Coastal and Tropical South

September, 2009
Regional Report

Plant a Loquat

Loquat has an elusive charm, flowers best described as interesting, but its fruit cannot be matched. Stiff, ridged leaves look like dark green daggers on stocky branches atop stout trunks. Grown in Florida since 1887 at least, loquat adapts well to most of the soils in our regions. If your soil is sandy and shallow, grow it on a mound. Look for named varieties, selected for their disease resistance.

Passion Vine Harvest

Before long, native passiflora, or passionflower, vines will close up their purple-blue flowers. Soon the seedpods form, light green balloons we call "maypops." Indeed, they do pop when hurled at the garage wall, but I digress. The seed of passionflower deserve to be allowed to dry, then cleaned and separated from all the chaff that protects it. Take those seeds, sprout them in tiny pots, and plant them along a fence or let them climb the dead tree you left for the woodpeckers. It's a fine native vine, and autumn is its prime.

Neaten Shrubs

If the summer has been rough on your evergreen shrubs, or if they've grown too well and are crowded, sharpen your shears. Now's not the time for heavy pruning, unless a shrub is near dying anyway and you're tired of looking at the mess. However, a light trim to shape plants like cleyera and ligustrum will keep them neat. Shapely shrubs not only look nice, they're easier to drape with lights for the upcoming holiday season!

Tropics Vegetables

As a blog contributor reminded us recently, you can plant nearly any vegetable you like to eat in the tropics region right after Labor Day. Lots of shovels and a few tillers are busy digging and improving garden soils. When muscles ache after such exertion, consider no-till gardening. Once you've built a richly organic bed, keep it mulched. Work that mulch into the soil once or twice a year, plus an inch of compost annually. Cultivate the soil around your plants often to keep it from compacting. Keep it up, and you won't need that tiller for a decade.

Container Vegetables

Although we can grow vegetables and flowers in containers, too often we start too small. Use 5-gallon pots at least, and fill them with potting soil that you have amended with compost and ground bark. If the pots will stay outside all year, compost/manure if a great organic matter to include. Mix 2 tablespoons of garden lime into each 5 gallon of mixed soil, and 2 tablespoons of a granular vegetable fertilizer. Now, you can plant everything from arugula and broccoli to violas and zinnias.

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