Coastal and Tropical South
Keeping Crape Myrtles Free of Mildew
As usual, some crape myrtles show signs of powdery mildew, a fungus disease. A few varieties show good resistance, however, including the stately white 'Natchez', and it deserves consideration for new plantings. Use a neem spray to suppress the fungus' progress, or prune off the damaged stems and spray the new growth.
Solving Tomato Fruit Problems
The tomato ripening process may bring cracks, splits, and uneven color. The last means stinkbugs, hard to control and harvest. Split fruit reflects improper water uptake and can be solved by harvesting half-ripe fruit if heavy rain looms. Cracks at the stem end are unattractive but do not affect taste.
Spray Epsom Salts
Spraying bell peppers and roses with Epsom salts has achieved almost mythical status among gardeners. Its benefit is magnesium, with its reputation of solidifying cell walls and producing sturdier peppers and flowers. Clay soils and complete fertilizers will provide adequate levels, but sandy soils can benefit from this home remedy.
Help Weed Storm-Damaged Areas
Controlling weeds where storms swept our region in 2005 seemed unimportant in previous summers. This summer will see more volunteer groups than ever in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf coast. Please volunteer to work with them so local favorite plants can be relocated as invaders are vanquished.
Unless those winter- and spring-flowering shrubs pose a hazard, spare the shears. From camellias to hollies to azaleas, buds are set for next year, and pruning the entire shrub now will remove them. You can selectively remove entire canes if crowding or age is a factor, but avoid shearing.