Middle South

March, 2009
Regional Report

Divide Perennials

Perennials such as daylilies and hostas can be dug and divided as soon as new shoots begin to appear. Reduce trauma to the plant by watering well, preferably the day before you dig, and by preparing the new planting site in advance. Dig as much of the root ball as possible, keeping the soil intact, then pull or saw the large clump into smaller sections. Plant the divisions immediately and keep them watered until new growth begins.

Prune and Train Climbing Roses

Climbing roses do not climb but lean, using their thorns to secure support. Help your climbers make a framework of upright canes with proper pruning and training. In the first years, allow the roses to produce long, sturdy canes, then begin shortening side shoots to two or three buds in early spring before new growth begins. In time, thin the plant by removing older, woody canes that bear few flowers, removing only one or two canes a year. When training, orient the shoots horizontally so they will produce flowers along their length, and leave room between branches for air circulation.

Propagate Geraniums

As soon as geraniums become available, purchase a few for propagation, so you have a ready supply when the weather warms. Look for plants with many branches, as they will make the most cuttings. With a sharp knife, cut diagonally above joints, leaves, or growth nodes. Wet the base of the cutting, dip it into a root-stimulating hormone powder, and then stick in a moist growing medium. Enclose all in a airtight plastic bag for 7 to 14 days, until roots grow.

Rotate Vegetables

To prevent the buildup of insect and disease problems, don't forget to move plant families to a new location in the garden. For example, members of the gourd family (cucumber, gourd, cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkin, and squash) can be moved to the location of last year's nightshade family (eggplant, pepper, potato, and tomato), and vice versa.

Care for Spring-Flowering Bulbs

Daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs can be fertilized as soon as their foliage begins to emerge, but do not fertilize after flowering when the bulb is going dormant. Instead, leave the leaves untied and unbraided, so they can transfer energy to the bulb for next year's flowers.

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