Coastal and Tropical South

June, 2011
Regional Report

Extend the Flower Season

As June wears on, so-called spring flowers begin to lose their punch. Pansies and many other annuals have smaller flowers and try to go to seed now. Most gardeners replace those plants now with summer annuals like zinnias and periwinkle, but there is another possibility. You can extend their season by a few weeks by deadheading and pinching the plants, then fertilizing to promote more flowers. Move pots of spring annuals into shadier spots and spray for pests, if necessary.

Grow Big Vines

Now is the time to plant the true heat lovers, but that group includes more than just okra. If you have not grown merliton, aka chayote or alligator pear, or luffa, the sponge gourd, these huge vines deserve your attention. Plant them in a sunny spot with ready access to water. Merliton is usually purchased as a sprouted plant in a one gallon nursery pot, but the ones in the grocery store will grow, too. Luffa seeds will sprout in 10 days or less, and, like merliton, needs a big trellis or an old tree to climb on. Use either for a huge visual lift or instant shade this summer.

Try Mini-Pumpkins

Pumpkins can be a challenge, primarily because the large, jack-o-lantern varieties cannot always produce the size we expect. Space, sun, and almost constant water with fertilizer added are needed. Even so, our humidity encourages fungus diseases. That means fewer leaves and thus smaller pumpkins. The ones called pie pumpkins are only slightly easier to manage. Mini-pumpkins may be the answer to the pumpkin grower's dilemma. They are smaller but quite attractive, and because they are smaller vines, can be trellised or grown on the ground.

Raise That Mower Blade

The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence because you are looking at it at a more flattering angle. In your own yard, the angle and cut of each grass blade makes a difference in its appearance, too. A sharp mower blade is key, and its height matters because of its effect on that little grass blade under its power. Each time you cut the lawn, each grass blade has a cut edge. With heat and repeated cutting at the same height, that edge can fray or split. Raise the mower blade one notch now to begin cutting a different surface on those precious blades and improve their looks even from your side of the fence.

Pinch Basil

Square stemmed plants like basil, coleus, and mint share a handy attribute. When you pinch the top out of a stem, it responds with branched growth. The result is a fuller-looking plant with many more leaves for eating, like mint and basil, or enjoying for their colorful leaves, such as coleus. Heat can make these plants believe the end is near, and stimulate them to bloom, make seed, and die. Prevent the inevitable and keep the basil leafy and delicious by pinching it right now. Water often enough that the plants do not wilt, and use an organic nitrogen fertilizer such as cottonseed meal to promote leaf growth.

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