Coastal and Tropical South

May, 2009
Regional Report

Growing Sweet Potato Slips

Sweet potatoes are an oddball vine but easy to grow. Best started late in the spring, they grow more like pumpkins than reds or whites. Sweet potatoes for propagation are called "slips," but they're just cuttings -- plant in a sunny site in well-drained soil, and add a reservoir for water and fertilizer. The same care works for the ornamental sweets like 'Marguerite'.

Check the Mulch

When we mulch, we put it around everything to suppress weeds and moderate water conditions. But more than 2 inches deep of pine straw or bark is counterproductive and here's why. Irrigation and rain water hit the mulch first and if it is too deep, will be absorbed right there while the soil stays dry. And please, no mulch volcanoes around shrubs and trees.

Filling In

If you've got new ground cover, the wait for it to fill in can bring on weeds. Be sure to mulch around and between the ground cover babies, and reach right in and lay new runners on top of the mulch or cut them back to encourage branching. Give annuals to the spaces in between for cover and color while you wait.

Squash Tips

Zucchini and yellow crookneck squash are starting to come in, and the plants need a boost of fertilizer to get going on the next round of squash. Use your choice, but do it now: water weekly with your favorite soluble formula, or sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of vegetable garden fertilizer around each squash. If pollination is inadequate, do it yourself with a cotton swab.

Oak Blister

When spring is cool and moist, and new oak leaves are unfurling, oak blister disease can present on the new growth. Fortunately, it is not fatal. Not so happily, it looks just awful as leaves are swollen and brown in places, eventually developing dusty spores on the leaf surface. Rake up the leaves as they fall, and worry about something else.

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