Middle South

February, 2009
Regional Report

Choose the Right Bulb

I've often seen beautiful sweeps of daffodils naturalized in woodland areas and have tried to copy the effect in my own garden, only to see the bulbs dwindle rather than multiply. On a January visit to the garden of a friend, I noticed an abundance of "February gold" in flower throughout his shady landscape. When I commented on my lack of success, he explained the error of my ways. Mid- to late-blooming daffodils are good for sunny locations, but those selected for woodland areas should bloom early in the season, so they have time to regenerate their bulbs before the trees are covered in foliage.

Check Upcoming Weather Before Pruning Roses

While it's fine to cut back woody plants and grasses now, don't prune your roses until mid-March, and only then if the extended forecast doesn't include bitter temperatures. Pruning stimulates growth, so cutting the roses too soon can cause severe die-back, and perhaps even plant death, if we are later hit with a hard freeze (28 degrees or below).

Prepare Soil for Planting

Late winter is the perfect time to amend the soil and prepare it for a new growing season. I turn my soil with a fork, avoiding the use of a tiller, which incorporates a lot of air into the soil. Tilling is certainly easier, but too much air causes rapid decomposition of organic matter. My soil is acidic, so I add lime (at the rate of 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet), along with several inches of compost. If the soil is especially heavy, the addition of Perma Till (an expanded slate product) helps drainage.

Treat Plants for Scale Insects

Examine camellias, euonymous, and other plants susceptible to scale infestation, and treat with horticultural oil as necessary. Treatment is most effective when it is applied during spells of mild weather, but before spring leaves emerge. Remember, spray the bottom of leaves, as well as their tops, for good control.

Control Soil Problems with Solarization

If you have a garden area that is plagued with weed seeds, harmful fungi, bacteria, or nematodes, use solarization to control these problems. First, cultivate the soil and clear it of plants, debris, and large clods of earth. Then moisten the soil to a depth of 1 foot and cover it with 1- to 4-mil clear plastic. Make sure the plastic is in contact with the soil and leave it in place for 4 to 6 weeks. The sun's heat, trapped under plastic sheeting, will do the work.

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