Southern Coasts

June, 2004
Regional Report

Focus on the Real Insect Pests

Make a decision to deal with real insect problems and leave the rest alone to foster diversity in the backyard environment. Decide if the pest can devastate the plant, and if that matters. Give up the butterfly weed for a monarch, but terminate the tomato hornworm if you want BLTs.

Tend the Compost Pile

A compost pile that just sits there may be too wet or dry, have too much green or too much brown material, or simply be too large to work. Turn weekly to keep the action going, balance green to brown, keep piles to 3 feet high and wide, and add a sprinkling of cottonseed meal.

Harvest Herbs

Keep picking herbs to keep them coming. Rosemary stays tender when topped regularly, and basil will branch and increase its yield if pinched frequently. For the best flavor, pick sage and thyme early in the day while their essential oils are most concentrated. Fertilize herbs no more than monthly unless lower leaves turn yellow.

Control Weeds

Get a sharply pointed weeder and use it right after a good rainstorm leaves the soil soft but not mushy. Push the hand tool into the soil under that little oak sprout or clump of dollar weed. Put all these weeds in the trash, not your compost pile, so they don't proliferate.

Harvesting Tomatoes

Vine-ripened tomatoes may be a misnomer since it is not advisable to leave the fruit on the plants until they are completely red. Not only are they very attractive to birds seeking their succulence, but if seed development goes too far, the plants stop producing. Pick when red but not soft.

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