Middle South

March, 2011
Regional Report

Use Ditch Lilies to Hold Slopes

Instead of planting an evergreen ground cover to check erosion, consider employing the old fashioned ditch lily, Hemerocallis fulva, to do this dirty work with style. These hardy and tenacious plants will not only stay put but will spread steadily, covering their given area with a carpet of green fans throughout the growing season, and adding a month-long punch of brilliant orange flower color in summer.

Remove Mulch From Around Trunks

With woody plants, there is no question that a wide area of mulch that extends to the width of the canopy is a good thing. The mulch not only looks good, it also conserves moisture, discourages weeds, and moderates soil temperature. But mulch against the trunk itself can be problematic, encouraging fungal diseases, insect infestations, and bark-eating mice and voles. To be safe, give trees and shrubs a bit of breathing room, by pulling mulch six inches or more away from their base.

Plant a Windbreak

You can't stop the wind, but you can reduce its force with a carefully sited wall of plants. To create a beautiful as well as effective barrier, choose a predominance of evergreen trees and shrubs and scatter deciduous ornamentals among the mix. Remember to consider the mature height of trees, as you'll create shade as well as shelter. Native trees that work well include white pine (Pinus strobus), Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), white spruce (Picea glauca), and American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis).

Grow Greens in Partial Shade

If you want to grow some of your own food but don't have the sunlight required for tomatoes and other fruiting plants, consider leaf crops. Leaf lettuces, spinach, mustard, arugula, and chard will all produce a tasty harvest in partial shade. You can also cultivate parsley, mint, and other leafy herbs.

Clean Clay Pots

It's essential to clean old clay pots before reusing, especially those with a white crust on their rim. This coating is a buildup of salts from chemical fertilizers and it will damage any leaves that come in contact. To clean the pots, soak them in a warm mix of nine parts water and one part bleach. After a half hour or so, scrub away any remaining deposits with a stiff brush.

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