Upper South

May, 2006
Regional Report

Go on a Garden Tour

Take advantage of the local tours of private gardens that garden clubs, neighborhood associations, and plant societies often conduct at this time of year. Check newspaper listings or your local public garden. These tours can give you great ideas for plants that grow well in your area, as well as design inspiration. You may also learn names of local designers and contractors. Usually the tours include both large and small properties

Take Time to Relax in the Garden

It's easy to get so busy weeding, mulching, planting, mowing, and trimming that little time is left for enjoying the garden. Take time, perhaps early in the morning or at dusk, to walk around the garden or just to sit in your favorite place, drinking in what you've created. Roses may not be in bloom yet, but the fragrance of lilacs permeates the yard, while iris invite an up-close sniff. Notice, too, the antics of the adolescent robins learning to fly, and the hummingbirds that have returned north.

Give Your Plants an Aspirin

Is the garden giving you headaches? Some of the problems can be alleviated not only by taking an aspirin yourself, but also by giving your plants aspirin, too. Because of its active ingredient, salicylic acid, aspirin water has been found to ward off plant diseases by activating a plant's natural defenses. Crush 1-1/2 uncoated aspirins in 2 gallons of water, adding 2 tablespoons of mild liquid soap to act as a spreader-sticker. Spray plants every three weeks. Aspirin water has also been found to improve seed germination.

Try New Super-Sweet Corn

If you like the super-sweet corn, consider growing 'Mirai' or 'Bicolor Mirai'. These two hybrids, developed in Illinois primarily for their disease resistance, are being touted as incredibly tender and flavorful. Plus, the ears last up to six weeks if refrigerated. 'Mirai' must be isolated from other varieties (except other super-sweets), planted after the soil has thoroughly warmed, sown about 1-1/2 inches deep, and the soil kept evenly moist. The best flavor is obtained by boiling for only 2 minutes or grilling.

Control Cucumber Beetles Organically

The striped and spotted cucumber beetles are major pests of cucumbers, melons, and summer and winter squash. The insects not only eat the fruits, they introduce bacterial wilt into the plants. There's no magic bullet for controlling them organically, but by incorporating several methods, you can greatly minimize insect damage. Clean up plant debris, use floating row covers when plants are young, and apply pyrethrum weekly. Transplanting rather than direct sowing also helps, as do trap crops of blue hubbard squash. Another option is to use a kaolin clay insecticide, such as Surround WP, preventatively. (It repels and protects, but does not kill.)

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