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Soil Preparation

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.

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Filed Under: Flower Gardens January 14, 2019

Many home gardeners look forward to this time of year to browse catalogs in search of great new plants to enjoy in their 2019 landscapes.

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Filed Under: Flower Gardens January 7, 2019

This January’s temperatures have been drastically different from what we saw during last year’s first month.

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Filed Under: Flower Gardens December 31, 2018

As I'm writing this last Southern Gardening column of 2018, I'm trying to take one more look back before plunging headlong into the 2019 gardening season that's just around the corner. But I'm having trouble concentrating because the mail carrier is distracting me.

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Filed Under: Flower Gardens December 24, 2018

2018 was quite a year in our Mississippi gardens and landscapes: hot and dry, humid and rainy. Every year, there are winners and losers when we garden, and such is the nature of the gardening game. 

A small pink stocking with a white fuzzy top hangs from a Christmas tree inside a house.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens December 17, 2018

With the Christmas celebration approaching, I’ve been thinking about favorite traditions, past and present. It probably comes as no surprise that many of these traditions are food related.

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