Upper South

April, 2004
Regional Report

Prune Spring-Flowering Shrubs

Spring-flowering shrubs, such as forsythia, bridal wreath spirea, deutzia, azaleas, and rhododendrons, set their flower buds for next year on this year's growth. If pruned during the winter, you'll be losing flowers. Prune after flowering to shape as well as to remove dead, damaged, or diseased growth.

Rake and Mulch

Break up the crust on mulch that was put down last year. This not only freshens its appearance but also allows water to better penetrate. If the mulch depth is less than 2 inches, add fresh mulch so the total depth is 3 inches. Partially composted hardwood bark mulch provides the most benefit to the soil over time because it adds nutrients and humus to the soil as it decomposes.

Plant Gladiolus

Begin setting out gladiolus corms at two-week intervals in order to have cut flowers all summer long. Gladiolus do best in fertile, moist but well-drained soil in full sun. Plant 3 to 6 inches apart and 2 to 3 inches deep. The simplest way to grow glads is in rows in a cutting garden area. To keep the flower stalks from falling over, provide support with stakes and heavy string, forming a box around the planting row.

Plant With Caution

With our region on the cusp of the average last frost date, warm-season vegetables, such as beans, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and eggplant, can be directly sown as seed or transplanted with caution. Every couple of years, there is a freak, late-May frost. Generally, when night temperatures consistently stay above 50 degrees F, the worst is over. Watch the weather report and stand by with cardboard boxes and bed sheets.

Consider Blackberries

Don't confuse the great thorny tangles of wild blackberries with cultivated plantings, especially when thornless varieties are chosen. Four plants, each grown in a 3-square-foot area, will readily yield plenty for a family of four for a dozen or more years. Newer types tend to be more upright and disease resistant, with larger berries and smaller seeds. Although tempting to get starts from a neighbor, it's best to buy certified, virus-free plants from a reputable nursery. Choose a site with full sun and well-drained soil.

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