Coastal and Tropical South

May, 2012
Regional Report

Watch for Insect Damage

Keep your eyes peeled for signs of insect damage or the insects themselves as the nights warm. Look for aphids on the growing tips and flowers of tomatoes and rose buds. In fact, any kind of tender new growth makes a fine meal for the little suckers. Sometimes ants climbing the stems are the first clue. They are seeking the soft, watery bodies of the pinhead size insects. If you see what looks like clumps of spit on green stems or in leaf crotches, spittlebugs are feeding on your plants from inside the froth. These sucking insects, along with others like mealybugs and scale, can literally suck the life out of your plant in just a few weeks. Spray for aphids and the like with insecticidal soap, pyrethrin, or permethrin. Spray two or three times at eight day intervals.

Regreen Your Lawn

Take advantage of good weather and soil conditions now to get your lawn in shape. Wherever the lawn is damaged, insect eaten, or failing to grow, you can use one of these methods to repair it: resodding, reseeding, or plugging. If more than half the front yard has gone to weeds, new sod is a good investment that shows results quickly. Use new sod in the smaller areas that need attention for the same reason, or plant with plugs. The small pieces will grow together in a month or two. You can buy plugs of popular turf grasses or make them yourself by cutting pieces of sod into 3 inch squares. Be sure to choose the same type of grass as you already have so the new lawn will grow at the same rate as the old one. Seed when possible and practical, as when you want to convert a centipede lawn to bermudagrass or to add real grass to a mow-what-grows lawn.

Grow Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes, peanuts, okra, pumpkins, and gourds are true heat lovers. Planted late in the spring, they fill the summer garden for harvest later than most any other vegetables in our gardens. Like caladiums, sweet potatoes produce tubers, but this isn't the part we plant when growing these delicious vegetables. Instead we plant slips, or cuttings. You can raise your own or buy them in bunches at garden centers and farm stores. The vines are vigorous, more like pumpkins than Irish potatoes in their growing habits and needs. Plant slips in a sunny site that drains well with a reservoir sunk near the crown. Keep the reservoirs filled with water and fertilizer to seep almost continuously into the soil around sweet potatoes.

Fill Bare Spaces in New Groundcover Beds

Too often it seems that weeds grow faster than desirable plants, and nowhere is it more predictable than in a new groundcover bed. Waiting for clumping or vining ground covers to shade and suppress weeds can be daunting. Keep plenty of organic mulch around and between the ground cover plants, and be sure to reach right in and ease new runners out on top of the mulch. If you do not want to weed at all, slip clumps of annual flowers into the spaces between the newly planted ground covers.

Get More Squash

Zucchini, patty pan and yellow crookneck squash are all bearing well, but without an application of fertilizer they may fail to put on a second crop. As with most fertilizing, doing it is more important than what you use, beyond the choice of organic or conventional products. You can water weekly with a soluble fertilizer of either sort or sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable garden fertilizer around each plant. Work it in to the top inch of soil and follow with a deep drink of water. Choose a complete formula, one with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and the minor elements, for best results.

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