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Danelle Cutting: Questions on planting, strawberries and herbs answered

Where has the time gone? At every garden store I went to in April, most of the customers were asking that same question and couldn’t believe they had not finished planting their garden. Unfortunately, I am one of them as well!
We had a few late cold snaps and rain that held up most planters, and many of them believe in planting after the first of May.
May is also one of the most popular times to purchase garden supplies. We have been receiving many questions since people have started to work in their yards. Below are a few:

Question: Are strawberries annual?
Answer: We receive this question often because most people’s experience with strawberries is from a commercial farm. People think they are annual because they see the farms put the strawberries in and then take them out every year. This was a great system adopted a few years ago, but before this annual type system, farms used perennial matted rows. Very few commercial growers use the matted row system anymore.
Strawberries are a perennial but using the annual system, growers receive higher yields and can control weeds, disease and pests much easier by growing strawberries as annuals. This is why most do not continue to use the same strawberry plants every year. Of course, homeowners and small gardeners can grow perennial strawberries. Those that do grow them as perennials always look forward to those delicious berries every spring and are glad they don’t have to take them out each year.

Question: I read in the paper that strawberries are in season; do you know if they are at the farmers market yet?
Answer: Yes! Strawberries have started to arrive at the local market. This week will definitely be a great week to purchase some delicious strawberries. With as much sun as we’ve had and no rain, the strawberries should be delicious and sweet.
As the weeks go on, more growers will be bringing their strawberries to the market. I have already heard of a great opportunity coming up on May 17 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Salisbury Farmers Market, 115 S. Jackson St. (the old Wrenn House parking lot). They will be having Strawberry Shortcake Day. Local bakers and strawberry growers have joined together to make a scrumptious strawberry shortcake for their local customers. Be sure to go early because I hear quantities will be limited. The proceeds will help provide marketing funds for the Farmers’ Market.

Question: I am new to growing herbs, and my chives have blossoms on them; can I still eat them?
Answer: Of course! Just because many of them are in bloom now does not mean you can’t use them. Besides, most of their flowers are edible as well. Chives, thyme, rosemary and sage are just a few great examples of herbs with edible flowers. Many will use them as decoration and in salads and sandwiches. Sometimes, they can even be used as a substitution. Just a word of caution from experience, if you choose to use the chive blossom, take the large head and break up the bloom into tiny blossoms. Unfortunately, I got the bright idea to place the large heads in one of my salads. The salad was gorgeous but after eating the entire blossom, no one wanted to be near me!

Question: I did not get to plant my crops in April; can I still plant?
Answer: Most definitely! Some gardeners swear by planting the first of May or directly after Mother’s Day. I also like to tell people about staggering their plantings. If you stagger your plantings by a few weeks, you don’t have all of your produce ripening at the same time. Many will do this for sweet corn so they can have a later crop. Just remember, if you plan to use the same space for your fall garden, your summer crops need to be finished before you start planting, and we typically like to start planting some of our cool season crops in August.
For more information on plants, insects, or troubleshooting problems, contact local Extension Agent Danelle Cutting at 704-216-8970.

You can also visit the websites below:
Planting dates:
http://cals.ncsu.edu/hort_sci/extension/documents/AG-756.pdf
Strawberries:
www.ces.ncsu.edu/hil/hil-8205.html

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