Coastal and Tropical South

May, 2011
Regional Report

Watch out for Blight

Keep an eye on tomatoes for symptoms of blight. Lower leaves may turn yellow for lack of nitrogen fertilizer, but if round, dark spots are also present, suspect early blight. It is mostly a problem in spring, but can persist in a wet season to cause spots near the stem end on fruits. Late blight is also favored by wet weather, but can show up anywhere on the plant. It puts gray spots on leaves that soon turn brown and quickly spread to ruin the entire leaf. Pluck off affected leaves and spray weekly with Neem to attempt control, or replace the plants.

Care for Old Trees

Deep root feeding of trees more than 20 years old can be a controversial subject if the trees in question are healthy and have never been fertilized before. If, however, an older tree has begun to show signs of aging, such as premature leaf drop in the fall, or if its leaves are smaller than they should be, or if flowering has stopped, consider it.

Divide Daylilies

The "rules" say to divide perennials in the season opposite their bloom, but that's more of a suggestion for us. Daylilies, for example, grow rapidly after they flower. You want them to take right off and grow when you dig and divide them, which may not happen in a hot, dry fall. Instead, dig, divide and replant daylilies and other spring-blooming perennials anytime after their flowers are finished.

Pinch Plants

Pruning means cutting with a tool of some sort, but pinching is done with the fingertips or possibly very small scissors. To remove the growing point and a set or two of leaves by pinching can stimulate branching in plants like coleus, basil, mint, lantana and other square stemmed plants. Let each main stem develop four to six side branches, then end pinching so flowers can form if desired. For chrysanthemums and huge Joe pye weed, pinching keeps fall's flowers at eye level. Stop pinching the fall bloomers in late June to allow bud set.

Add Nutrients for Stronger Peppers

To strengthen cell walls and produce sturdier peppers, some gardeners provide extra calcium and magnesium to the plants while they are in bloom. There are calcium sprays applied directly to the flowers. They are also used to forestall blossom end rot in tomatoes. Clean eggshells crushed and soaked in warm water can be used to drench the plants. Many gardeners turn to Epsom salt sprays or drenches to achieve this effect. Complete fertilizers contain both these elements, and they are also available in trace element supplements.

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