Coastal and Tropical South

February, 2009
Regional Report

Exposed Tree Roots

Tree roots can raise themselves above the soil level for several reasons. Repeated freezes followed by warm spells can cause the soil to contract and expand quickly and cause the tree to heave out of the ground. Rainfall or other water can run across the root zone repeatedly and wash the dirt off in layers, causing erosion that exposes the roots. When the soil below stays too wet for too long, surface roots can grow up onto the ground instead of down into it. Consistent foot traffic can compact the soil under the tree, adding to the problem. Whatever the cause, cover roots carefully but slowly. Fill in gaps as needed, but add no more than one inch of compost or garden soil to the top of the roots in one season.

Daffodils and Epsom Salts

Lots of gardeners wonder when and if to fertilize perennial daffodils when their first leaves pop out of the ground. Some never do, with good results. Others get the itch every few years, but then the question becomes what to use. So long as you're providing even a little nitrogen to sustain the leaves, they'll respond. A half-inch-deep blanket of compost gives them plenty, as does 1 tablespoon of cottonseed meal per clump. Add 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts and sprinkle both around each clump, then water.

Petal Blight

An especially nasty disease of camellia is the fungus that causes petal blight. Nothing's more disappointing than when the 'Queen of Winter' sprouts ugly, browned flowers. The fungus thrives in fallen petal debris, and if you do not rake them up, it multiplies. The spores become established in the environment, ready to spoil next year's flowers, too. Keep the area under camellias clean, even if it means limiting mulch to one inch deep.

Potatoes in Pots

Yes, you can grow potatoes in a container garden, or even the perforated tub from a washing machine! The idea here is to put in 5 inch of soil, a layer of potatoes, then another layer of soil. As the potatoes grow, add more soil. If your garden soil is especially heavy or light, mix it with old leaves as you add to the potato pot. When the plants get to the top of the pot, let them grow on above it. Continue watering and fertilizing, as harvest when the potato plants bloom.

Seedling Care

Those seeds you want to grow for garden transplants need careful attention to become the best babies you ever planted. When they first come up, check the position of light and get ready to master their water needs. Seedlings bolt upright, searching for light, so if your source is far away, they stretch. That means weak stems and puny plants. Keep light bulbs two inches above new seedlings, three inches once they've reached four inches tall.

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