Coastal and Tropical South

November, 2010
Regional Report

Ivy or not?

There's something about a brick wall covered in a fine green mat of English ivy that somehow inspires and comforts simultaneously. This is true even though the plant is considered a pest plant by the Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council. The problem arises when it escapes cultivation, shades out low growing plants, and climbs over shrubs and small trees to envelop and strangle them. Control yours by cutting it back each winter or spring, and don't plant more.

Pineapple tips

Like other bromeliads, mature pineapple plants form a bloom stalk that rises from the center to towering heights. Unlike most of them, its flower is delicious. It's heavy, so stake it, and when half turns to gold, cut the pineapple off and ripen in a plastic bag with a cut apple. That will deliver the natural ethylene gas needed to finish ripening evenly.

Herb vinegar

Put those herbs to work, and make a fine vinegar for marinades and salad dressings. Craft stores have cork-topped bottles, or you can recycle your own. In each bottle: 1 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp. mustard seed, 1 sprig rosemary, 1 cayenne pepper, 1 peeled garlic clove, 2 sprigs basil, and 5 peppercorns. Fill with white vinegar and seal for one month. Keep in the refrigerator once opened.

Woodpecker trees

When a tree dies, it has new uses in the garden. Of course there's firewood, maybe shavings for the smoker, perhaps a log large enough to become a bench. Small branches weave easily into a wattle fence and longer ones can become trellises. If the dead tree trunk doesn't present a hazard to structures or walkways, leave a 12 foot trunk to become a home for woodpeckers. They're noisy and territorial, a pleasure to watch and delighted by a birdy buffet of wood rotting insects.

Pond rehab

Don't assume your pond survived the summer unscathed. Unlined ponds may need to be weeded, or to have their edges reshaped to prevent erosion or overflow after rainfall. If trees or other debris fell into it, or destroyed the rocks and plants around it, the liner could be compromised. Clean out the pond, and then drain enough water away to examine the liner, pump and filter for damage. Remove the plants and repair the damage now.

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