Middle South

February, 2011
Regional Report

Celebrate Sweet Potatoes

There are two reasons to celebrate sweet potatoes in February. First, it's National Sweet Potato Month; and second, this vitamin-rich root vegetable will help you keep your resolution to lose weight and get healthy. The super-nutritious sweet potato is high in beta-carotene, as well as vitamins A, C, and B6. It's also a good source of iron, potassium, and fiber. So eat lots of sweet potatoes this month and every month, and help pass the word to healthy-minded friends.

Renew Fruit Trees

If you grow tree fruits in your Middle South garden, such as apples, pears, plums, or peaches, it's time to take action. Prune trees, clearing away cut branches, and remove old mummies. These rotted fruits are time bombs filled with spores that will spread fungal diseases. If fertilizer is needed, apply judiciously. Too much food can cause excessive vegetative growth coupled with poor fruit set and can make plants susceptible to a variety of ills. When in doubt about cultural practices, consult fruit fact sheets published by your state Cooperative Extension.

Check Vegetable Seeds

If you have leftover seeds from previous years, be aware that storage life varies with species, variety, and storage conditions. For example, carrots, onions, and lettuce seeds don't keep nearly as well as those with hard coats, such as peas and okra. To avoid disappointment, always start with a fresh supply of less durable seeds.

Plant Bare Root Roses

If you're adding bare-root roses or other woody plants to the garden, be sure to position the plant at the same depth or slightly higher than it was grown previously. To do so, make a firm cone of soil in the center of the planting hole, spread the plant roots over the cone, and lay a rod or stick across the planting hole to adjust the plant's root flare to the native soil level. Then, hold the plant upright as you backfill soil around the roots and add water to eliminate air pockets. If the plant begins to settle too low, gently pump it up and down in the damp soil to raise it to the correct level.

Anchor Ground Covers on Slopes

Ground covers are the perfect choice for holding slopes in place and adding interest to a prominent area of the garden, but they can be tricky to establish. To keep erosion in check and to help plants get a sure footing, make an individual terrace for each plant, with a small catch basin behind (for moisture) and a firm mound of soil in front (to hold the plant steady). Set the ground cover plants in staggered rows so rain and irrigation must zigzag down the slope, and add mulch to help keep soil in place.

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