Friday, June 26, 2009

Mulch In The Southern Garden For June

By Thomas Fryd

In June we should think seriously about summer gardening. With less frequent rains and the ultimate drought periods not far away we must think of ways and means of offsetting them with mulches and artificial watering.

Mulching is important in the South. Whether ones soil is the heavy clay of Georgia or the sandy soil of the coastal areas, the preservation of moisture is a vital problem. Even though you can use great quantities of water during periods of drought, there is nothing so effective and useful as a good, heavy mulch around the shrubs, in the rose and dahlia gardens and everywhere that plants are widely spaced.

Mulches work wonders in conserving moisture and keeping the soil cool and mellow through the hottest and driest weather. Apply summer mulches of all types this month. Probably the most popular material in the South is pine straw. It conserves moisture, yet is porous enough to permit free circulation of air, heavy enough to avoid blowing of in strong winds and has an attractive appearance. The only drawback is that it makes a breeding place for pine mice in some sections. These rodents travel through tunnels in the mulch and eat the bark of the roots of some of our most-prized shrubs. Where pine mice are a problem use peatmoss. It does not attract mice.

Vermiculite is another useful mulch. It has great insulating powers and protects roots against heat and drying winds. Apply a 2 inch layer. I do not advise using the fine, granular grade for this purpose. The coarser type permits much freer air penetration to the soil and is often sold as the "horticultural grade."

Lawns are well under way. Established Bermuda lawns are now green and active and the winter rye grass is beginning to turn yellow as it finishes its season of growth. As the weather turns warm and dry it becomes too late to plant Kentucky Bluegrass and the fescues. It is a perfect time, though, to sow Bermuda seed and to plant centipede, St. Augustine, Zoysia and African Bermuda grasses by means of sprigs.

Summer also brings the problem of controlling lawn weeds for, in addition to dandelions, plantain and moneywort, crabgrass makes its appearance this month. The 2,4-D makes short work of broadleaved weeds, but watch out for crabgrass. There are many 2,4-D preparations on the market today and not all are the same.

In the Lower South gardeners are faced with the control of mole crickets in the lawn. This was a definite problem when gardeners had to apply bulky mixed baits that were not too effective, but now chlordane almost completely eliminates this pest"and is easy to apply.

House plants appreciate a change by moving them outdoors into the garden... remember they will need to acclimate! Many ferns, crotons, low light palms. aspidistras, sansevierias and begonias can be used to good advantage to make the flower border attractive. Most of these thrive best in a semi-shaded spot.

One of the headaches we often have in plunging house plants outdoors is that the roots go through the drainage holes and become imbedded in the soil. When the pots are pulled up in the fall most of the roots are broken off and the plants suffer. Much of this can be eliminated by setting each pot inside another pot.

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