Could secret to long life be in gardening? – Hilton Head Island Packet

It rained and rained, and March came in — like it’s supposed to do.

I thought about our trees and the big drink of water they’re getting, which will help prepare them for the warm summer months ahead. No more carrying water to our southern Arbor Day tree — the endangered Red Cedar planted at Fort Howell in December.

The rains have helped to prepare the ground for the spring planting that’s going on now in our yards, farm plots and garden containers. If you’re not into gardening, and you’re retired or about to be, you might want to give it a try. A Swedish study of more than 4,000 people over the age of 60 shows that activities like gardening have been linked to longer life.

No yard or farm plot to garden in? If you have a porch, a deck or a patio, you can garden in any number of raised beds, which are all the rage, especially with vegetable and herb gardeners. Women in particular are driving the stylization of the food garden. They want raised beds that look good when in full view of windows and outdoor living spaces. There are a number of materials available; styles are often chosen to reflect the home.

Seeds that we are planting now include spring peas, pole beans and the greens family — mesclun, butterhead lettuce, arugula and kale. We order from, and have had great luck with, Renee’s Garden Seeds.

At this time, we are still receiving questions about the results of the January freeze. Many plants that lost their leaves are poky about leafing out.

Question. I have a small Hamlin orange tree that is about 5 feet tall. If I fertilize with 8-10-10 starting in March, how much should I use? Do deer eat citrus buds and blossoms? Alison Reese

Answer. It’s best to use a fertilizer specific to citrus. The ratio is usually three times a year starting in March; the amount for a small tree would be no more than a half-cup. Oh boy, deer and their edible habits. Throw out the previous list. What with the lack of green vegetation, deer are broadening their menu. If they can get to them, they will eat fruit tree foliage. An orange-tree grower told me last week that a deer had eaten every orange off his tree. This does not sound like deer. A squirrel? A rat? An escaped monkey?

Q. I have a medium lime tree in a large pot. Many leaves have dropped, others look limp. Does that mean the tree is doomed? Tom Fitzgerald

A. No, I do not think the tree will die. I would not count on fruit this year, though, except maybe late in the year.

Q. This year, my Sago palm is growing well, but the new growth stopped before spreading fronds, which curled up in a white color in the center of the plant, and produced small orange balls that look like golf balls. This has never happened before. Mary Jo Happley

A. Your Sago has reached maturity. You may plant the balls for more Sagos, or leave them on the ground and they will often root on their own.

The most questions asked of me last year were about climate change: “Is it changing or not?” I asked this question of Chris Wille, chief of sustainable agriculture for the Rainforest Alliance. Here is his answer: “Farmers and gardeners are already aware of the impact of climate change on our economy and quality of life. The catastrophic weather events of 2013 seem to have alerted everyone on the planet. Let’s resolve to work together during 2014 to help Mother Nature keep her cool.”

Sixty-year master gardener and environmentalist Betsy Jukofsky has spent three decades on Hilton Head Island learning the peculiarities of Coastal Lowcountry gardening.

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