April 2015
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Down With Pests!

Volume 2 of the Gardening in the South series focuses on pest management.  

Gardening is sure to introduce us to any number of insects, weeds and diseases that can threaten our plants. Last month I mentioned an ebook by the Alabama Extension Service called "Gardening in the South Volume 1: Getting Started." A second volume, "Pest Management," explains much of the biology and ecology of garden pests, providing insight to how they grow and multiply so that you can better control them or the conditions that encourage them. It is not a picture ID book; you can look up specific insects in books, online or with an app. Instead, the information in this book provides understanding, so you can figure things out on your own or know how to look up more answers. "Gardening in the South Volume 2: Pest Management" is available for $9.99 from iBooks or iTunes for your Apple devices.

Don’t Mow Bulb Foliage

At P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm in Roland, Ark., daffodils grow by the thousands and are encouraged to multiply in the field grasses near the house. This is an idea that can be applied to lawns and open spaces anywhere there is some sun. After they bloom, patches of bulbs are carefully left to grow until their foliage naturally dies back. This is necessary for all bulbs, including those in flowerbeds. Like all bulbs, daffodils depend on the leaves that come up for just a few months of the year to recharge so they bloom, grow and multiply. All daffodils and other bulbs need is a little bulb booster fertilizer after they bloom.

Tomato Timing

Some folks like for all their tomatoes to ripen within a short time for canning and cooking, then they take August off! However, if you are the type who likes to stretch out the season among snacking tomatoes, sandwich tomatoes and cooking types, now is the time to make your selections. Early Girl is a great performer. It is the first tomato of the season and often also the last. It will go through fall if properly maintained in the summer heat. Cherry tomatoes provide a steady yield for snacks and salads as they seem to outgrow most leaf problems and also keep bearing in heat and into fall with good care. Sungold, Yellow Cherry, Sweet 100 and Black Cherry are four tasty ones. All tomato gardeners have a favorite sandwich tomato. Mine is Cherokee Purple, but it’s not the only one we grow because there are others that are more productive. It’s always fun to try a new one each season, too. Because we like to make spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce for winter soups, we grow roma types that are meatier and less juicy. Remember to plant tomatoes deeply (bury 2/3 of the plant) so that the buried stem will also grow roots to make the plants stronger and more resistant to drought.

  This paddle plant shares a container with yellow portulaca, another drought-tolerant succulent.

Paddle Plant

Have you noticed how plants become fashionable? Right now, one of the most popular ones is a big-leafed succulent called paddle plant, named for the shape of its leaves. Paddle plant (Kalanchoe thrysiflora) grows a rosette of thick, gray-green leaves that turn beautiful shades of orange and red in sun and cooler weather. This is an excellent patio container plant that doesn’t need much watering. Water weekly and feed it once a month or so with a liquid plant food to encourage new growth. Although the plant is usually a low-growing rosette, it will grow to about two feet tall in a tropical climate. You can carry it over year to year by bringing it indoors to a sunny window for the winter. Pot it in a cactus mix to ensure the soil drains well.

Solar Fence Charger

If deer are keeping you from planting a vegetable garden, a simple electric fence may be the deterrent you need. Instead of running electricity to the garden, try a solar charger to supply the needed power to keep the wire hot enough to deter the deer. We have one of these in use around a garden at Bonnie Plants that stays charged and provides the needed charge. Check out your local Quality Co-op for specs and prices. It may be just what you need to finally let you have a garden.

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