Upper South

March, 2005
Regional Report

Caring for Easter Lilies

To keep an Easter lily blooming as long as possible, place it in a bright, 65-degree F location, but not in direct sunlight. Water thoroughly just as the soil surface begins to get dry, but don't let the plant stand in water. To keep the yellow pollen from staining the petals, carefully remove the stamens with cuticle scissors. If desired, the lily can be planted outdoors in a sunny, well-drained location. As the original stem begins to die back, cut the stem back to the soil surface and new growth should soon emerge. Mulch to maintain cool soil. Plants should bloom again next year.

Tending the Strawberry Patch

As the weather warms, remove straw mulch. Keep it available for nights with freezing temperatures. An alternative is to use a fabric mulch or floating row cover. To keep slugs at bay, place bowls of beer throughout the bed, or use a food-safe slug control. Plant new beds of strawberries, preparing the soil well. Day-neutral, everbearing strawberries will produce fruit this year; remove flower buds until early July. Spring-bearing strawberries will not start producing until next spring. Berries need full sun and well-drained soil. A red plastic mulch will keep weeds at bay and increase yields.

Sprucing Up Perennials and Ornamental Grasses

Cut off ornamental grasses as close to ground level as possible. For large clumps, a chain saw is the most effective tool. Clean out perennial beds, removing any remaining foliage or stems from last year, as well as winter mulch. Push frost-heaved plants back into the soil, covering with more soil, if necessary. Fertilize beds with a balanced granular fertilizer, following manufacturer's directions. Divide overgrown perennials or ones that have died out in the center; replant and pot up extras to share with friends.

Start Tender Bulbs

Start tender summer bulbs (cannas, dahlias, tuberous begonias, and caladiums) indoors for planting outside after all danger of frost is past. Cannas are laid horizontally in a tray or potted up individually, with each tuber having three eyes. Tuberous begonias are planted with the rounded side down and just gently pushed into the soil surface; do not let water stand in the depression on top of the corm. Plant dahlia tubers vertically so the eye is at ground level in the pot; make sure each tuber has at least one bud.

Plant Cool-Season Vegetables

In spite of the adage to plant peas on St. Patrick's Day, they often rot in the cold ground. Often, it's better to plant now that the soil has warmed some. Other crops that can be direct sown now include various lettuces, spinach, raab, greens, and radishes. Transplant broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, and onions. Even these can sulk in cool weather. To encourage them, use floating row covers, cold frames, or plastic-covered tunnels. The adventurous can plant tomatoes with some type of protection, such as Wall O'Waters.

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