Coastal and Tropical South

April, 2009
Regional Report

Soakers and Drips

While some places have had near record rainfall this spring, a summer drought cannot be ruled out. Even with average rainfall amounts, fruit trees, vegetables, and even container plants may not get all they need. Consistent, discrete amounts of water applied at the root zone do more good for ripening fruit and growing shrubs than the skies or any sprinkler can deliver. Install soaker hoses or drip systems now, before you need them.

Early Aphids

You can avoid big problems later when you keep an April eye out for aphids on crepe myrtles, river birch, and other susceptible trees and shrubs. Populations are building now, and without control, soon will host secondary pests like sooty mold fungus. The black film on leaves in summer may be your first clue that aphids live high in the tree canopy, but the pests are active now. Spray trees with pyrethrin or neem oil; consider a systemic if you remember standing under the trees on a sunny day and felt "rain" falling on your arms. That's not rain, it's aphids.

Rose Care

Roses are often described as "once-blooming" or "ever-blooming" and those terms can be your guide to both planting and pruning them. If you want flowers in flushes over several weeks or months, grow "ever-blooming." But if you want one strong statement in the spring garden, pick a once-bloomer. The OBs, such as Lady Banksia, should be pruned right after the blooms finish so that this summer they can set buds for next year's big show.

Vegetables

Although lots of vegetable gardens are in production, it's not too late to start yours. If the soil is sticky and wet, plant vegetables in containers. Local nurseries are good about keeping little transplants around as long as planting is still possible. Thus, if there aren't any tomatoes on the rack in your town, forget them for now. Look for squash, okra, melon, and cucumber plants, or plant your own pumpkins, cushaws, and gourds from seed.

Mosquito Cleanup

Rainy spring means beautiful flowers, but also more of water-loving pests like slugs, snails, and mosquitoes. We all know that standing water is a perfect breeding place for mosquitoes that can carry West Nile virus, but that's not all. Both these pests can nest happily in a pile of wet leaves or mulch. Take time between storms to aerate these areas. Use a pitchfork or something similar to simply lift the mulch up a few inches and shake it off the fork back into its place. Exposure to air will speed the drying process and physical disturbance can seriously disrupt pest plans.

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