Coastal and Tropical South

October, 2009
Regional Report

Camellia Patrol

Before this fall's buds begin to show color, take a good look at camellias and sasanquas. Pale color, webs on the lower surface, or bumps on the leaves are signs of insect invasions, particularly scale insects. Use a neem product to control them, and follow up with a horticultural oil spray after flowering. If insects have been an issue, plan to prune then, too

Wildflower Reseeding

Beds of black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, zinnias, Mexican hat, and other reseeding perennials and annuals have hundreds of seeds to drop, so let them go. Pull the mulch back and spread a thin layer of compost under them to ensure safe landing. Or clip the seed heads before they explode and store them. Use brown grocery-type bags to store the heads, then clean the seeds after they fall out.

Lawn Repair

Cleaning up storm debris and remodeling projects can and often do create a need to repair the lawn once heavy equipment is gone. Rake or till the areas to restore slope and level with the surrounding lawn. Fill in with planting mix or compost, not potting soil, no matter how expensive it may be. Resod, or cut plugs from squares of sod. Overseed damaged areas with perennial ryegrass to prevent erosion this winter.

Age is Good

Ground-up plant debris of all sorts will compost and age gracefully if you leave it alone. Do not use fresh material to mulch or work into beds. As it decomposes it will take available nutrients away from plants. Let the debris rot naturally, or speed it up by mixing in green matter and turning the pile frequently.

Raised Beds

Building new raised beds or rethinking them means taking a close look at your site and providing a reliable water source nearby. If sunlight is limited, be sure it falls on the shorter plants. Or slope the bed toward the brighter light and put a soaker hose at the top for easy irrigation. The height of a raised bed depends more on the gardener than anything else, from 24 inches or more to accommodate small trees to the height of a brick edging block. Remember that deeper beds will need more water, and may hold more, too.

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