Upper South

April, 2009
Regional Report

Check for Slugs

The cool, damp weather of spring and the tender, succulent new growth of spring bulbs, lilies, hostas, and lettuce is a special invitation for hungry slugs. Check plants for slime trails and gnawed foliage and flowers. A simple way to capture slugs is to lay a board in the garden, which slugs think is a new home. Pick up the board daily and destroy the slugs underneath. Traps, either homemade or purchased, containing beer or other attractants work well, too. Strips of thin copper act as a deterrent. If choosing to use baits, try the newer iron phosphate ones as these are less toxic than the ones containing metaldehyde, which can be dangerous to pets and wildlife.

Choose the Best Day to Transplant

As you transplant vegetables, annuals, and perennials into the garden, try to choose a day that is cool and cloudy, preferably with rain predicted. Those conditions will make the transition from pot to garden less stressful on the plants. It's also a good idea to protect newly transplanted plants from sun and wind for a week or so, depending on the weather, using something as simple as cardboard boxes or go a bit more high-tech with polyspun row cover fabric.

Photograph and Care for Spring Bulbs

Take photos of your spring bulb displays, not only to admire what you've done but also to refer to in the fall when you need help in remember what was growing where. To assure blooms next year, feed spring bulbs with a complete bulb fertilizer, such as 5-10-10, as the flowers fade. Don't cut off the foliage until it turns yellow and dies. Allow the "little" bulbs to go to seed, if desired, but remove the faded flower stems on daffodils and tulips.

Install Plant Supports

Peonies, yarrow, salvia, sedum, and other perennials that tend to flop over when in bloom can be made to stand tall and straight by installing metal plant support rings now while the plants are still short. These are widely available and come in various sizes. There are also plant supports for individual stems, such as lilies. Invest in a variety of sizes to show off your flowers at their best.

Apply Deer and Rabbit Repellents Regularly

Deer and rabbits can wreak havoc on a garden overnight, especially in the spring when new growth is at it's tastiest. Although there are any number of "home remedies," such as sacks of human hair or hanging cakes of bar soap, there are a number of spray-on repellents that work more consistently. Most of these are based on rotten eggs, hot pepper, and garlic. Different brands have varying life spans, but in the spring it is advisable to apply every week or two, especially after heavy rains.

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