Coastal and Tropical South

April, 2011
Regional Report

Be Careful Composting Weeds

It's wise to compost as much plant debris as possible, including twigs and small stems. However, it is also wise to remember not to put especially noxious weed plants with perennial roots or ones that have set seeds into the compost pile unless you are certain its temperature will exceed 130 degrees F. Few of us monitor this temperature and so should burn or trash these problematic weed plants. The first step in weed control may be to get them out of the garden, but the last step is to prevent their return.

Turn Compost

The leaf pile you made behind the shrubs last fall needs attention now. Warming temperatures and the rainiest weather some parts of our regions expect to see in a year have got its decomposition going. Grab a pitchfork and turn the pile. Lift and drop onto the ground or a tarp next to the pile. If you want the leaves to compost faster, sprinkle in some cottonseed meal or other organic nitrogen source. For a pile at the optimum 3 foot x 3 foot size, use one cup of cottonseed meal to speed the process.

Treat Yellowing Evergreens

Evergreen, needled shrubs are popular for their strong form and long life in the landscape. When juniper, cedar, and their kin look pale and their slow growth seems to stop, take action. Check first for spider mites. Hold a piece of white paper under a branch and thump the branch, then look at the dust. If it moves, it's mites. Spray with Neem or drench with a systemic insecticide in the case of serious infestations. If no mites are present, fertilize the shrubs by surrounding them with a 1 inch blanket of composted manure, followed in one month by a complete shrub fertilizer.

Avod Blossom End Rot

There are many questions about growing tomatoes, but none gets any more attention than blossom end rot. The fruit fails to take up enough calcium and its cells collapse. Calcium sprays are available and can be helpful, but the bigger problem is often water management. Tomato plants that wilt are compromised and if they wilt often enough, the fruit cannot mature without developing blossom end rot. Use soaker hoses or whatever method you like, but water tomatoes regularly from the beginning to avoid blackened fruit later.

Recycle Mulch

Straw's long lasting qualities and abundance make it a natural choice for mulching, but it has limits. When pine straw mulch turns dark, it also begins to mat up as decomposition slowly begins. Composting it takes years. It's done as fluffy mulch and will soak up water meant for the plants or shed it off of them completely. Lift the straw out and use it to cover paths, fence lines, and the area under your trash cans.

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