Upper South

June, 2014
Regional Report

Eat and Preserve Asparagus

The season for fresh asparagus, either from your own garden or a local farmer's market, will draw to a close in the next several weeks, so enjoy eating as much as you can. Besides simply steaming and serving with a squeeze of lemon, try brushing asparagus stems with olive oil and roasting or grilling. Try canning some pickled asparagus for a great winter treat. Freeze some, too, for adding to stir fries or making soup.

Maintain Hummingbird Feeders

Clean hummingbird feeders once a week and change the sugar solution at least once a week if it's placed in the shade or more often if the feeder is in the sun. Use a purchased mixture or make your own with four parts water to one part granulated sugar; do not use honey. Bring the water to a boil, add sugar, and mix well; cool and refrigerate. If ants are a problem, buy and install an ant guard. To attract hummingbirds to your feeder, place among flowers or attach red or orange ribbon or a piece of cloth.

Keep An Eye on Newly Planted Plants

As hot, dry weather arrives, check trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals daily for signs of heat or water stress. Use a soaker end on a hose to thoroughly saturate the soil with water. Morning is the best time to water. Let the soil dry out slightly between waterings. Mulch plants with a hardwood mulch to keep the soil moist for the longest possible time. If still transplanting, it's best to do so in the evening, preferably just before a rain or cooler weather is forecast. Putting a cardboard box or other vented container over the plant for a few days will help protect it from the heat of the sun.

Check Mower Blades

When you look at your lawn from the street does it appear to have a grey/white fuzzy look on top? If it does, your lawn is not getting a clean cut. The mower blades are dull and in need of sharpening. The top of the grass is being torn or ripped instead of cleanly sliced. Take a close look and you can see it. These wounds weaken the grass and make it more susceptible to disease and insects. Replace or sharpen your blade as soon as you notice that it is not cutting cleanly.

Deadhead Rhododendrons and Lilac

Snap or prune off the faded flowers from rhododendrons, azaleas, and mountain laurels. Be careful to avoid damaging the growth bud just below the flower cluster. This puts the plant's energy into new growth rather than seed production. Pinch off the step tips of azaleas to keep plants bushy. Remove faded lilac blooms to improve next year's bloom.

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