Coastal and Tropical South

March, 2007
Regional Report

Pruning Tomato Suckers

Tomato growers argue every year about whether or not to remove suckers, but new gardeners may not know how to recognize them. Suckers are shoots that form where a stem and leaf meet, which is called the axil. Remove suckers for bigger fruit, leave them for more fruit. And yes, they'll root!

Spread Ashes in Gardens

Cleaning out fireplaces, fire pits, or even burn piles creates a big pile of ashes rich in potash or potassium, an element essential for plant growth. Apply up to 1/2 inch (no more) of ashes to vegetable gardens, rose beds, and lawns, but not around azaleas, hollies, camellias, or blueberries.

Time to Lime

Lime is often recommended because the pH of the lawn has become too acid. This condition can be blamed for poor or thin turf. If you can rule out compaction, dense thatch, and poor fertility, lime may be helpful. Pelletized lime may cost a bit more, but it's safer to use.

Caring for Azaleas

Once azaleas stop blooming, it's time to rejuvenate them. Healthy or young shrubs need only a few inches off each stem. But twiggy, overgrown, and sad-looking azaleas can be cut back as much as half their overall size, if necessary. Fertilize and water regularly this summer to maximize new growth.

Tying Vines

Some vines cling but most will sprawl if not tied to a support to start them on their way up. Tie stems loosely, especially green ones, to prevent girdling and reduced water uptake. Use jute string to tie vines like climbing roses and moonflowers to the front of the structure only.

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