Upper South

May, 2006
Regional Report

Minimize Dogwood Problems

The native flowering dogwood is one of the most spectacular of landscape plants. Give your trees evenly moist, well-drained, acidic soil in partial sun. Unfortunately, they are often planted in less-than-ideal conditions and become susceptible to pests such as dogwood borer and anthracnose. To combat these problems -- even with anthracnose-resistant varieties -- prevent bark injuries from mowers and string trimmers, and water during dry spells, especially when newly planted. If borers appear from now through July, treat trees with an approved insecticide.

Dealing with Spring Bulb Foliage

Daffodils, tulips, and other spring-blooming bulbs are a delight in March and April, but by now their foliage can be a nuisance, detracting from the rest of the garden. The leaves, however, are making food for next year's flowers. Do not be tempted to fold the foliage over and tie it up, as this defeats its purpose. If you can't wait until the leaves have yellowed to cut them back, then at least wait until the foliage begins to flop. At this point most of the energy derived from the leaves has been stored in the bulbs.

Establish Rose TLC

Start a routine for checking your roses every day, if possible, to catch problems early. Set up a regular care schedule, including your chosen methods of controlling pests and fertilizing. As weather begins to turn drier, consider installing a drip hose so the foliage is kept dry and less susceptible to fungus attacks. Cut off faded flowers from reblooming varieties so that you continue to have flowers all season long.

Use Sun Protection

Skin cancer, premature aging, and cataracts are all linked to exposure to the sun. So what's a gardener to do? On bright, sunny days, limit the time outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 at least 20 minutes before going out into the sun, cover up as much of the skin as possible with clothing (yeah, right, when it's 95 degrees in the shade!), and wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection. To find your local ultraviolet light index each day, check the Environmental Protection Agency Web site: http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex.html.

Support Your Tomatoes

Staking tomatoes helps to prevent losing fruit to rot. There are a number of staking methods and systems, but growing tomatoes in wire cages is an easy method that requires little work once they are installed and produces high yields. My favorite method is to use cages made from 4-foot-tall, heavy-duty woven wire fencing (the type with spaces large enough to reach my hand through). The cages are 20 to 24 inches in diameter. After cutting a length with bolt cutters, I form the fencing into a circle secured with the plastic ties used by electricians. Wire ground staples hold the cages in place.

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