Middle South

April, 2005
Regional Report

Be Prepared to Protect Plants

We\'re not out of the woods yet, weatherwise. Be prepared to cover tender plants if a cold snap threatens. Peppers, eggplant, and basil are particularly susceptible to chill damage; tomatoes are slightly more tolerant but still should be covered if temperatures are predicted to drop into the 40s.

Water Properly

Newly planted seeds need frequent watering -- daily, or even twice daily in hot, dry weather. Transplants may need daily watering until they\'ve had a chance to send their roots out into the surrounding soil. Once established, most plants need a deep, weekly drink, if nature doesn\'t supply it.

Support Floppy Plants

Support plants that tend to flop over now while they\'re still small. Use wire cages to support peonies, for example; if you set the cages in place now, the foliage will soon hide them. In contrast, trying to tie up toppled plants is frustrating, and it usually ends up looking ridiculous.

Use Row Covers

Use row covers to protect seed beds from marauding birds. Once the seedlings are 2 or 3 inches tall, it\'s probably safe to remove the covers. However, you might want to keep them in place to exclude pests. Remove covers once plants begin to flower so pollinators can do their jobs.

Plant in Rows

Some gardeners sow seeds by scattering them in the bed, and that\'s fine if you\'re confident of your ability to differentiate between weed and crop seedlings. A safer bet is to plant your seeds in rows, especially seeds that germinate slowly, such as carrots. By marking rows you\'ll be able to stay ahead of weeds between the rows.

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