Coastal and Tropical South

December, 2011
Regional Report

Thin Green Onions

If you crowded a bunch of onion sets into a bed or pot in September, start thinning now. There are two benefits to pulling half of them out when the plants have 3 or 4 sets of spiky leaves. You get green onions for cooking, and the onions get more space to develop. Water the onions in the morning and pull them up in the afternoon, or get them after a rain while the soil is soft. To give the bulbs room to grow, thin green onions to stand 4 inches apart now and fertilize monthly with a vegetable formula fertilizer. Put the fertilizer in a shallow trench 3 inches from the stems, cover the trench, and water in well.

Prevent Camellia Petal Blight

Both japonica and sasanqua camellias bloom into December and often it is rainfall that knocks their flowers to the ground. The shattered petals are simply beautiful, but can be a source of petal blight fungus. This disease can ruin next year's flowers and weaken the plant overall, so enjoy the show briefly and rake the petals up. After blooms are finished, whether it is this month or closer to spring, prune the trees and shrubs to shape them or reduce height, fertilize with an organic or acid-loving formula, and apply fresh mulch.

Spare the Shears

We all have a relative who wants to prune everything, all the time. Perhaps it is the cooler air of fall or the thought that family is coming to visit, but there are some plants that they must resist clipping -- those with flower buds or berries, perennials still in bloom or with green leaves, roses except the reblooming climbers, and hydrangeas. All that said, let the mad pruner take out dead wood from shrubs and trees, prune lightly to remove any storm damage, and clip vines you do not want to see next spring, such as poison ivy and wild morning glories.

Water Wisely

Be wise; adapt your watering practices to suit the season. Overall, temperatures are cooler and plants are growing more slowly outdoors now. Reset automatic irrigation systems to run less often or for less time, and install a monitoring device to prevent runoff and overwatering. Indoors, lower light also reduces growth so plants need less water than they did on the porch outside. It is especially important to empty the water out of saucers under indoor plants. If they take that water back up after it has drained through the pot, it can cause the leaf tips to brown on sensitive plants.

Plant Acorns

There is no good reason to store acorns like squirrels do, especially if you want to grow an oak tree. Plant them in pots now and in a year they will be ready to transplant to the garden. Recycle one gallon nursery pots by washing them with soap and rinsing with a bleach solution. When dry, fill them halfway with a mix of garden soil, old leaves and ground bark. Plant 2 or 3 acorns one inch deep in this shallow mix, water well, and leave the pots outside for the winter. By planting this way, the upper portion of the pot soaks up heat from the sun to benefit its contents. In spring, remove all but the strongest of the sprouted acorns. Fertilize and water regularly and transplant to the garden or a larger pot when the tree is one foot tall.

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