Upper South

May, 2008
Regional Report

Protect Yourself

Before heading out to the garden, be sure to apply sunscreen, preferably with at least an SFP 30. Apply it to all parts of the body exposed to light. Add a wide-brimmed hat as well. If you can stand the heat, wear long sleeves and full-length pants. Another option is to wear clothes with sunscreen properties. Don't forget the insect repellent, too. There are lots of products available using herbs if you want to avoid repellents based on DEET.

Take Advantage of Special Plant Sales

Looking for rare or unusual plants for your garden? Arboretums, botanical gardens, and plant societies often have 1- or 2-day plant sales in the spring months that offer plants difficult to find elsewhere. You'll not only be adding special plants to your garden, but also helping out organizations that are helping more people get involved with gardening. Unsure of what you're buying? Try to get a plant list ahead of time and research the plants online. Or take along a plant encyclopedia or laptop with wireless Internet access.

Move Houseplants Outdoors

Summering houseplants outdoors will produce amazing results in healthy new foliage. Just be sure to move them to a shady location outdoors only after all danger of frost is past. Outdoor light is much brighter than what houseplants are accustomed to, and if moved to full sun, the foliage can burn. A location protected from strong wind is ideal as well. Plants dry out faster outdoors, so keep a close eye on soil moisture, and fertilize more often or use an extended-release fertilizer. This is also a good time to repot, divide, or propagate houseplants.

Prune Spring-Flowering Trees and Shrubs

Next year's tree and shrub flowers develop on new growth this summer, so any pruning should be done relatively soon after flowering is finished in the spring. Pruning is useful to shape plants, remove straggly or damaged growth, and either to produce bushier plants or to open up the branching. It's important to prune to an outward-facing bud, cutting an inch or so above the bud. If overgrown, many of the old-fashioned spring-blooming shrubs, such as lilac, spirea, and mock orange, can be rejuvenated by cutting back to 12 inches or so.

Apply Mulch

Applying a summer mulch keeps soil cooler during summer, conserves moisture, provides a food source for earthworms, keeps weeds under control, and reduces or eliminates soil erosion. Using a mulch that readily decomposes, such as shredded hardwood, will improve the quality of the soil by adding organic matter. Before applying an organic mulch like hardwood, loosen the soil surface to prevent an impervious surface, and lightly work fertilizer into the soil. Keep the mulch a few inches away from plant trunks and stems.

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