Coastal and Tropical South

March, 2012
Regional Report

Prune Broadleaf Evergreen Shrubs

As new growth begins each year, many gardeners get out the shears because light pruning can direct evergreen growth and keep them thick with leaves. First, clip out any dead or damaged growth, then shape the shrub to establish or maintain its form. Prune harder to stimulate buds to break down low on the stems to refoliate thin shrubs. Prune severely to rejuvenate a very sad broadleaf evergreen shrub such as one that has leaves only at its edges.

Lookout for Hibiscus Sawfly

Hibiscus sawfly gets going this month, so gardeners should stay alert to avert this pest that can be difficult to control. Adults are small, black, and jumpy. Their larvae are the color of sawdust and hatch on the tops of leaves before they migrate to the undersides. There they eat all but the largest veins of every leaf if left unchecked, creating a skeletonized leaf. Use the natural insecticide spinosad at the first sign of an infestation.

Grow Better Seedlings

I hope you have plenty of tomatoes and peppers sitting under lights and on windowsills, ready for planting soon. You have seen them through the possibility of damping off and kept the lights close enough to grow stocky seedlings. It is tempting to take them out of the house and plant them right away in pots and beds, but wait. If yours are ready to plant, harden them off: leave the plants outside in their pots for about four days before transplanting. Watch carefully to prevent wilting as they make the change.

Keep Eyes on Aphids

You may need a hand lens to see them, but the damage from aphids can ruin your day. These tiny, watery sucking insects favor succulent new growth of greens, young tomatoes, roses, and the new growth on trees. You can find them in clusters on rose buds, too. Watch for new leaves to look dry or see the pinhead-size soft bodies on plants. Aphids are slow and can sometimes be deterred with a stream of water. If that does not work, use insecticidal soap or pyrethrins; try neem to control serious infestations unless temperatures are above 80 degrees.

Take Action Against Lawn Weeds

The winter has been especially mild thus far in 2012, and that means more weeds everywhere, but especially in lawns. If the winter weeds never stopped, and spring invaders are sprouting, the time is now to take action. However, a weed-covered lawn cannot be successfully sprayed into submission unless you take important follow up steps. Make it your business to grow a healthy lawn this year, by providing water and fertilizer at recommended levels so the lawn can outgrow the majority of future weeds.

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