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Volume 13, Issue 20 ~ May19 - 25, 2005
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Dr. Gouin's Bay Gardener
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Dr. Gouin's Bay Gardener

Oh! What a Bay We Live On

Longer, cooler spring, delayed autumn frost give us longer growing season than our inland neighbors

We who live by the Bay garden in a unique micro-climate. Our azaleas, magnolias and rhododendrons and spring flowering bulbs start flowering about a week later and last a week longer than in Washington, D.C., or in Baltimore. That is because the cold waters of the Bay cool the air to delay flowering, thus preventing late frost damage.

The longer, cooler spring temperatures near the Bay also let us grow cool-season crops such as peas, beets, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, lettuce, kale and collard greens.

In summer, the Bay helps to moderate high summer temperatures. This allows us to grow high-temperature crops such as beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, okra, cucumbers, Swiss chard and summer squash. As an added bonus, vegetable plants and summer flowering annuals produce over a longer time and yield more. This keeps us busier freezing, canning and giving produce away to our city friends.

A lack of sufficient water is the common reason our gardens fail during the summer months, so we must either get adequate rainfall or irrigate.

The moderating effects of the Bay are most pronounced during the late summer and fall months, when the Bay releases heat. This warming effect extends the growing season by delaying early frost. We can enjoy growing tomatoes, snap beans, peppers and even sweet corn later in the year than our fellow gardeners who live more inland. At the same time, it allows us to grow a cool-season crop of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, turnips and collard greens.

Most late-summer and fall-planted gardens will produce Brussels sprouts and collards almost until the new year. Spring-planted carrots and parsnips can be left in the ground and dug as needed until the ground freezes. Matter of fact, parsnips can be left in the ground until March.

Sometimes as late as December we are still enjoying zinnias, vinca, galardia, snapdragons, alyssum and geraniums. Even pansies will continue to bloom until the new year and resume blooming by mid-March.

So in addition to providing us with an abundance of seafood, boating pleasures and natural beauty, Chesapeake Bay makes it possible for us to enjoy gardening longer and produces a greater abundance of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

Professor Emeritus Francis Gouin retired from the University of Maryland, where he was the state’s extension specialist in ornamental horticulture. Follow his column of practical gardening and plant advice every week, only in Bay Weekly. Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected].

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