Upper South

March, 2010
Regional Report

Check Soil Moisture Before Digging

As weather permits, it's now time to begin preparing the vegetable garden and flower beds. One of the keys to success is to work the soil only when it is dry enough. A simple way to test this is to form a ball of soil, an inch or so in diameter, in your hand. Lay the ball on your open palm, then poke it with your finger. If it crumbles apart rather than staying stuck together, the soil is dry enough to dig or till.

Plan to Fertilize Spring Bulbs

As the foliage of spring-flowering bulbs begins to appear, apply a complete fertilizer to the surface of the soil. Choose a complete fertilizer, preferably an organic or natural one, with a formula like 5-5-5 or 4-6-4. With that sort of formulation, apply at a rate of two to four pounds of a fertilizer per 100 square feet. Try to choose a time to fertilize just before rain is expected, so that it gets washed into the soil.

Start Canna Rhizomes

Canna rhizomes that were over-wintered indoors can be potted up to get a their growth started early. Divide the rhizomes into pieces so that each has two to three growing points, or eyes. Fill pots with moistened soilless potting mix, set each rhizome piece into a pot so that the top of the rhizome will be just below the final soil level, then fill in with the potting mix. Keep the soil lightly moist and set in a dimly lit area until growth starts, then move to a bright area. Don't plant outdoors until all danger of frost is over.

Plant According to Cold Tolerance

As you gain experience in growing vegetables, you'll find that all the "cool season" crops should not be lumped together as to planting time due to varying tolerance to cold temperatures. The first vegetables that can be planted as soon as you can work the soil include onions, radishes, lettuce, and spinach. A few weeks later, it's time for beets, turnips, carrots, Swiss chard and peas. At the same time, you can transplant broccoli, cabbage and other cole crops.

Plant Pansies and Violas

Pansies and their smaller cousins, violas, are widely available now. Plant them in an area where they'll be easily seen and enjoyed. They also grow well in containers. To keep them blooming for the longest period, remove withered and cold-damaged blooms regularly. When night temperatures remain above 40 degrees F, feed pansies and violas with a water-soluble fertilizer, such as 20-20-20, every two weeks to keep plants growing and blooming.

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