Coastal and Tropical South

January, 2010
Regional Report

Clear Space

If you're planting a new vegetable garden or flowerbed, you may read advice to just turn over existing grass. This notion works in some places, not ours, and in some methods. If you are preparing a no-till site, for example, it might not become a weed factory. Better to deal with it now than to plan for future labor. Use a sharpened flat head shovel (aka a spade) first. Scrape the surface plants off the site, digging in as little as possible. Removing the weeds and grasses now prevents their return as weeds in your tomatoes or zinnias later.

Poisonous Plants

Everyone has questions about poisonous plants. Most southerners know from childhood that all parts of oleander and rosary pea are poisonous, as are lantana berries. Gardeners are more likely to have a reaction to sap, such as from pruning allamanda or even some philodendrons, so keep the gloves with the shears. The signs of a skin reaction to plant sap include redness, itching, and small bumps or welts, all best avoided.

Plant Now in Southern Coast Region

If you've never tasted a fresh beet, plant some and be amazed when you steam the small ones whole. Likewise, try English peas, sugarsnaps, and snowpeas for tastes unlike any you can purchase. Finally, plant potatoes. While most will grow now, few are easy to find. Look for Red LaSoda, Kennebec, and Sebago varieties. Red LaSoda is an LSU product and the most popular for new potatoes in our regions.

Plant Now in Tropics Region

In zone 10, January's not only time for potatoes, but also the last call for leaf and romaine lettuces and escarole. Sow seed right away and thin the first leaves to give the winter salad some punch. The cole crops must be planted now if at all. Other than mustard greens, these will do much better from transplants than direct sowing. Grow reliable cabbages like Copenhagen Market and Chieftan. Wong Bok Chinese cabbage and Snowball cauliflowers are also recommended.

Palm Pointers

When searching for palms hardy throughout our region(s), don't stop at palmettos, although they are an excellent evergreen shrubby palm. Needle palm is also trunkless, yet carries strong frond form on a plant 5 feet tall. Washington (or Mexican fan) palm can reach 100 feet at a relatively fast rate. The farther south you live, the more palm choices you will have, but these signature plants belong in every garden of our regions.

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