Upper South

May, 2004
Regional Report

Nurture Sweet Peas

For the best blooms from plantings of sweet peas, do not allow the soil to dry out. Feed every other week with a liquid fertilizer solution. A mulch of well-rotted compost is also helpful to keep the soil evenly moist and provide nutrients for the plants and flowers. For the largest flowers, pinch out side shoots. Although sweet peas have tendrils to attach themselves, periodically tying them up ensures that they don't fall over.

Stop Slugs

If hosta leaves are mysteriously disappearing or have large chunks eaten out of them, slugs are the likely culprit. There are both mechanical and chemical ways of controlling slugs. Copper strips placed around plants will keep slugs from entering the area. Iron phosphate is a safe chemical control. Slug traps are another method. You can make a simple slug trap by placing a board on the ground. Lift the board in the middle of the day and destroy the slugs hiding underneath.

Control Cabbageworms

The imported cabbageworm settles in the leaf axils and branch tips where flower buds arise on broccoli. Their feces is readily apparent on the tops of cabbage heads. To control, dust with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) regularly. To remove the worms after harvest, soak broccoli florets in salt water before cooking. The worms will float to the top.

Take Softwood Cuttings

New growth that has not yet become woody on shrubs and vines is at the proper stage now for propagation. This is an excellent way to get more plants for very little money. Make a cut just below a node or leaf base. Each cutting should be 4 to 8 inches long. Remove lower leaves, dip stem end in rooting hormone, and place in a mixture of equal parts peat moss and perlite. Place a humidity dome or plastic bag over the top and keep evenly moist in bright but not direct sunlight.

Caring for Iris

As iris finish blooming, take off faded flower stems at ground level by snapping the stem forward. This should cleanly sever the stem from the rhizome and leave no remnant for rot. Fertilize iris after blooming, too. Remove any yellowing leaves by pulling them down and backwards at soil level. Keep the area around iris weeded throughout the summer.

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