Middle South

July, 2010
Regional Report

Root Coleus

Coleus, for either sun or shade, are among the easiest plants to root. If you need a larger supply of this plant for your garden, take 3-inch stem cuttings, strip off all but the top three leaves, then stick in water or potting medium. When rooting in water, separate cuttings into individual containers (such as baby food jars), or roots will become hopelessly entangled. Keep those stuck in growing medium (vermiculite, perlite, or sand) moist and humid until roots are established.

Clean Hummingbird Feeders

With daytime temperatures soaring, hummingbird feeders can quickly become contaminated with bacteria and mold. Clean feeders with a mild bleach solution (1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon water) and rinse and dry well before refilling. If daytime temperatures are below 70 degrees F, nectar can last up to a week, but be more cautious in warmer weather. Change nectar every 5 or 6 days if temperatures are above 70, every 3 or 4 days if above 80, and every 1 or 2 days if above 90.

Prepare the Garden for Vacation

Help the garden hold its own while you're away by harvesting vegetables, pulling weeds, adding mulch where needed, and cutting back annual flowers such as marigolds, zinnias, and petunias. Prune roses, too, and fertilize for a fresh wave a blooms when you return. Group houseplants and other low-light containers in a shady location and move sun-loving containers to a spot with morning light and afternoon shade. The day before departure, cut the grass and water everything deeply. Even if you've had recent rains, extra moisture will ensure the garden's beauty and productivity while you are away.

Nurture Butterflies with Host Plants

Butterfly host plants are ones that butterflies lay their eggs on and that larval caterpillars eat. Each species of caterpillar prefers a particular host plant. Some, such as the larvae of the Black Swallowtail or the Cabbage White, will eat a wide variety of plants. Others will eat only one type and will die if the species-specific host plant is not available. In my summer garden, I grow a several host plants, including parsley, dill, fennel, false nettle, milkweed, and passion flower.

Train Climbing Roses

Climbing roses do not climb but lean, using their thorns to secure support. Help your climbers make a framework of upright canes with proper training. In the first years, allow the roses to produce long, sturdy canes, then begin shortening side shoots to two or three buds. In time, thin the plant by removing older, woody canes that bear few flowers, removing only one or two canes a year. Orient the shoots horizontally so they will produce flowers along their length, and leave room between branches for air circulation.

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