Upper South

April, 2008
Regional Report

Have Plant Coverings Ready

Weather watching is the key to springtime garden success. Take a risk and set out at least some of the tender transplants that could be killed by frost, but have plenty of coverings ready when a 32-degree night is predicted. Cardboard boxes, large plastic pots, and old sheets are some of the cheap and easy solutions. There is also the option of the nonwoven, frost-protective fabric coverings. These are especially good for row crops. The water-filled, plastic Wall O'Waters stay permanently in place and are good for early plantings of peppers and tomatoes.

Make a Plant Notebook

There are any number of ways to keep a gardening journal, including computer software programs, but a simple way is to do a search online of a particular plant that you just purchased at your local garden center or by mail, then print the page and keep it in a 3-ring notebook. Make notes on the page as to where and when you bought the plant, plus how well it grew, when it bloomed, and so forth. Add a page of photos, if desired. While you're being so organized, get a label machine to identify each plant in the garden.

Grow Baptisias

Echinaceas may be the most popular native American wildflower for gardens, but baptisias are giving them a run for the money. Long-lived plants with flowers resembling lupines, baptisias are handsome and rugged additions to the garden. Plus, they withstand searing summer heat and drought. The most widely available species is Baptisia australis, with 3-foot flower spikes. There is also a smaller form, growing to 18 inches. Other species are white or yellow. There are also a number of hybrid forms.

Get Houseplants Ready for the Outdoors

Even houseplants know when it's spring, sending out new growth with the increased light. This is the best time of year to transplant into larger pots or to provide fresh potting soil. Fertilization should also increase at this time. Check plants for pests, and treat as needed. If possible, plan on moving houseplants outdoors as soon as all frost danger is past. They will respond with vigorous growth. Just remember that they are used to low light levels, so choose a spot in shade.

Harden Off Seedlings

The ability of annual and vegetable plants to survive being transplanted into the garden from indoors or a greenhouse depends on a process called hardening off. Gradually introducing seedlings to outdoor growing conditions increases their food reserves, reduces the severity of transplant shock, and increases their ability to withstand fluctuations in temperature. Place seedlings outdoors in a protected area for at least a week before planting them outside.

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