Mid-Atlantic

May, 2004
Regional Report

Watering New Plants

New plants may occasionally need supplemental water until they become well rooted and established. To know if you need to water, reach under the mulch and dig down into the soil with your finger. If it is dry, water slowly and deeply. If it is still damp, wait. Your goal is to keep the soil evenly moist like a wrung out sponge, not sopping wet. An occasional soaking to encourage deeper rooting is better than a daily, light sprinkling.

Foil Tent Caterpillars

It's tent caterpillar season again. On a cloudy day or at dusk when they are inside their webby nest, use a stick to remove it or break it apart and knock the caterpillars to the ground. (Place a tarp below to catch them.) Or spray nearby foliage with Bt. Next winter, remove overwintering egg masses, which look like shiny, brown, styrofoam wrapped around a branch or twig.

Include Hummingbird Plants

Hummingbirds like trumpet-shaped blooms, such as those on annual and perennial salvias, verbena, columbine, heuchera, foxglove, hosta, penstemon, bee balm, cardinal flower, four o'clocks, nicotiana, lantana, honeysuckle, trumpet vine, crape myrtle, butterfly bush, weigela, and mimosa tree, among many others. The flowers do not have to be red.

Plant Tomatoes Late

Tomatoes like full sun all day long and steady soil moisture to grow their best. Tomatoes are not cold tolerant. They are damaged (or killed) by frost and can be stunted if planted in cold soil. Wait to plant until a week or two after the last expected frost so the soil has some time to warm up. This will help reduce transplant shock.

Clean Up Water Garden

Clean out debris that collected over the winter, being careful not to damage new growth on plants such as waterlilies. Divide overgrown lilies. Fertilize plants with fertilizer tablets pushed into the soil. This avoids spreading fertilizer throughout the water which could encourage excess algae. Expect a springtime surge of murky water; this will resolve itself naturally once temperatures stabilize.

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