Middle South

February, 2012
Regional Report

Plan a Cutting Garden

Plan now to set aside a small area of the vegetable garden, or another sunny, out-of-the-way spot, for flowers that can be cut and brought inside for arranging. Some of the easiest to grow include yarrow, cosmos, zinnia, daisy, purple coneflower, cockscomb, sunflower, and nicotiana. A few inches of mulch will help preserve moisture and suppress weeds, but if you've sown seeds, wait until they sprout before spreading.

Build a Biodegradable Cold Frame

Want a cold frame that disappears when seedlings have been planted out? If so, put one together in a matter of minutes with bales of straw arranged in a rectangle (or another shape) and rest a double-walled panel of polycarbonate over the center opening. When no longer in use, recycle the straw as mulch and store the panel for future use.

Rotate Vegetable Families

When planning to rotate vegetable beds, it's key to think in terms of plant families that share diseases and pests, rather than individual crops. For instance, the tomato family also includes eggplants, peppers and potatoes, so none of these crops should succeed one another. Other important groups are the cabbage family -- broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, and turnip; the cucumber family -- gourd, muskmelon, pumpkin, squash, and watermelon; the onion family -- chive, garlic, leek, and shallot; and the umbelliferous family -- carrot, celery, and parsnip.

Help Garden Seed Sprout

Outdoor beds might be perfect for growing vegetables and yet not ideal for germination of tiny seeds. If your garden soil is clotted or otherwise not up to par, get seeds off to a good start by covering them with potting mixture rather than garden soil.

Root Tomato Suckers

If you routinely pinch out tomato suckers that grow in the v-shaped space between the main stem and a branch, you can root the suckers to make new plants for a later crop. Simply give the suckers a clean cut, put them in water until they root, and then pot up for a later planting.

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