Summer Southern Flowering Bulbs

By: Kent Higgins...

Southern gardeners are still talking about the severe winter weather we had and still taking inventory of the heavy toll, when some of the worst cold spells in history ruined many millions of dollars worth of shrubbery. Cold damage does not always show up soon after a cold spell. Some plants will not begin to show signs of trouble until April, May or even June when warm weather brings the plants into active growth. The tops may not show immediate signs of trouble unless the bark splits badly at the very beginning. The tops may stay alive a while on the stored up energy in the stems.
On the brighter side of the picture, this is still a month of breathtaking beauty in southern gardens where deciduous flowering shrubs and trees fill in the gap left by flowerless broad-leaved evergreens. Now the flowering dogwoods, wisterias, flowering peaches and crabs, cherries, redbuds, weeping cherries, spiraeas, bulbs of many kinds and fruit trees in bloom fill the air with the fragrance of spring.
Pruning Back Time
Prune back injured plants to sound, live wood that shows the healthy, moist, green cambium layer directly under the bark. Dead wood often becomes a host for decay organisms. Cut it off as fast as it develops to prevent further spread of possible die-back troubles.
Roses will not show the real extent of the cold damage until about now. If they fail to show new growth by this time, dig them up and destroy them. The hybrid teas were hurt worst of all. Dont try to save plants where the tops have been killed back to the grafts. Only wild rose stocks remain below this point. So, dig and throw away plants injured to this extent.
Complete Fertilizer
A good feeding with a complete plant food at this time will help greatly in bringing back to healthy growth gardenias that have suffered from freezing. Careful trimming to live wood and feeding with an azalea and camellia fertilizer will do wonders in bringing out new growth on these plants.
Summer Flowering Bulbs
Planting of gladiolus, cannas, caladiums, tigridias and dahlias is in full swing. Be sure to plant glads every two weeks until the first of June in the Middle and Upper South to keep them blooming through the summer months. This is about the last planting in the Lower South. Thrips cause considerable damage to gladiolus flowers and foliage. So, spray with malathion.
While dahlias can be planted safely in April the best blooms are produced in the fall. This calls for June planting. They then escape most of the hot summer weather that fades and spots the blooms. Some experts even wait until the first week in July to plant their dahlias. In any case, divide your clumps in storage and have them ready for planting when the time comes.
Annual Flowers
All annual flower seeds can be planted directly in the garden or in the coldframe for transplanting into the garden next month in all sections of the South. It is too late for hardy annuals such as larkspur, sweet peas and cornflowers that grow and bloom best in the cool spring months.
Bedding Plants
Bedding plants are abundant in garden stores everywhere. When in a hurry to develop a colorful border get bedding plants already in bloom. They will provide attractive plantings a good part of the summer. Also select your bedding plants for flower boxes, urns and hanging baskets.
Lawns Call for Attention
Lawns need attention this month. Many of us will have to repair damage caused by the excessively low temperatures. Some plantings of centipede and St. Augustine grass have been damaged. Replantings may have to be made. Sprigging is still the only method of planting these two popular grasses. In the Middle and Upper South mixtures for sunny and shady lawns can be planted as well as Kentucky Blue and carpet grass. Sow these at the rate of 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet. In the Lower and Middle South, Bermuda seed can also be planted now.
Spray Schedule
Spraying starts in earnest in April. Gardeners are expecting everything from a slight to almost complete killing of insects from our cold winter but we must not relax our efforts at keeping pests under control. There will still be a good supply of aphids, scale and other bothersome pests ready to begin work on shrubs, flowers and vegetables as soon as new growth appears. Use oil emulsions for scale and white fly; Malathion to keep down red spider, discourage aphids and keep many other pests under control. Sevin is great for cutworms.
Mulching is important with shrubs and all widely spaced plants such as roses and dahlias. A thick layer of "pine straw", peatmoss or leaves will protect them during the hot summer months, conserve moisture and keep the feeding roots cool and moist.
Vegetable gardens will be in vogue this year. Gardeners plan to turn to food gardening to help offset high costs. You can plant practically everything you want in the vegetable garden now. You can even include a neem tree in your garden as your source of neem oil for plants. Check with your local seedsman on recommended varieties for your section and be sure to try some of the All-America introductions. If space is limited, try parsley for a trim border and tasty garnishes.
For an early start set out plants of tomato, pepper, eggplant, cauliflower, celery, sweet potato, cabbage and onions. Shade newly planted vegetables from the sun for a few days. "Starter solutions" also work wonders in getting them under way quickly and develop extra-strong growth that produces heavy crops.

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