Lower South

March, 2013
Regional Report

Plant Tomatoes

When the last average frost date nears it is time to begin planting tomatoes. If you want to gamble a little and plant them a week or two early, make sure you are ready to cover them on a frosty night. Water the new transplants in with a soluble fertilizer solution and maintain moist soil without overwatering. Rowcover fabric placed over the plants or around the tomato cage will help slow cold winds and hold in a degree or two of heat to ease the young plant's transition out into the garden.

Remove Weeds and Their Seeds

Cool season weeds in the lawn, garden, and flower beds are growing rapidly and setting seed. It is important to remove the weeds and their seeds before they drop to the ground and set the stage for many years of increased weed woes. Mowing with a bagging attachment can help gather weeds and seeds, but hand pulling and disposing of them is a tried and true way to prevent seeds from dropping into the lawn and garden. If the soil is not moist water the area a day or two ahead of weeding to make it easier to pull the weeds or to use a weeding fork.

Plant Green Beans

Green beans can be planted as the danger of frost passes. The earlier you can get them up and growing the sooner you will reach harvest. Cooler weather during harvest results in higher quality green beans. Choose cultivars with short days-to-harvest intervals to avoid the heat, which also adversely affects bloom set. Avoid over fertilizing beans with nitrogen fertilizers since they can make their own nitrogen in bacterial nodules on their roots. Excessive fertilization may result in more plant growth and less fruiting.

Control Aphids and Caterpillar Pests

Aphids and caterpillars are among the most common pests of spring. Aphids suck juices from plants and are especially fond of tender new growth and plants that have been pushed along with extra nitrogen applications. Caterpillars chomp away leaves and can turn a nice harvest of green vegetable foliage into "Swiss cheese!" Insecticidal soap sprays work well against aphids if you start early. Insecticidal soap is also fairly effective against very young caterpillars, but sprays containing Bacillus thuringiensis are an especially good choice. B.t. sprays are most effective when caterpillars are fairly young and actively feeding.

Shear Hedges

In order to maintain good foliage density, hedges need to be sheared on a regular basis. Now that the weather is warming and new growth is present it is time to start to shear hedges to encourage more branching and denser growth. Keep the tops a little narrower than the base, something the hedge will not do naturally, to maintain good light exposure throughout the plants from top to bottom. This way the hedge will not be as likely to thin out at its base. Fertilize periodically, applying a turf type fertilizer to the soil around the hedges to promote growth. As a general guide apply one cup per 50 square feet, rake it into the soil surface, and then water the area well.

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