Middle South

March, 2009
Regional Report

Plant a Salad Garden

Forget iceberg lettuce and plant a garden of spring greens for a change of pace and a salad that has real flavor. Look for an assortment of frilly, curly, lobed, and serrated plants in an array of colors -- from chartreuse to burgundy. Try amaranth, which tastes like a spicy spinach; arugula, with a nutty mustard flavor; cress, with a peppery taste; and mache, which tickles the tongue with its mild sweetness.

Pick the Right Evergreen for Hedging

Everyone in my neck of the woods seems to think Leyland cypress is the perfect evergreeen for a hedge, but this fast-growing tree can grow 60 feet tall and shade out a backyard in less than 10 years. For a single species hedge that will give you year-round privacy without encroaching power lines, consider Cleyera japonica, dwarf Burford holly, Ligustrum japonicum, or Osmanthus fragrans.

Plant Camellias, Azaleas, and Rhododendrons

Although its best to plant trees and shrubs in fall, most gardeners will prefer to purchase ornamentals such as camellias, azaleas, and rhododendrons when they can see the color, size, and form of the flowers. That's okay, too. Dig a planting hole that is slightly more shallow but three times as wide as the root ball, so that the base of the trunk remains higher than the natural soil level. Don't fertilize, as this will stress the plant before it has time to establish a roots, but do mulch well and irrigate when summer rainfall is sparse.

Prune Forsythia After Bloom

Now that the earliest days of spring are past and forsythia has shed its golden bells, it's time to prune these robust shrubs. Avoid shearing them into cramped little balls. Instead, preserve their fountain shape by getting down on hands and knees and removing the oldest one-third of their branches, using sharp loppers to cut them as close to the ground as possible. When pruning is complete, mulch around the plant to help suppress weeds and retain moisture.

Groom the Herb Garden

Rosemary, lavender, sage, and other hardy herbs growing in beds should be pruned by cutting the plants back by half, or more, and taking care to remove all branches killed by winter cold. Wait a couple of weeks after the last frost to put out tender herbs, such as basil, as they prefer temperatures above 45 degrees. Be especially careful when adding mint to the garden. It can prove invasive. Instead of growing it with the other herbs, consider planting it in a terra cotta container that is partially buried. Keep an eye out, however, for stems that reach for the ground.

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