Upper South

April, 2006
Regional Report

Plant Asparagus

Although asparagus may be expensive in the grocery, it's a long-lived perennial that's easy to grow, with few pest problems except for weeds. For best growth, select a sunny to lightly shaded site with well-drained soil enriched with 4 inches of composted manure and superphosphate or bone meal at 5 pounds per 100 square feet. Plant 10 to 20 asparagus crowns per person, setting them 18 inches apart. Asparagus needs two to three years to become fully established, but beds continue producing 20 years or more.

Choose Easy-To-Grow Fruits

In order to get more fruits in your diet, grow your own, especially the ones that require little care and are often pesticide-ridden when bought at the grocery. The best ones to consider include rhubarb, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, pears, sour cherries, persimmons, and pawpaws. These don't take up much space in the yard and have few pests. The tree fruits and blueberries are especially attractive additions to the landscape as well. Adding nut trees, such as pecans and walnuts, is another possibility.

Divide Summer- and Fall-Blooming Perennials

Summer- and fall-blooming perennials, such as asters, chrysanthemums, goldenrod, and sedums, are best divided and transplanted now when they are about 3 inches high. Dig up the entire plant and either pull or cut apart the clumps so that each piece has several growing points. Replant immediately into flower beds that have been amended with compost and fertilizer. Dividing every three or four years helps to rejuvenate the plants.

Repot and Harden Off Vegetable Transplants

After vegetable seedlings have two to four sets of leaves, they will grow better if transplanted into individual pots using a potting soil that contains fertilizer. Cold-hardy crops, such as cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, can be planted out now, but more tender crops, like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, should not be planted into the garden until all frost danger is past. Before moving seedlings to the garden, acclimate them to the outdoors by setting them in a protected spot outside for several hours each day, and bringing them indoors each night.

Gather Least-Toxic Pest Controls

Even the best gardeners sometimes get pests on their plants. Rather than wait until a crisis point, have a variety of pest controls on hand. Some of the least-toxic ones include neem, insecticidal soap, and Bacillus thuringiensis. New materials to consider include the biofungicides like Rhapsody, Serenade, and Sonata, as well as plant-incorporated protectants like the harpin protein Messenger, compost teas, and mycorrhizal inoculants. Another option is a physical barrier, such as floating row covers, to keep insects at bay.

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