Upper South

May, 2009
Regional Report

Practice Garden Safety

Preserve your hearing and eyesight when using power tools such as the lawn mower, rototiller, string trimmer, or chainsaw in the garden by wearing ear plugs and goggles. Some machines can reach 100 decibels, which is harmful if repeated regularly. Always wear long pants and sturdy shoes, not sandals, when operating power tools.

Try A Window Box of Succulent

Those beautiful window boxes overflowing with petunias or geraniums are wonderful but a lot of work to maintain, especially with keeping them watered. As an alternative, try planting window boxes with succulents, which can survive much drier conditions. With succulents becoming more popular recently, they are now widely available at garden centers. There are both hardy and tender kinds, so be sure to find out which you're buying so that you won't be disappointed. The potting mix must be well-drained and remember that even succulents need some water, so check the container regularly.

Enjoy Strawberries

If you don't have your own strawberry patch, be sure to buy some at a farmer's market or u-pick farm. Eat them fresh, freeze some, and make jam, too. And think about starting your own strawberry bed next year. A bed 12 feet long and 4 feet wide can be planted with 24 plants, which can yield 25 to 50 quarts of berries the second year after planting. Some gardeners like to grow both the type of strawberries that bear one crop in May and June plus the everbearing type that will produce fruit all summer, although in lesser quantity. Just enough to have shortcake and some on your cereal several times a week. Among the best of the everbearing type are 'Tribute' and 'Tristar'.

Plant and Care for Annuals

No doubt, filling containers and planting beds with annuals has already begun, but you can continue for another couple of weeks. Just be sure to plant in the evening or on a cool, cloudy day before rain is expected. For several weeks, keep an eye on them and water, if necessary. Use a water-soluble or granular fertilizer several weeks after planting. Besides the reliable like petunias and impatiens, be sure to try some of some annuals that you%re never grown before. Adding some to containers is a good way to see how they grow and if you like them.

Don't Wait Too Long to Prune Shrubs

Spring-blooming shrubs and trees bloom on the previous year's growth, so it's important to prune and shape them immediately after they finish blooming so that you don't lose any of next year's flowers. Most of these plants should be trimmed so that they have a natural appearance rather than sheared. Remove some of the older growth if it didn't bloom or shows signs of dying. Plants usually look better and are healthier with judicious thinning.

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