By Brent Gray
Wait to prune spring flowering shrubs until they have finished blooming. Azaleas, flowering almond, forsythia, spirea, flowering quince, and Indian hawthorn will set next year’s flowerbuds during summer, so prune after they flower, but before they set new buds.
A general recommendation for forsythia, flowering quince, and others with an arching form is to remove one-third of the oldest and tallest shoots, cutting them to about 4 to 6 inches above the ground. For azaleas and Indian hawthorns, selectively prune each damaged or wayward branch, cutting at the point where it originates from the ground or another branch.
Keep lilies fresh by keeping the soil moist and placing the lily pot in a cool room, away from direct sunlight. After flowers fade, you can transplant the lily into the garden for bloom next year. Choose a sunny spot in a site that is well drained; bulbs in wet soil will rot. Feed with a complete fertilizer such as 9-9-6 or other bulb fertilizer, according to label directions. Your Easter lily will bloom next June.
If you have problems with squirrels eating your bulbs, the only sure fire way to prevent this is to cover the ground with a wire mesh screen (hardware cloth). Be sure to cut a hole for the stalk to come through the wire if it is a fine mesh. Cover the wire screen with mulch and hopefully all the little critters will do is dig little holes in your mulch, hit the screen, get frustrated and move on.
Large Patch – Most Prevalent Lawn Disease
The fungus (Rhizoctonia solani) commonly known as large patch and often referred to as brown patch is the most troublesome lawn disease for many Mississippi lawns. While this disease attacks most lawn turf species it is most serious on St. Augustine and centipede lawns in the spring and fall. Visual symptoms are brownish to gray irregular circular patches of a few inches to several feet in size. These water-soaked or scalded spots spread rapidly often with a narrow smoke-colored ring bordering the diseased area. The fungus generally attacks the base of leaf sheaths where they join to the stolons. When the disease is most active these leaves slip easily from the stolons when pulled on and have a brown, wet, slimy decay at the base. Large patch is most severe when temperatures moderate at night in the upper 50 and 60 degree range with midday temperatures in the 70’s.
Once summer temperatures get into the upper 80 and 90-degree range disease activity generally ceases until fall. Large patch activity is enhanced by high nitrogen fertilization, moisture on the leaf surfaces, and excessive thatch. Therefore, to diminish the incidence of attack be judicious with spring fertilization particularly with fertilizers high in water soluble nitrogen, water early enough in the day to allow foliage to dry before nightfall, and maintain good mowing practices to manage thatch buildup.
When large patch becomes severe, applications of fungicides may be necessary. For more information on large patch and other lawn diseases refer to Extension publications P1322 and IS1669 which can be obtained from your local Extension Service office or the www.MSUCARES.com web site.
Soil temperatures are starting to climb as the soil dries and the sunlight warms. Tomatoes are slightly more able to survive cold soils than peppers, so if the tomato plants you bought for Good Friday are getting too large, you can move them to the garden. The only way to actually know when to plant is take the temperature of the soil at planting depth. Tomatoes will grow at 68 while peppers do better at 70 and eggplant really doesn’t grow until the temperatures are above 72.
Cool season plants are reacting to the roller coaster temperatures as well. Young broccoli is heading. Cutting off the young head will not allow the growth of a later large head. The plant’s energy will be diverted into the side shoots and these miniature heads will seldom grow larger than two inches.
Transplanted sweet corn sounds strange, but starting the plants in a tray may be a way to get the corn growing while the garden is too wet. Inserts that keep the transplant roots separated make transplanting much easier. Corn harvested early has much less worm infestation.
Lelia Kelly, Wayne Wells, David Nagel