Coastal and Tropical South

December, 2008
Regional Report

Amaryllis Indoors

The jack-in-the-box of plants, amaryllis, are sold as individual bulbs or in boxes with a pot and soil. There is no easier bulb to grow, making it a perfect winter holiday windowsill project for school children. Let them read the directions, pot and water it, then put it in a bright spot with a yardstick mounted nearby. Chart the growth of the amaryllis, which can be downright amazing in a warm, sunny room.

Cleaning Brick

Traditionally, muriatic acid has been used to clean brick and concrete, in part because it dissolves whatever debris or moss is there. It roughens the surface below to make removing the debris an easier job. The downside is its toxicity, and fewer people want to use or store muriatic acid. The alternative, a bleach and water solution, is made from common household products, which are less hazardous to have around. After the initial scrubbing with the solution, spread sand over the surface and scrub again before rinsing.

Tie Plants with Jute

I've seen plants tied up with everything from kitchen twine to weedeater string, bungee cords, pantyhose, plastic ties, and fishing line. Do your plants a favor and get a roll of jute. Attach a pair of scissors to it and keep it handy. Yes, when storms approach you may want to temporarily reinforce the jute. And yes, pantyhose work well on tomatoes. But jute is mostly the way to go, because it does not restrict the "plumbing" (vascular system) of the plants.

Tropics Tip

Now that annuals are growing quickly, remember to fertilize these flowers and vegetables regularly. If overwintering annuals aren't taking off by now, remove all flowers and buds to promote more leaves and ultimately more flowers. Soak ferns at least occasionally to keep their root balls hydrated. Drop the whole pot into a bucket of warm water and fertilizer for at least two hours.

Southern Coasts Tip

Now's a fine time to institute your own annual weed patrol. This ritual focuses your attention on the plants you don't like to see, the weeds that stay a bit green after the shrubs drop their leaves. Rainy winters give you the chance to get ahead of nutgrass and dollar weed. Use a fork to lift the whole patch out of the ground, sift through it, and dispose of -- do not compost the entire plants.

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