Middle South

February, 2011
Regional Report

Steady Hanging Baskets

My previous home and garden was accented with four lush hanging baskets that were renewed each spring. Planting those round-bottomed containers was quite a struggle, though, until I came up with a few ideas to steady them. If the baskets were planted from the top only, I set the round bottom of the basket inside a black plastic landscape pot to hold it upright. If the bottom and sides of the basket were also to be planted, I used a long-handled hoe and an open ladder to suspend the basket at the perfect working height. To make this work, I slipped the top end of the hoe under the first step of the ladder and over the roller-tray shelf, and then hung the basket from the hoe handle.

Wait to Work Soil

It can be hard to exercise control when spring fever hits and you want to get started in the garden, but avoid working the soil too early in the season, especially when it is wet. Turning wet soil -- soil that forms a ball when you squeeze it together in your hand -- can cause clumps that are nearly impossible to break up once they dry.

Provide Rabbit Snack

If bunnies are a problem and you prefer to dissuade them gently, offer them a snack row of beans around the perimeter of the garden or where they are most likely to enter the vegetable plot. Even if you don't get a single dish of beans, the plants can still be a boon to the garden as a nitrogen-fixing cover crop. Simply turn them under at the end of the season to improve the soil.

Make Handy Rock Pots

Save and recycle several black plastic landscape containers this spring and fill them with rocks to use in the garden throughout the year. What can you do with "rock pots"? Plenty! To name just a few: place them as hose guides where the watering hose whips over newly planted seedlings, use them to hold down row covers, or for layering a low branch of an ornamental shrub.

Use Less Potting Mix

You can save on expensive potting mix and give your plants boost late in the season by filling containers a third to a half full with garden compost before topping off with store-bought growing medium. The loose potting mix gives roots a quick and easy start, while the nutrient-rich compost keeps them happy when the going gets tough.

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