Coastal and Tropical South

January, 2009
Regional Report

Florida Arbor Day

The annual Florida Arbor Day event happens on January 18 and brings attention to the importance of planting trees. Make space for fruit trees in your own backyard, and join the efforts of garden clubs and communities to green -- and regreen -- the state. Winter dates for Arbor Day in the South take advantage of the best planting times to get trees established without the transplant shock that can occur at other times of the year.

Tropics Tip

Plant your favorite "winter" vegetables this month. From cabbage and broccoli to carrots and beets, the traditional cool-season crops take center stage right now. Avoid tilling -- simply turn the soil, rake it smooth, and plant. Space the cole crops 12 to 18 inches apart, seed carrots and beets at one-inch intervals. If you broadcast seed across a bed, thin seedlings to stand 1 to 2 inches apart so root crops can develop.

Soapy Solutions

Whether potted plants grow indoors or out, insect pests can find them. Take time now to groom and carefully eye the plants, top and bottom. Look for sticky white mealybugs, webs left by spider mites, eggs laid under leaves and in axils, and tiny dots that crawl. These last are the "crawler" stage of scale insects and are most vulnerable at this point in their development. Give your plants a bath, with a spritz of soapy water to control the bugs. Don't forget to rinse the soap off!

Seed Time

Start planning your spring garden! Look for heat-tolerant, pest-resistant varieties of tomato, pepper, eggplant, and summer herbs. Or go local with favorites, whether heirloom or simply the tried and true that Mama grew. Start seeds in clean plastic pots filled with seed starter mix, or use peat cups full of the same mix, or peat pellets for easy transplanting.

Coastal Clean-Up

Last month's cold snap, and snow in some places, gives gardeners a chance to really clean up perennials that have gone dormant. Lantana and angel trumpets got "bit," their leaves crisp and browned. Cut these plants down to the ground and rake their crowns gently to remove debris and promote good air circulation. Butterfly bush and vitex can be pruned to remove dead branches and tips. Let leaves fall off hibiscus -- pulling them will damage stems.

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