Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
February, 2001
Regional Report

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One of the beautiful features of our crape myrtles is their smooth exfoliating bark. Excessive pruning destroys the natural form of these trees.

Spring Is A-Comin'

I stepped outside early one morning this week, and all was quiet except for the songs of some excited birds as they flitted around. Then I heard it - the sound of spring coming. In our region, where we hardly have a winter other than the occasional cold blast, this has been an unusually long, cool winter. But spring is just around the corner. Some paperwhites blooming down the road gave it away.

Spring in the Vegetable Garden

Our family was out checking over the remains of our winter veggie garden today, planning the spring version in our mind's eye. Out came the frost-fried remains of the jalapeno pepper plants. The Swiss chard is still going strong, but it needed a little cleaning, and we removed old leaves to allow the new ones room to grow.

Planting Onions & Potatoes

This week we will be planting onions. I believe the pencil-diameter-sized sets that have yet to start bulbing grow best. Those round, marble-sized bulbs sold as sets just don't perform well for me. I showed the kids how to lay a set against your forefinger with the base even with the tip of your finger. That way you can plant them easily to the depth of your first finger joint - the perfect depth gauge.

My potatoes are cut, healed, and waiting to go into the garden. I have a small window of time between frost and heat to plant, so it's always a bit of a gamble getting an early spring crop in the ground. I choose early-season varieties to avoid having marble-sized spuds to harvest when summer kills the tops back to the ground.

Extra Early Tomatoes

It's also time to turn the soil to prepare for tomato planting. Although our average last frost date is weeks away, I'm a gambler at heart. I fill a milk jug with water and set it up against the stem of the transplant. Then I cover the row of plants with clear plastic suspended over a Quonset hut-like structure formed by tomato cages. If I succeed in getting them through this first month, there will be an early, plentiful tomato crop in our house this year before summer's heat takes over.

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