Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
March, 2009
Regional Report

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Some plants like these rainlilies are well adapted to our southern summers. They bloom even in the heat and survive with little extra care.

Spring, All Season Long

In spring practically everyone with a pulse is a gardener! The temperature warms to make it pleasant to be outdoors, our landscapes burst forth with new fresh growth and blooms, and gardening events remind us that spring is here.

Everything grows in the spring and gardening seems so easy. All thumbs are green! Then summer comes to the south.

By mid to late June things start to get tough. Weeds, heat, pests, and other challenges team up to try the spirit of even the most dedicated gardener. But alas this need not be! There is much we can do to carry the success and beauty of spring on through the gardening season. Here are a few things I've learned over the years both from my own mistakes by watching the mistakes and wise practices of other gardeners.

Prepare the Soil
I know it is not so exciting to build the soil, at least not as fun as planting flowers and tomatoes for example. But plopping plant into unprepared soil is a recipe for disaster. Spend a dollar on your soil before you spend a dollar on your plants and you'll save money and time in the long run. Mix in an inch or two of compost, add nutrients as per a soil test, build raised beds if drainage is marginal. You'll be glad you did!

Picture Prospective Plants in Summer
I know that fuscia looks great right now. But you might as well take it home and toss it in the oven because that's about how long it will live in the south! Go ahead and indulge yourself a few gorgeous wimps but make sure and select a lot of things that are heat and drought tolerant.

Choose plants that bloom in the summer heat such as yellow bells (Tecoma stans), Salvia 'Indigo Spires' or 'Mystic Spires', and plumbago (Plumbago auriculata). When your neighbors spring "wonderland" is sizzling away in the sweltering summer heat, your landscape will be shifting gears as the heat-loving workhorses take center stage.

Also include plenty of colorful, heat-loving foliage plants such as caladiums, Canna 'Tropicanna' (a.k.a. 'Phasion'), purple heart, and copper plant. These will color up the landscape through the summer heat when blooms are hard to come by.

Preempt Weeds
Noone wants to weed when it's so hot outside you could fry an egg on your hoe blade! Mulch now to prevent weeds from getting a start. I like to use 4 to 6 sheets of newspaper covered with leaves. Whatever you choose, make sure you create a good, light-blocking cover to prevent weed seeds from sprouting and becoming established. Perennial weeds such as Bermudagrass and nutsedge are another matter but we'll save these insidious invaders for another article later on!

Now there's certainly a lot more that can be said in the way of advice for success with spring landcaping including watering, fertilizing, etc. but the bottom line is to keep in mind that while all is nice and pleasant outdoors now, summer is on the way. Plan for summer now to keep spring beauty growing all season long.

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