Thanks for writing; the following are some of my recent reader’s emails:

Thanks for writing; the following are some of my recent reader’s emails:

“How can you tell what are surprise lilies in spring?” – Tom

Charlotte: Their long, rounded leaves are up this time of year so they are easy to identify. Mark where they are now because in a couple of months they will die off and late-July single stalks will grow with a fragrant pink flower on top.

“Spring fever has hit; what should I plant?” – Evelyn

Charlotte: Plant what you like; you will be more tempted to take good care of it if the crop is something you, and your family, enjoy to eat. Make sure you have the correct growing conditions for what you want to plant. If you don’t and a friend does, make a pact to exchange produce; that way, you increase your chances of successfully growing food. If you just want to plant flowers, get zinnia seeds. Those hardy annuals come in a variety of colors and sizes and will grow well in poor soil. They also make wonderful cut flowers.
We are in USDA Hardiness zone 5b so our last frost date is Mother’s Day, May 10.  You can plant anything after Mother’s Day but before then, make sure whatever you choose is frost-hardy.
Normally around St. Patrick’s Day, it is a good time to plant potatoes, lettuce, broccoli, spinach and onions. Buy seed potatoes and onion sets; the rest you can plant from seed. Have fun!

“When do you plant strawberries? Watermelons?” – Kenny and Mark

Charlotte: Hi, Kenny and Mark. Plant strawberries late April and pinch off blooms this first year. You will get your first strawberries next year. I want strong strawberry plants that will produce over several years so I plant mine in spring to let the roots establish themselves through the growing season, then start picking the following year.
Commercial strawberry producers plant in the fall, remove blooms, pick the following year and then toss out the plants.
For watermelons, plant at the end of May after all danger of frost. Check seed packets to make sure you have enough growing season for the variety you select.

“You could buy a greenhouse if you don’t know how to make one. Are you sure those (deck) pots will work?” – Amy

Charlotte: Although I like the idea of a greenhouse, I can’t help but imagine all of the wildlife that will enjoy going in and helping themselves to seed starts. I also have visitors on my potted deck garden but only “Chuck” the groundhog has successfully absconded with a tomato.
I am going to test making little plastic lids for the pots and see what happens. If nothing else, it might confuse Chuck and encourage him to “shop” elsewhere!

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener and beekeeper. Copyright 2016 used with permission, all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at