Southern Coasts

January, 2004
Regional Report

Get an Early Start on Composting

Mow that ryegrass blanketing the lawn and add it to your leaf pile for a good start on composting. Turn the pile with a garden fork to mix in the grass clippings, then leave it alone until spring. The rotted leaves and grass make an excellent organic soil amendment.

Cut Back the Last of the Brown Stalks

The last holdouts, such as lantana and butterfly bush, have gone dormant in most parts of our region. Cut back the brown stalks of the perennials now. Ground covers will begin new growth soon, so cut off any browned or damaged leaves now. Look closely as you prune so you avoid new growth.

Grow Your Own Fruits

Concerned about the food you and your children eat? Plant a fruit tree this month while supplies are plentiful at garden centers. Ask for locally favored varieties of figs, blueberries, and pineapple guava. Prepare the soil by amending with organic matter, and prune after planting to prevent transplant shock.

Hedge How-to

Without a bit of rejuvenative pruning every year or two, many favorite hedge shrubs lose leaves and get twiggy inside the canopy. Prune evergreen hedges now by shearing their tops and sides so they are wider at the bottom than at the top. This will allow more sun to reach the lower branches and keep them healthy. Apply an inch of compost in March, and a slow-release shrub fertilizer in April.

Clean Off Scale and Mealybugs

Common houseplant pests in January seem to be mealybugs and scale. Maybe it's because they've incubated since fall, waiting for the plants indoors to get stressed. Maybe it's all the greens and plants we bring inside in December. Either way, clean them up with rubbing alcohol on a swab.

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