Coastal and Tropical South

January, 2009
Regional Report

Roses for All

Growing roses starts in February in most of our regions' gardens. We plant in both January and February, but traditionally do the heavy pruning about two weeks from now. Hybrid tea roses get cut down to 3 canes, each 18 inches tall. Shrub roses, both antique and not, need rejuvenation now to bloom their best this year; reduce them by half their size at least and thin out the canes. Though Knock out roses don't have to be pruned, it's wise to clip out any dead twigs and a few inches off each branch to start the new year.

Mice Mess

When somebody builds a house where once there was woods, or takes down a barn that's been in place for years, mice scurry. They're looking for a new home, and may find yours. The presence of cats or small terriers can be very daunting to the rodents. Gaps in the attic vents, pipes without screen covers, and open dryer vents make access much easier. If you see a mouse in the house, trap it. But if you hear them in the walls, call a professional. Trust me, the last thing you need this winter is decomposing mice.

Strawberry Success

If you planted berries last fall, they may be beginning to bloom. The earliest varieties in the warmest areas or growing under protective hoops can be in fruit already. It's time to fertilize the plants and pluck off any damaged leaves, as well as time to freshen the mulch around them. Grooming strawberries and keeping the hay under them in good condition goes a long way towards deterring the snails and slugs that love the fruit almost as much as you do.

When to Dig

If you want to start a new vegetable garden this spring, check the soil before you start shoveling. Sandy soils can use additions of organic matter before new plants go in. Heavy soils, however, need more help, and can be more easily damaged by digging at the wrong time. If your native soil is wet and sticky, and must be scraped off the shovel or trowel, stop trying to dig and wait until conditions improve. Clay and gumbo soils are made of tiny particles, much smaller than sand. If you compact them by digging when wet, it's a long process to restore soil structure. Take the time now, so you don't wish you had later.

Ryegrass Blankets

Mow ryegrass to maintain it at an inch above the turf below, and you'll have plenty to add to the compost heap. Toss in the kitchen trimmings from carrot tops to celery bottoms to assist in decomposition. Browned leaves alone will rot eventually, but balance them 2:1 with green matter and the compost not only goes faster, but also delivers more nutrients to your plants.

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