Coastal and Tropical South

September, 2010
Regional Report

Amaryllis redux

Established beds of amaryllis bulbs may become so thick with leaves popping up from crowded bulbs that they forget to bloom. Both types of amaryllis that we grow, the perennial garden's traditional red trumpets or the fanciest types, usually first grown indoors, thrive outdoors in our regions. Use a shovel to dig up the bulbs and the soil around them. Gently knock the dirt off and separate the bulbs very carefully. Use a sharp knife, small saw or hand shears to cut between them, but do not cut into the flesh of these large bulbs. Trim the leaves back by half and replant right away or store in a dry, dark place for several weeks if necessary.

Hummingbird kindness

The sporting nature of our regions is legendary, but sometimes less is more. Recently I've heard of "competitive" gardeners attracting more hummingbirds to their feeders by thickening the nectar. Instead of 1 part sugar: 4 part water mix, they mix as sweet as 1:1! Don't do it! You can do more harm than good when you increase the sugar to water ratio. Thicker nectars are not good for hummingbirds, nor is red food coloring in the mix. Both practices may harm some hummingbirds.

Green pea timing

When to plant English peas or edible podded peas in our regions is a good question. Some say we're just not suited to them, that if they make peas or pods, the skin is thick and the peas are mealy. That can be true, since the warmest or wettest falls can wipe them out as surely as an unexpected freeze. With ample water, homegrown peas are delicious, so start planting peas now. Wait to sow sweet peas for flowers until early November.

Pleasant work

Take advantage of a pleasant fall day to do those upgrades you've been planning. A path isn't a path until it has a surface to walk on. Without that surface, it''s just a footpath and barely makes any impact in the garden. Put your best ideas into action now to improve the hardscape by adding pebbles or slag to the paths. Cover a space beside a path with the same pebbles and add a bench for an instant improvement. Maintain what you have, too. Reinforce a fence or trellis and consider painting or staining new and old pieces in a continuous color scheme to add unity to the view.

Scorched shrubs

A backyard bonfire causes almost the same damage as prolong heat and drought stress brings to vulnerable shrubs. Both situations can scorch leaves of shrubs or trees, giving them an unhealthy bronzing. Heat and rapid drying of the plant material easily kills the growing tips, too. Prune off the damage, and then scratch the stems further back to be sure they're green. Keep pruning to shape the plant as you compensate for the damage and restore its natural shape. Near-constant drip irrigation will allow the shrubs to absorb the water you provide more efficiently than flooding if the soil is compacted.

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