Soil preparation is the most crucial step in success with annuals. Roots of annuals have to penetrate soils quickly, anchor plants, and absorb water and nutrients in one season, often under adverse conditions. Most Mississippi soils can be improved with cultivation and the addition of other ingredients.
Cultivating wet soils may cause lumping and shallow "pans," which resist air, water, and root penetration. Soil that is ready for cultivation holds its shape when squeezed, but crumbles easily. Power tillers are useful for preparing large areas, but may create a compacted zone in the soil directly under the tilled area. Use a digging fork to help avoid soil compaction.
The first step in preparing a bed for annual plants is to remove any unwanted plants with a hoe and rake or with a nonselective contact herbicide. After weeds have been removed or killed, dig the soil a shovel's depth; deeper soil preparation is normally not necessary. To prevent resprouting, remove grass and weed roots while turning the soil. Break clods and lumps into smaller pieces.
Add 3 to 4 inches of organic material, such as composted leaf and yard litter, pine bark, peat moss, or composted manure. Then add an inch or two of sharp sand if the soil is heavy. Also, if the soil test indicates a need for lime or fertilizer supplements, spread them at the recommended rate over the top at this time. Mix amendments together, blending the organic matter, sand, and fertilizers. Rake the prepared bed smooth when finished.
As we continue to plow through this hot and humid summer, keeping our plants -- and ourselves -- hydrated is critical to maintaining the summer garden and landscape. As I write this column, it's 96 degrees with a heat index of 108. Whew!
Like most gardeners, I love watching the various butterflies that visit my garden.
One I really like is the giant swallowtail, with its black body and vivid, yellow stripes. This creature loves my citrus, where she lays her eggs. The developing caterpillars have a unique defense mechanism; they look like bird poop on the citrus leaves.
I am a committed container gardener for both flowers and vegetables, but today I’m focusing on flowering plants. I firmly believe growing in containers is a fantastic way to enjoy a beautiful landscape and garden.
Let’s face it. Sometimes we need a quick, inexpensive bouquet of flowers to give to a friend or family member or to freshen up our own spaces.
Jim DelPrince, Extension horticulture specialist, shows you how to use landscape materials to supplement those pretty bouquets you see at the supermarket and get more bang for your buck. (Photo credit: Zac Ashmore/Cindy Callahan)
Since we celebrated the first day of summer last week, I think this is the perfect time to talk about one my favorite color plants, the coleus.
Coleus used to be that colorful plant that would grow only in the shadows, never exposed to the sun. One of my favorites of this kind is the sun-bashful coleus group, Kong.