Upper South

June, 2008
Regional Report

Keep Watering Transplants

This spring certainly seemed to have more than rain than usual, but cool temperatures and drying winds can quickly dry soil, so it's important to monitor the newly transplanted until they get well established. Both small annuals as well as pot-bound trees and shrubs can be at risk. Check both the soil and plant foliage at least twice a week. Water to the point of soaking the soil, preferably in the morning. Mulching helps, of course, and to further ensure success, use a starter fertilizer that includes beneficial microbes and fungi.

Weed Effectively

Weeds compete with garden plants for water, sunlight, and soil nutrients. They also often harbor insects and plant diseases. The best time to remove weeds is when they are small and the soil is damp. The most effective way to remove them is either by hand or by prying out of the soil with a sharp-pointed trowel or soil knife. It's important to get all of the plant, including the roots. One way to prevent weeds from sprouting is to apply corn gluten, which inhibits seed germination and growth. Reapply every month or six weeks.

Trim Chrysanthemums

Tired of your perennial chrysanthemums getting leggy and falling over? The key to short, bushy mums is to cut the stems back by one-third now and again in July. This procedure causes plants to bloom a bit later but to have dozens more flowers. Other perennials also benefit from trimming back, either before or after flowering. The best source of information on this subject is The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques (Timber Press, 1998; $34.95) by Tracy DiSabato-Aust.

Extend the Spring Harvest

As hot weather comes on, many spring-planted vegetables, such as radishes, arugula, lettuce, spinach, and other greens, usually get bitter and begin to flower. Although this process can't be stopped, it can be slowed down by making sure the area is kept evenly moist. Another way to extend the harvest of these plants is by providing shade, especially in the afternoon. Garden centers and mail-order suppliers offer shade netting that can be supported with arched hoops of PVC pipe.

Use Back-Saving Strategies

When gardening, there are a number of ways that you can safeguard your back and knees. First of all, avoid bending over, particularly for extended periods. Instead, kneel on a kneeling pad or kneeling bench that provides support for getting up. Alternatively, sit on the ground to work in the garden. When picking up pots, trays of plants, potting soil, and other objects, bend from the knees and keep your back straight so that you do not lift with the back muscles. Use a wheelbarrow or garden cart to move heavy items.

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