Middle South

May, 2011
Regional Report

Grow Plants From Seed

Want to try going plants from seed, but don't know where to start? The best advice is to chose from the Top Ten Easiest Plants to Grow From Seed list, created by the Home Garden Seed Association. All can be sown directly in the garden, so you don't need to coddle plants inside, and they'll germinate easily and grow quickly. For sure-fire success, choose seeds from these winning vegetables and flowers: beans, cucumber, lettuce, peas, radish, squash, pumpkin, cosmos, zinnia, and sunflower.

Prune After Bloom

Some flowering shrubs need pruning to stay shapely and bloom abundantly, but if you prune at the wrong time of year, you will shear away next season's flowers. To prevent mistakes, remember to "prune after bloom." Cut back spring bloomers such as forsythia and azaleas as soon as the blooms begin to fade, as they make buds for next year in the summer months. On the other hand, summer bloomers such as butterfly bush and crape myrtles should be shaped at the end of winter, as they will make their flowers on new wood that grows in spring.

Select Shrubs for Dappled Shade

If you have tall trees, your garden is the perfect site for shade-tolerant shrubs. Where the soil is poor, enrich it with organic matter and then add broadleaf evergreens such as rhododendron, mountain laurel, camellia, and pieris. Then, create interesting contrast by adding deciduous shrubs such as witch hazel, oak-leaf hydrangea, maple-leaf viburnum, and summer-sweet.

Fool the Eye With Foliage

Here's a trick from Japanese gardens that can make your small space appear larger: place large-leaf plants, such as hydrangeas and hostas, near a viewing point, and plant those with small or dissected leaves, such as ornamental grasses and cut-leaf maples, in the distance.

Prevent Cracked Tomatoes

The skin on tomatoes becomes less flexible as they begin to turn red and will crack if the plants take up copious amounts of water too quickly. You can reduce this problem somewhat by keeping the soil evenly moist. Your best bet, however is to plant crack-resistant varieties, such as 'Celebrity', 'Big Boy', 'Arkansas Traveler', and any of the Mountain series, including 'Mountain Gold', 'Mountain Delight', and 'Mountain Fresh'.

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