), catnip (Nepeta cataria ssp. citriodora), mint (Mentha "Hillary's Sweet Lemon"), savory (Satureja biflora) and thyme (creeping lemon thyme, lemon thyme, golden lemon thyme, Thymus "Doone Valley," T. "Goldstream Lemon," T. "Lemon Carpet," T. "Highland Cream," T. "Magic Carpet," to name a few).

The third option is an ornamental with a lemon fragrance but with little or no culinary value, including scented geraniums (Citronella, Mabel Grey, P. crispum "Major" and "Minor," Frensham, Lemon balm, Prince Rupert and others), lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora), as well as the Lemon Gem (Tagetes tenuifolia) and Lemon Mint (T. lemmonii) marigolds.

So if you love the scent of lemon but don't have the room for a lemon tree, there are myriad options lemon fragrance into your garden, patio or home.

LAWN CARE

As dreams of green velvet lawns fill the heads of lawn enthusiasts everywhere, the time is here to finallyget to work. While not the ideal time (September and October are) for sodding,Lawns put in now through the end of May will have a chance to establish roots before the drying sun of summer. Be aware, however, if we do have a prolonged dry season and drought warnings are posted, your new lawn will have a difficult time of it this summer.

Other important lawn tasks include crabgrass control. This does not necessarily mean that everyone must dump sacks of chemicals on the lawn.If your lawn is healthy and your weed problems minor, consider using spot treatments for problem areas rather than treating the entire lawn.

Also, remember when using pre-emergent weed killers that they are mostly non-specific. This means that you should not treat any area that has been newly sown with grass seed, and extra care should be used when applying to lawns that are near flower or vegetable beds where you have recently planted seeds.

Broadleaf weed control is yetanother concern. Again, if the problem is not severe, consider spot treatments and use extra care when applying to avoid overspraying perennial beds as many will be killed or damaged by weedkillers. Do not treat lawns with any chemicals on windy days and always follow manufacturers' instructions for application, usage and disposal.

Sue Kittek is a freelance garden writer. Send questions to Garden Keeper at grdnkpr@ptd.net or mail: Garden Keeper, The Morning Call, P.O. Box 1260, Allentown, Pa 18105.
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