March 2008
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

By Lois Trigg Chaplin

Call Before You Dig

Are you installing a fence, a new mailbox or planting a tree in a spot where there could be an underground line? Before you dig anywhere near buried utilities, call 811, the national "Call Before You Dig" number. This service notifies local utilities to send a locator to the requested site to mark the position of underground lines. For more information visit http://www.call811.com.

Vegetable Transplants Available Now

An assortment of vegetable transplants from Bonnie Plant Farms is available now. These items arrive at your local Co-op at their approximate planting time, so be on the lookout if you plan a spring garden. Many Bonnie plants are now grown in peat pots to make planting easier. Cut away the plastic band at the top, remove the bottom of the peat pot and peel away the rim of the peat pot when planting to be sure none of it sticks up above ground surface.

Junipers Need Sun and Lime

Junipers and related shrubs that are proven tough, adaptable and drought tolerant can be mysteriously disappointing. Although you see them on Interstates planted where only the toughest plants would dare to live, sometimes the ones in our own landscapes just seem to sit or worse decline. Why? Because of growing conditions. Junipers and Leyland cypress, two very common plants, need plenty of lime. Ideally the soil pH is 7.0, or neutral. If the soil in your landscape is acid, a little lime may be all your junipers need. This is assuming they get full sun and good drainage. Those are their other demands. These plants just absolutely do not like any shade or wet feet.

Leyland Cypress Dieback

Another juniper relative that likes lime is Leyland Cypress (x Cupressocyparis leylandii). One very common problem of Leyland happens when fast growing Leyland is planted in rows for screening. The plants die back as the row fills in! You see big patches of brown on an otherwise green tree. This dieback is caused by a fungus, Seiridium canker (Seiridium unicorne), which is most likely to take hold on plants crowded together in a row because they lack good air circulation. There is no spray to control the canker, but if healthy, uninfected plants have full sun, good drainage, air circulation and lime, they may not fall victim. You may see more dieback this year on Leyland because it is often exacerbated by drought stress. For a little history, Leyland cypress comes to us from England where it was hybridized from California’s Monterrey cypress and Alaskan cedar, both of which are native to limestone soils.

More Garden Whimsy from Disney

How’s this for painting the garden in color? You’ll probably either love it or hate it, but it’s an idea for recycling ladders and paint trays that have seen better days. Credit for this creation goes to the horticulturists at Walt Disney World who designed it for last year’s EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival. This year’s festival runs from March 18 through June 1. If you enjoy flowers, this is the absolute best time to visit.

A Great Story

I attended the Gulf States Horticulture Expo in Mobile a few weeks ago and learned a story about a rose that gardeners will love. A lady named Peggy Martin lost her home in Louisiana to flooding during hurricane Katrina. After the waters subsided, there was a rose that had somehow survived it all. Several nurserymen are propagating the rose and last year there was a waiting list for orders. So if you like plants with a story, remember the name Peggy Martin rose, and a great lesson about renewal. By the way, the rose is a pink thornless climber. If you want to see a picture and learn more about it, visit http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/southerngarden/PeggyMartinrose.html.

Try Herbs in Pots

Early spring is the time to plant rosemary, sage, thyme, cilantro and other cool season herbs. If you don’t have an obvious spot, perhaps you have an old cracked clay pot that will serve as a fun container by turning it on its side. Lay it at an angle so it can drain and use rocks to help secure the soil on the open end. (See the photo above for an example.) Use a premium potting soil because the plants will only be as good as the soil you plant them in. The first three herbs previously mentioned are perennial and quite drought tolerant (once established), so you can combine them in the same pot if you wish. It only takes a pinch of each to season a meal. Cilantro on the other hand is a good herb for flowerbeds and vegetable gardens where you can let it reseed later in spring.

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