In the Garden:
Lower South
July, 2007
Regional Report

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Solarizing is a great way to put the hot summer sun to work for you.

Gardening During Summer Intermission

Summertime is a rather laid back time in my southern garden. The hot weather makes working during the daytime hours difficult, and many of the spring flowers and vegetables are heading downhill fast. Here in the lower south we can garden all year long. Spring and fall are our two primary gardening seasons while winter and summer serve as somewhat of an intermission as we get ready for the next big act in the year-round show.

That said, there is still much to be done out in the garden. We have many heat-tolerant flowers still blooming bravely out in the sweltering sun. Our lawns are happy to keep going too, as long as we provide adequate watering. Pests seem unaffected by the heat, requiring regular patrolling and prompt action if any threaten to get out of hand.

Put the Sun to Work
This infernal intermission is a critical time for several other activities of the gardening year. The hot summer sun provides a great opportunity to solarize vegetable garden beds that are currently unoccupied. It takes about six weeks to complete the process so now is the best time to get it done. Do any bed preparations prior to solarizing as you won't want to turn the soil over afterwards or you'll just bring new weed seeds to the surface. Use clear plastic to allow the maximum amount of light through to heat up the soil. Cover the edge of the plastic with soil to prevent hot air from escaping.

Fruit and Nut Tree Care
Pecans grow in size up to about the first of August, and then the shell hardens and they begin to fill the kernel inside. Drought can therefore affect the size of the pecans and how well they are filled, depending on when it occurs. Provide a good soaking to the entire area beneath the branch spread if it hasn't rained for several weeks in order to help maintain a good crop of pecans.

Fruit trees are setting next year's buds during mid to late summer. Lack of water now means less of a crop next spring. Weeds steal water, so keep a large mulched area beneath the trees. Late summer and fall fruits like pears, persimmons, and some types of citrus need adequate water to maintain a good crop too.

Weed Clean Up
Some areas of our gardens are getting rather weedy. I won't tell anyone if you won't, okay? Now is a good time to clean them up. Minor weed infestations can be hoed or hand pulled. Major invasions in leftover vegetable beds may need to be leveled with a string trimmer. Then water the area well to soak the old weeds and soil before covering it with overlapping layers of newspaper six sheets thick. Wet the paper with a garden hose as you lay it down to hold it in place and then cover it with a more attractive mulch of leaves, pine needles, or some other natural material. This process will kill the weeds and start a rapid decomposition beneath the newspaper. You can easily punch planting holes in the paper for fall planting.

Renovate Tomato Beds
Believe it or not, fall gardening season is upon us. Now is the time to begin planting some vegetable crops for fall. Tired old tomato vines can be tip layered by placing a section of the stem near the end under some soil, leaving the end of the vine sticking out. They stems will root in a couple of weeks and you can then remove the "mother plant" and have your fall starts well on their way.


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