June 2010
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Disappearing Fountains

 

Disappearing fountain

Hot weather is a good time to set up a little splash of water on your patio, deck or out in the garden. Lately I’ve seen many "disappearing fountains" where the water flows over the edge of a pretty container seemingly into the ground. The fountain actually sits on a bed of gravel filling a buried tray holding the recirculating water. A hidden pump recirculates the water within the closed system. The key is replacing the water when the level gets low from evaporation. A nice fountain can be made from just about any pretty container with a kit found at many garden centers.

Plants Don’t Go on Vacation

Set houseplants and potted plants in a tub or reservoir and water well before leaving for a trip. Some people use kiddie swimming pools. Leave a few inches of water in the bottom of the container so plants can drink it up in hot weather. While this won’t get you through a long trip, it will usually do for three to five days, especially if you take potted plants, even flowers and vegetables in pots, out of the heat and into a cooler, shaded place.

Frangipani Smells So Good

Frangipani blossoms smell so nice.

 

One of the most striking of all tropical plants, the Frangipani, is hard to find in this part of the world, but, once you see and smell it, you’ll always remember it. Last summer I found one on display in a container at the entrance to the Huntsville Botanical Garden where everybody who walked by took a look. The flowers are very fragrant at night and they attract sphinx moths. Plants are native to the Caribbean, but are best-known as the flower of the Hawaiian lei. Frangipani is easy to grow in containers where you can bring them indoors, to a greenhouse or sunroom in the fall. They usually drop their leaves in winter, so don’t be alarmed. Where do you get them? The only ways I know is to mail order from a source selling tropicals or pick one up at a nursery in Florida. Grow this like you would a hibiscus — lots of sun and some liquid fertilizer every week or two.

Renew Mulch

Mulch vegetables, flowers and shrubs to keep the ground from drying out too fast between rains or watering. Organic mulch like clean straw, pine needles, pine bark or compost is best because it adds organic matter to the soil and looks natural. Now is a good time to renew mulched beds to a depth of about two inches if you haven’t already.

A Novel Use For Clay Pots

 

This “scarecrow” features a novel use for clay pots. The potman also serves as a planter.

This scarecrow made from clay pots is both weatherproof and ornamental. I saw it at Biltmore Farms, where I doubt it fends off any birds, but makes a great garden centerpiece. Sometimes called a potman, these are easy to make by wiring together various size pots through the drainage hole in the bottom of each. Vary the texture of potman’s hair according to what plant you choose to put in the top — grass, long trailing plant or colorful flowers.

Sweet Potatoes Love the Heat

Sweet potatoes like warm soil. There is still plenty of time to plant. The newer varieties like Georgia Jet and Beauregard mature in about three months. Consider running a soaker hose along the row so they get the moisture they need at first. I checked the shipping schedules of sweet potato suppliers like Steele Plant Company in Gleason, TN, and they stop shipping in May. Bonnie Plants continues to sell warm-weather plants though June. Look for slips at your nearby garden center. It’s important to use disease-free, certified slips to prevent scurf and other problems. In addition to Georgia Jet and Beauregard, you might want to plant some later-maturing types so you aren’t overwhelmed by all the potatoes at once.

What To Do About Slugs

You’ll know if it’s slugs eating the foliage of hosta and other plants because damage appears overnight and there are usually slime trails reflecting light on the plants when the leaf is turned to the light. You can use a slug bait to fight the pests, but be selective about the type of bait used. Some are harmful to animals. One of the most popular baits is Sluggo because it can be used around pets and is OMRI-certified for organic gardening. The ingredients are iron phosphate and bait luring the pests to eat the product. It is slower-acting than poisonous metaldehyde-based bait, but breaks down into plant nutrients that become part of the soil. It will be several days before slugs die, so use it regularly to keep them under control. Because slugs like dark, damp environments, you can also pull mulch away from plants to see if that makes a difference. Some gardeners also set traps where the slugs naturally congregate and then dispose of them. The most popular are upside-down cantaloupe or grapefruit halves (eaten, of course) and long boards. Sprinkle bait in spots where snails and slugs visit often like around sprinkler heads. Put bait in the same areas repeatedly, because slugs tend to return to food-sites to feed. Never pile bait in mounds or clumps because piling makes bait attractive to pets and children, and is not as effective as sprinkling.

Squash Borers Squash My Plans

Every year my garden is visited by squash vine borers that really cut my harvest short. If you have a garden big enough to grow many types of squash, especially the vining types, consider choosing from this list of varieties they don’t seem to like as much. Work done at the University of Illinois revealed squash borers prefer some varieties over others. The study rated susceptibility of 12 varieties of squash relatives. Some gardeners use the most susceptible varieties simply as a trap crop so borers visit them instead of other varieties. Try it. A rating of 5 means "highly susceptible," while a rating of 1 means "fairly tolerant." Here is how they ranked:

Blue Hubbard 5
Boston Marrow 4
Golden Delicious Hubbard 4
Connecticut Field pumpkin 4
Small Sugar pumpkin 4
Zucchini 4
White Bush Scallop 3
Acorn 3
Summer Crookneck 2
Dickenson pumpkin 2
Green Striped Cushaw 1
Butternut 1

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Garderner’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.