Upper South

May, 2007
Regional Report

Pinch Your Mum

For bushy plants covered in flowers, begin pinching your chrysanthemums when they about 6 inches tall. Remove about 1/2 to 1 inch of the tip of each stem, using your fingers or small scissors. This induces lateral branching. When these branches are 6 to 8 inches long, remove their tips to induce more branching. After the second pinching, let the plants grow naturally.

Give Houseplants a Vacation

Houseplants really benefit from summering outdoors. Be sure to wait until night temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees F, and choose a location that is lightly shaded or that only receives morning sun and is protected from strong winds. Overexposing the foliage to strong summer sun will result in sunburn, with the leaves turning yellow or white. Houseplants growing outdoors usually need watering more often than when indoors and should be fertilized regularly.

Prune and Propagate Shrubs

The best time to prune spring-blooming shrubs, such as forsythia, spirea, lilac, and weigela, is soon after they finish flowering, as the blooms for next year will develop on growth this summer. When pruning, try to maintain a natural, graceful shape. Most of these shrubs root easily from cuttings, so this is an inexpensive way to add new plants to your yard. Take 6-inch-long cuttings, remove lower leaves, dip the ends in rooting hormone, then insert in moistened perlite-vermiculite mixture. Maintain humidity with a plastic cover.

Harvest Asparagus

Harvest asparagus regularly to keep it producing through June. Using a knife, cut the spears at or just below soil level. If some spears get too large for eating, harvest them anyway and add them to the compost pile. Asparagus doesn't need much in the way of elaborate preparation. Either steam it lightly and serve with lemon wedges or toss with olive oil and roast in a 400-degree oven or on the grill. They are delicious when pickled, too.

Give Special Care to Fruit Trees

Most fruit trees will naturally drop some of their excess fruit, but for the best crop, thin fruit so that they're spaced 6 to 8 inches apart. Even with thinning, branches may need some support, so begin planning for that. Continue applications of home orchard fruit sprays to maintain problem-free fruit. For best overall growth of fruit trees, apply an organic mulch under the trees and fertilize in the spring.

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