Coastal and Tropical South

March, 2010
Regional Report

Corn care

Once corn is up, it grows rapidly. Southern Coast gardeners may still be setting out the peat pots of corn that they started last month. (Hurry- that window is closing!) Farther south, corn seed planted early this month should be sprouting. Water corn when rainfall is less than an inch weekly to ensure kernel development. Fertilize when corn reaches 18 inches tall, and again when it reaches 24 inches, by putting granular vegetable garden food in a band alongside the corn.

Fat leaves

Large leaves can absorb fertilizer very quickly when you spray it on. In fact, most will green up and look better as they gain nutrition. Try spraying fertilizer on canna, fatsia, fatshedera, Japanese plum, and other big leaves. Water plants first if they are dry to improve absorption. Spray to the point where the fertilizer just begins to drip off the leaves and repeat no sooner than one month.

Cutworms beware!

Tender seedlings can be vulnerable to cutworms, those clever caterpillars that emerge from the soil to slice through tiny stems. Plants look sawed clean of,f and may look chewed or not. As with most insects, exclusion works better than control. Wrap cardboard collars around each stem. You can also apply parasitic nematodes to the soil at planting time, or use the microbial insecticide Bt at first the sight of these pests.

Soak it

Whether or not our regions endure a drought this summer, plants will need watering at least occasionally. Get ready now: check in-ground irrigation systems to be sure zones are timed properly and replace broken heads; run soaker hoses under shrubs and cover with mulch; set up drip irrigation for containers. Some gardeners will have to replace sections of pipe that froze and repair or replace the cracks in garden hoses, so check them now.

Prevent petal blight

Even the late-season camellias are dropping their last flowers of the year. That's the gardener's clue to rake well under the shrubs to remove the debris. Those nice rings of flower petals on the ground surrounding these shrubs are safe harbors for fungus diseases such as petal blight. Clean up now, blanket the base of each shrub with a one inch layer of compost, add fresh mulch, and prune as needed.

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