Coastal and Tropical South

April, 2010
Regional Report

Lawn check

Has your lawn looked puny for a couple of years? If the lawn has lost its steady growth rate and rich green color despite your attention to fertilizer and water, it might be time to apply lime. You won't know for sure unless you do a soil test, which will also tell you how much lime is needed to achieve the proper pH. Use a pelleted product to reduce dust inhalation and/or wear a mask when working with garden lime.

How much mulch

The phenomenon known as the "mulch volcano" pops up every year, despite many exhortations to prevent it. Maybe you bought too much or got bad advice about how much to use it, but mulch should never be placed up against the trunks of trees and shrubs, nor should it be piled up too deeply over the soil. The excess organic matter can stay too wet and harbor pests. Limit the mulch to a 2"-3" deep blanket in the root zone trees and shrubs, but keep the mulch several inches away from the trunks themselves.and hold it to 1"-2" around annuals, perennials and roses.

Herbs for containers

Although basil and rosemary make great garden plants, other herbs stay healthier in containers. The different varieties of sages, oreganos, and thymes must have good drainage and limited amounts of water to keep their essential oils tasty. Chives can be rampant re-seeders in the garden but you can control their habits in a pot. These and other kitchen necessities such as parsley and multiplying onions can be kept closer to the back door when you grow them in containers. Seeing them every day may tempt you to use them more often.

Neaten up

Take time now to groom plants outdoors, especially palms, ferns, bulbs and perennials. Clip browned fronds off of hardy ferns at ground level. Cut down flower stems of daffodils, amaryllis, and other bulbs that have finished blooming. Not only does the garden look neater, the bulbs will be better able to transfer nutrients from the remaining leaves to the roots.

Holiday plants

Move 'em up to larger pots! Holiday cactus, poinsettia, kalanchoe, and similar potted plants await your attention. They've outgrown the pots they were grown in and depleted their original potting soil. Before summering them on the porch, repot them in slightly larger containers with fresh potting mix. Give them a bit of a trim, too. Poinsettias can be planted outside in the Tropics; existing plants should be cut back, too.

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