Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Coastal and Tropical South

February, 2011
Regional Report

Check for Mealybugs

One day you notice a small, white dot at the base of a leaf where it meets the stem. You ignore it and within a week, the sticky cottony mass has spread. You've just witnessed a population explosion of mealybugs. This scenario is typical of many piercing and sucking insects, which multiply every 8 days if you don't intervene. For indoor infestations, dip a paintbrush or swab into rubbing alcohol and paint them dead; repeat whenever you see the bugs.

Test Your Soil pH

The chemical reaction of soil, whether it is acidic or alkaline or somewhere near neutral, can make a huge difference in the way many plants grow. Acid-loving azaleas develop yellowing between leaf veins when the soil pH is too high. Lawn grass languishes when the pH is too low, or too acid, for their roots to function. When in doubt about why landscape plants just won't grow, contact your county agent and do a soil test.

Prune Vitex

The big blue flower heads of vitex stand out in the summer garden when yellow and orange often dominate. Vitex, or chaste tree, blooms in every shade of blue and purple. The display is eye-catching and those who do not know the plant will drive around the block to see it again. If vitex is not pruned hard every few years at least (more often if it is particularly vigorous), this woody perennial loses its allure. Flowers and leaves become fewer in number and the stems form a leafless thicket. If yours looks like this description, cut it down now.

Harvest Cabbages and Collards

Visit any market and you'll see cabbages up to a foot across and collard greens 2 feet long. That's a good volume bang for your buck, but home gardeners needn't wait so long to pick and enjoy these winter crops. Pick cabbage when it reaches 5-6 inches across, and keep clipping collards at 6-8 inches across for best flavors.

Mow at the Correct Heights

It may seem like a useless bunch of rules, but like the height requirements on amusement part rides, mowing height matters. Start the season by mowing at the minimum height recommended for your type of grass and raise the mower blade in summer. Here are the "rules": bermudagrass, 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inches; St. Augustine, 2 1/2 inches to 3 inches; zoysia, 1-2 inches; centipede, 1-1 1/2 inches. Not useless at all, this simple adjustment makes for a healthier lawn.


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