Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Coastal and Tropical South

January, 2012
Regional Report

Get Crape Myrtles Pruned

Forget what your father told you, ignore how the neighbors do it, and prune crape myrtles gently. Those who prune severely are dedicated to the process, but young trees that have not been chopped never need to be cut back hard. Even older trees that have been whacked into stumps can be coaxed to a more natural form if you let them. Clip off old flowers that have turned into seed heads and take off several inches of their stem. Remove twiggy growth and any branches that shoot sideways instead of gracefully upward.

Finish Planting Fruit Trees

Whether you want to enjoy figs, pineapple guava, loquat, plums, or other fruit trees, January is the preferred month to plant. In part, this is because the trees are at their growth nadir in winter and can most easily be transplanted. But it is also because the plants are most readily available now and will respond to the necessary pruning with new growth almost immediately. Yes, you can plant fruit trees at other times of the year but they will need much more attention and may not respond as well to pruning.

Resod Turf

Some gardening questions are seasonal. Each winter someone wants to know if sod planted in the dormant state will actually root and grow. The answer is "Probably yes," depending in large part on the source and condition of turf grass sod. Dormant sod squares and rolls should still be damp and flexible. Reputable dealers keep it that way by protecting pallets of sod from strong winds and direct sun. Inspect the sod yourself and plant now to give the grass time to root before it must green up in a few weeks.

Fertilize Indoor Plants

There are plenty of classic tropical plants that we grow indoors for their beauty and to protect them from inclement weather. Some gardeners drop a teaspoon of slow release fertilizer pellets into each container plant that they bring indoors. It is a wise practice, but most formulations last about twelve weeks. By then, regular watering that releases a bit of nutrient with each application has used it up the added fertilizer. Reapply now or add a soluble formula the next time you water plants like peace lily, rhizomatous begonias, and kalanchoes to nurture their February flowers.

Plant Cabbage and Other Cool Season Veggies

If you want to plant cool season vegetables like cabbage, lettuce, and chard, the time is now. In the Tropics zone this planting window closes very shortly in order to be harvesting before hot weather returns. Along the Southern Coasts there are a precious few weeks left to plant these crops, as well as potatoes and English peas to enjoy late in the spring. To figure out when to plant in this transition time, check the seed pack to know how many weeks the crop needs to mature, then count backwards to learn if there is enough time to plant. If not, it may be time to consider warm season edibles.


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