By Brent Gray
Annuals add flash and dazzle to our landscapes. When you take into consideration that with proper care these plants will bloom their heads off practically all season, they are a real bargain. They’re not permanent, so we are free to try new plants, new combinations, every year. What a deal! For low maintenance and bloom all season try these tough annuals: spider flower (cleome), melampodium, globe amaranth, rose moss (portulaca), cosmos, narrowleaf zinnia, periwinkle. Look for these annual vines: moonflower, Spanish flag (Mina lobata), cypress vine, ‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glory, Love-in-a-Puff (Cardiospermum halicacabum).
Don’t Mess With Flowering Bulb Foliage
Do not be tempted to cut or otherwise mess with the foliage of your spring-flowering bulbs. If you do this habitually, you will eventually weaken the bulb and flowering will be reduced. Remember your high school botany. The foliage manufactures the food that is stored in the bulb to support the bloom for next spring. Letting the foliage die naturally will ensure that all sugars (food) were translocated to the bulb. If the sight of sickly, yellowing foliage bothers you, plant annuals among the bulbs to help camouflage the unattractive bulb foliage.
Cucumbers are having a hard time making any thing to pickle. The cool temperatures have slowed plant growth and the few flowers that are appearing are not being pollinated. Honey bees do not working in the rain anymore than we do. Be patient and the warmer temperatures and sunshine will aid both the plants and the bees to make cucumbers.
Now is a good time to buy a chayote squash or two from the grocery and start vines for your garden. Choose fruit that look old and tough. The gulf coast tradition is to wrap the mirliton (different name, same thing) in newspaper and leave it in the garage, but you can just leave the fruit in a warm place until it sprouts. Plant the sprouted fruit fat side down, pointy end up at a forty five degree angle. The vine can reach fifty feet, so put it next to a structure you don’t mind being covered. Each vine is self fruitful and can produce a squash each foot. The vine can survive some winters on the coast, but most of us should treat it as a n annual.
Onion growers should be watching their plants closely. The frequent rains make it very important to harvest the bulbs as soon as the tops fall. Leaving the bent over plants in the rain encourages fungal growth in the scales. Take the onions to a dry place and let them finish drying out of the rain.
Managing Slugs and Snails
While slugs and snails do little damage to our lawns they will attack many annual bedding flowers, hostas, and other perennial plants in the landscape. Besides the damage caused to plants their unsightly slimy, silvery trails are left behind on sidewalks, edging, etc. Snails and slugs are mollusks and closely related to oysters so they thrive in moist, protected areas generally with heavy accumulations of decaying organic matter. Their long, fleshy, slime-covered bodies are jointless. Their heads have a pair of sensory tentacles and eyes on extended “eye stalks” that they can retract. They feed mostly at night so they can go unnoticed before becoming quite numerous in beds having dense plantings, heavy mulch and leaf litter. Spring weather conditions are ideal for population explosions.
Limiting habitat conditions of excessive moisture, excessive leaf litter, heavy mulch, fallen limbs, rocks, and flower pots that provide daytime hiding places will discourage their presence.
Physical removal may be a practical control option for small areas but in larger beds and landscape settings, baits will be required. Shallow dishes of beer placed in beds are effective in small areas where they can be checked often to remove the drowned slugs and replenish the beer but specially formulated baits containing metaldehyde or iron phosphate are more practical in larger areas. Metaldehyde can be toxic to pets and wildlife so take care when applying. Repeated bait applications are required as the baits tend to lose their effectiveness after rains or prolonged periods of sunlight.
Horticulture Tips – Lelia Kelly, David Nagel, Wayne Wells