Spring is in full bloom! Here’s what you should be picking and planting this month.
What to Pick
Dahlias (dahlia pinnata) are plentiful right now. They began flowering profusely in our gardens just in time for the Ag Show. This presumably also happened in 1843 since Governor Reid mentions the dahlia as being one of the plants receiving prizes at Bermuda’s very first Agricultural Show. They originated in Mexico where the Aztecs valued them not only for their beauty but also for medicine and food. They can be eaten but were once described by a Victorian as having a “repulsive, peppery taste inspiring equal disgust to man and beast.” So try at your peril. Dahlias in Bermuda were first mentioned in 1806 by visiting French botanist, Francois Andre Michaux. These days there are numerous varieties in an array of colours other than blue. However, in Europe in 1826 one thousand pounds was offered as the prize for a blue dahlia. Apparently, one was exchanged for a diamond.
African Iris (dietes bicolor)
Native to South Africa, these delicate pale lemon blossoms are orchid like in appearance, thanks to the dark spots at the base of broader petals. The flowers contrast with the narrow, sword-like leaves.
Strawberries (fragaria x ananassa) are also in abundance. What can be more delicious than locally grown strawberries served with cream? They were grown in Bermuda at least by 1790 and Susette Harriet Lloyd mentions in her memoir seeing them here in 1829.
What to Plant
Marigolds (tagetes spp) and calendula (calendula officinalis) are very similar in appearance, thanks to their range of yellow to orange to bronze colours (calendula is also known as a pot marigold), but they are actually different species. Marigolds are ideal for the hotter months and are excellent companions for edible plants, such as broccoli, tomatoes and squash since they deter pests. The limonene they contain deters whiteflies while the alpha-terthienyl they secrete from their roots inhibits nematode eggs from developing. Marigolds also attract slugs and snails, diverting them from growing vegetables. Plant both marigolds and calendula in full sun and well-drained soil. Water frequently until well established. Thereafter, avoid overwatering.
Plant seeds an inch deep in rich, well-drained soil and in full sun. Thin seedlings 1 to 2 inches apart. Water regularly to ensure flowering.