Middle South

May, 2010
Regional Report

Skip the Compost Pile

Not all kitchen waste needs to go into a compost pile. Some unwanted materials can go straight to the garden, to be buried or scratched into the soil. Don't bother to compost coffee grounds, eggshells, water used to cook vegetables, unfinished hot or cold cereals, carrot and potato peels, leafy tops trimmed from vegetables, mushy fruit, stale bread and crackers, and dead flower bouquets.

Root Difficult Cuttings

If you're having trouble propagating a woody plant, try rooting a few cuttings in an old-fashioned potato cradle. Cut your slip on a diagonal and immediately put it into a hole drilled into a small potato. Plant the potato into prepared soil, leaving only the cutting above the surface. Tend as you would any other cutting, monitoring moisture and light.

Lure Hawks and Owls

Everyone knows you can attract insect-eating birds by planting seed-producing flowers, such as coneflowers, and berry-bearing shrubs, such as mahonia. You can also lure rabbit and rodent-eating birds, such as hawks and owls, by providing them with a place to perch. T-shaped posts, at least 10 feet tall and 100 feet apart, will do the trick.

Protect the Bark of Young Trees

For young trees, a length of 1 1/2-inch diameter plastic swimming-pool hose can be both a deterrent and protector. Cut the hose length to equal the distance between the ground and the first tree branch, then cut down its side from top to bottom. Snap the hose around the tree trunk and mound a couple inches of soil at the hose's bottom to prevent nibbling of the bark by small rodents, as well as damage from sun scald or extreme cold.

Propagate African Violets

The clear plastic containers used to package hydroponic lettuce make an excellent greenhouse for easy propagation of African violets. Simply fill the small well in the bottom of the container with water, place the base of a leaf in the water, then close the lid and set it where it will have bright but indirect sunlight. Roots will begin to form in a few weeks and in two months enough new leaves will have grown from the base of the cutting to transplant it into a pot.

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