Middle South

July, 2007
Regional Report

Plant Pumpkins

Plant pumpkin seeds now for ripe pumpkins in time for Halloween. Select a site with full sun to light shade and well-drained soil. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil, then mix in some compost. Use mulch in your pumpkin patch to control weeds; cultivating near the seedlings can damage the plants' shallow roots.

Harvest Before Noon

If possible, harvest vegetables, fruits, and flowers in the morning. Not only will you be more comfortable in the cool temperatures, the plants will have had the previous night to recover from heat stress and to soak up water so they'll keep longer. There's nothing like a freshly harvested, sun-warmed peach or tomato, though, so don't hesitate to harvest produce at any time of day if you'll be eating it right away.

Rejuvenate Container Plants

If flower pots have dried out and the soil has shrunk away from the sides, set each container in a saucer filled with warm water for an hour or two. If the moist soil doesn't expand to fill the container, fill in the gaps with more potting soil. Otherwise, any water you apply will run down the sides and out the bottom without soaking in. Once a month, flush any accumulated fertilizer salts from the soil by watering the plants thoroughly, letting the soil drain, and watering again.

Pinch Basil

If your basil has begun flowering, pinch off the buds and blossoms. This will encourage the plants to form new, leafy branches. To harvest, either pick individual leaves or, better yet, cut back entire stems to a set of leaves. Consider starting some new plants from seed now, so you'll have a harvest of fresh, young leaves until the first fall cold snap.

Renovate Annuals

If some of your shrubby annual flowers like petunias and verbena have gotten leggy and sparse in the center, cut plants back to about half their size and water with a soluble fertilizer. In a few weeks you'll have lots of new growth. Once the plant reaches the size you want, each week prune back the longest stem to an inch or two from its base. You'll encourage growth in the center and keep the plant nice and full.

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