May, 2003
Regional Report

Mulch Right

Organic mulch feeds the soil, holds down weeds, moderates soil temperature, conserves soil moisture, and looks nice, too. Extend mulch beyond the root ball of newly planted trees and shrubs. Never mound mulch against the stem or trunk. Keep mulch about three inches deep. Fluff it up by raking occasionally, and replenish as needed.

Plant Tomatoes

Tomatoes can be planted after all danger of frost and once the soil has had time to warm up. Set transplants deeper than they grew in the pots because they can sprout roots from the stems. Water generously with a transplant solution of compost tea or diluted water-soluble fertilizer. If you plan to use stakes, pound them in now to avoid hitting roots later.

Stop Cutworms

Were your tomato/pepper/melon transplants mysteriously broken off at the soil line overnight? That's cutworms. To thwart them, wrap a newspaper collar around the stem, extending about an inch above and below the soil line. Or insert a piece of dowel rod, large nail, or popsicle stick vertically into the soil right next to the stem.

Replace Early Annuals

Many early-season annuals, such as pansies and primroses, will flag and fade as soon as the weather heats up. Plan ahead and purchase heat-loving annuals to replace them while the selection is good. Some to consider: lantana, nicotiana, geraniums, cannas, dahlias, angelonia, thunbergia, begonias, and the new varieties of sun-loving coleus.

Include Ornamental Vegetables

Some vegetable plants are attractive enough to be grown in the mixed border or flower bed or in a container on the deck. For example, tomato and pepper plants and fruits are good looking, trellised cucumber or squash vines can be ornamental, and colorful varieties of Swiss chard or brightly colored peppers can add an exotic tropical look.

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