Middle South

July, 2011
Regional Report

Mulch Roots, Not Trunks

Mulch helps conserve moisture, moderate soil temperature, and suppresses weeds, but be careful in your placement around plants. Three to four inches is ideal; anything deeper might interfere with soil aeration. And keep mulch away from the trunk, as both woody and soft-stemmed plants need a bit of space. Piling mulch against the trunk encourages insect infestations, fungal diseases, and bark-eating mice and voles.

Be Kind to Street Trees

If you live in an urban area, nurture the street trees adjacent to your home. Loosen the compacted soil around their roots by piercing the earth with a garden fork, and then provide about twenty gallons of water each week that rain is lacking. For slow, deep irrigation, drill a handful of small holes in the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket, and refill multiple times as the bucket empties.

Prevent Lily Pad Takeover

Shallow ponds can easily become crowed with lily pads, a situation that imperils fish. Prevent a population explosion of these plants by keeping them in pots and dividing them every other year to prevent rhizomes from creeping over the pot. Adding a stronger pump to move the water more vigorously might help too, as lilies prefer still water.

Fight Cancer with Vegetables

As we've learned more about the food we eat, researchers have discovered many plants contain phytochemical compounds that may help in the fight against cancer. Any simply prepared vegetable (without a lot of additional salt, sugar, or fat) is a boon to a healthy diet. However, the most helpful chemical compounds are found in broccoli, carrots, peppers, cabbage, kale, eggplant, and squash.

Clear Salts from Pots and Soil

When the clay rims of pots display a crusty buildup of salts from chemical fertilizers, it's time to clean the pots and flush the soil. Move the plant and soil from the pot and soak containers for about 15 to 30 minutes in warm water until salts dissolve, scrubbing with a stiff brush as needed. When plant and pot are reunited, flush the soil twice with clear water, then flush it with a mix of 2 teaspoons of white vinegar to a gallon of water, and complete the process with a final flush of clear water.

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