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Gardening with Jack: Merry Month of May

When I was a boy (a long long time ago) I used to enjoy the old English Robin Hood ballads. Every ballad was set in the merry month of May and made me wonder what on earth Robin, Maid Marion, Friar Tuck and Little John got up to in the other months of the year. Obviously May is a wonderful month in England and so it is too in The Bahamas. Poinciana trees and crepe myrtle are flowering, the mangoes are fattening up, and in the garden onions are ready to pull and strawberries are abundant.

Let your onion leaves dry right down and then pull each bulb, removing the roots with your thumbnail or a pair of scissors. Leave the plants on the ground for a few days, turning now and then, in order to allow the outer skin to toughen before you manhandle the bulbs.

Onions are best stored by plaiting the leaves, tying a length of twine around the end, and then hanging the bunches in a dry, shaded, breezy location. If you cannot plait then use two or three lengths of twine around the middle and upper portions of the leaves.

When it comes time to separate an onion from the bunch, use a pair of scissors to cut it away from the leaf at a point two inches above the crown of the bulb. This is important as the very top of the bulb is the last place to cure. If you do not want to bother with plaiting and tying, cut all your leaves at the two inch mark and put the bulbs in an onion bag for hanging. Every day or two massage your bag to let onions in the centre get some light. How long your onions will keep depends upon the variety you chose to grow.

The one rule for strawberries this time of year is to not allow the fruits to touch the soil. Crumpled kitchen towels under the fruits are not pretty but do the job.

Summer veggies such as snake beans, cucumbers and okra can be planted in May. Probably the best crop for this time of year is sweet corn. You will need a fertile area about the size of an 8-seater dinner table in order to sow a full pack of seeds.

Plant your seeds, one to a hole, an inch or so deep, in rows about 10 inches apart and 10 inches between seeds in the row. A few days after planting you can wet the area with Miracle-Gro using a hose end sprayer. Once the plants are about 6 inches tall you can use a trowel and make 2-inch deep channels midway between your plants both lengthwise and crosswise. Sprinkle 6-6-6 fertilizer in these channels and replace the soil. The plants should be watered lightly every day it does not rain.

After one month, spray you plants with liquid Sevin or use Sevin dust. When the corn cobs begin to develop apply Sevin again. When the silk that protrudes from the cobs turns dark your corn on the cob is ready. The next step is to invite your pals to a barbecue and make your home-grown corn the centre of attention. Use real butter.

We tend to use more sweet peppers in summer than we do in winter. You can make sure you have enough by planting two seeds in one hole and using 4 or 5-gallon containers with good potting soil. The sun tends to scorch the fruits in mid-summer but the foliage from two plants growing as one will help keep the fruits shaded. Place your containers where they get morning and evening sun but are shaded in the early afternoon. Because you have two plants in one pot you will have to increase the fertilizer and water schedule but do not overdo it. Two outboard motors will not make a skiff go twice as fast.

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