Middle South

May, 2006
Regional Report

Prune Spring-Flowering Shrubs

Prune shrubs that flower in spring, such as forsythia and azalea, after the flowers fade. This gives the plant time to produce new flower buds over the summer months in preparation for next year's bloom. It won't hurt the plant to prune later in the summer, but you'll likely remove flower buds and diminish next spring's show.

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.

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.

Support Floppy Plants

Support plants that tend to flop over. Peonies, for example, tend to bend under the weight of the flowers. If you set the supports in place early, the foliage will soon hide them. In contrast, trying to tie up toppled plants is frustrating and usually ends up looking ridiculous.

Use Row Covers

Use row covers to protect seed beds from hungry 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 pest insects. Remove covers from plants that require insect pollination, such as squash, once flowers open so pollinators can do their jobs.

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