Upper South

May, 2005
Regional Report

Try Alternatives to Black Plastic Mulch

Black plastic mulch has long been a boon as a way to reduce weeding and watering. With new materials there are more reasons to use these types of mulches. Red plastic mulch increases yields of tomatoes and strawberries. A green plastic mulch, also referred to as IRT-76, promotes earlier and heavier yields of melons and cucumbers. A shimmering silver high-density polyethylene plastic causes insects to avoid the area near plants. Two other possibilities include biodegradable Planters Paper and the plastic-like Garden Bio-Film that is made from cornstarch and other earth-friendly resources.

Weed Once a Week

An area that is perfectly clean one day can become full of weeds in what seems like no time, and before you know it, an area is overrun. Try to set aside at least once a week for going around to different garden areas and weeding while plants are still tiny seedlings. Pull them by hand or hoe them out. A hand-held circle hoe is an excellent choice for easy maneuverability in cutting off weeds at ground level. Weeds take nutrients in the soil away from your garden plants, so keeping them at bay means bigger and better flowers and vegetables.

Finish Deadheading Spring Bulbs

Cutting at the base of the stem, remove flower stalks of daffodils, tulips, grape hyacinths, and other spring-blooming bulbs. This allows the bulbs to put all their energy into the flowers for next year, rather than into seed development. If desired, bulb plantings can be fertilized now. Do not cut off the foliage until it turns yellow. The dying foliage can be partially hidden by planting the bulbs among perennials or by surrounding the bulbs with fast-spreading annuals like petunias.

Feed and Mulch Azaleas and Rhododendrons

Fertilize acid-loving plants, like azaleas and rhododendrons, with an acid-based, water-soluble fertilizer that also contains iron. Apply according to manufacturer's directions. After feeding, apply a pine bark or pine needle mulch several inches thick. Azaleas and rhododendrons are shallow-rooted and benefit from regular watering during the summer. This is especially important for new plantings. If plants need trimming, do so now before the buds start developing for next year.

Move Houseplants Outdoors

Once night temperatures average above 55 degrees F, houseplants can be moved outdoors for the summer. Place the plants in an area with light shade so the leaves don't sunburn. It's also a good idea to choose an area that has some protection from strong wind. Water plants more frequently as the soil dries out faster outdoors. Apply a granular fertilizer to the pots, or use a water-soluble fertilizer regularly. If needed, repot plants now. Check for pests and treat as needed.

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