Coastal and Tropical South

February, 2012
Regional Report

Cut and Fertilize Asparagus

Southern Coast gardeners can cut down asparagus ferns now. Get the debris out of the garden to prevent disease development in wet weather and add fresh mulch to the bed. Rogue out any plants with berries now. These are the female plants and the berries will sprout, creating a weed problem. Fertilize the asparagus bed in February and again after you enjoy this year's spears.

Grow Open Pollinated Vegetables

Gardeners often ask how to recapture the tastes they remember from childhood. One way is to grow heirloom, open-pollinated varieties. Many of these vegetables were long beloved for their particular taste and are found in local market gardens because they were unsuited to shipping long distances. Look for Ruby Queen beets, Danvers 126 carrots, Louisiana Green Velvet okra, Florida Hi Bush Select eggplants, and Jupiter bell peppers.

Make Room for Herbs

You will see closely-planted herb gardens in many photographs, but you will grow healthier herb plants if each has its own space. When planting a new herb garden, choosing pots for herbs, or adding to an established bed, avoid overcrowding. Perennial herbs like bee balm and catnip easily grow two feet tall and almost as wide. Rosemary will become a shrub three feet tall and wide with blue flowers every year if it has room and a well-drained soil. Even the diminutive leaves of creeping thyme will spread more than a foot in every direction and hug the soil, while lemon grass forms a clump taller than you if left alone.

Use Oil Sprays

If trees, shrubs, and perennial plants with woody bases like butterfly bushes had insect or disease pests last summer, use oil sprays now. Take advantage of cool daytime temperatures to smother any overwintering pests lurking in crevices and on bark with highly refined horticultural oils. The target might be scale insects on sasanqua, or lacebugs on azaleas or other evergreens. Oil is equally effective on deciduous and almost deciduous plants like roses and hydrangeas.

Love Aphid Lions

The larvae of green lacewings are your best friends in the garden. Indeed, their common name is aphid lion because they eat aphids with a monstrous appetite. The parents have small bodies and long, diaphanous wings and are often seen flying at night around lights. Let them be so they can reproduce and naturally reduce the aphid population in your garden.

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