Coastal and Tropical South

May, 2010
Regional Report

Aphids on tomatoes

Keep an eye out for aphids on the growing tips and flowers of tomatoes as the nights stay warmer this month. They are small, soft-bodies insects about the size of a pinhead and are called :plant lice" because of their appearance. You may even see ants climbing the stems first, seeking the critters. Spray for aphids with insecticidal soap, pyrethrin, or Neem spray formulated for use on vegetables. Use the spray twice, at eight day intervals.

Regrowing a hedge

Shrubs that have been damaged by storms, flooding or severe drought can often be rehabilitated in a season or two. The key to growing dense, healthy hedges is a combination of fertilizer, pruning, and water. Ligustrum, cleyera, and many more evergreens will continue to put on new growth for much of the year if you will clip off one inch each time two sprout, then fertilize and water extra-regularly. Use a soaker hose and keep the hedge mulched.

Cut back or limb up?

Hugely popular in recent years, dazzling lorapetalum flowers brighten up gardens across our regions. But some lorapetalum plants didn't have height information, or it was ignored, so many lorries have grown out of bounds. After they flower the first time, prune back by one third or limb up into a tree form. If you forget, go ahead and prune anytime, but know that the next flush of flowers will likely be delayed.

Gardenia pests

This week is a good time to check gardenias for newly hatched whiteflies and other pests. While they are small and still return to the plant each evening, spray at dusk with Neem or use a systemic if the problem or planting is huge. If you don't control whiteflies now, sooty mold will soon ruin the leaves. The superficial black layer of sooty mold grows in the honeydew, or undigested sugars, excreted by the whiteflies. Besides looking bad, it can limit flowering by interfering with photosynthesis. Wash the soot off with soapy water; use a product containing Neem to control the insects.

Seed and sod

Soils and night temperatures are perfect now for resodding, reseeding, or plugging lawns. To establish a new lawn when money is tight, use a combination of plugs and seeds. For example, hybrid bermudagrass sod squares can be cut into 2" plugs, planted at 4" intervals and oversown with seed. If more than half the front yard has no turfgrass, seriously consider resodding for a good result quickly. To repair small areas, rake the area very well, work in compost, plant plugs or sow seeds, and water well.

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