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.
The last two weeks, I’ve told you about two of my top three cool-season flowering bedding plants. Today, I’m going to complete the trifecta with another plant everyone should have in their landscape: the viola.
Violas may have smaller flowers than their cousin, the pansy, but they’re maybe even tougher and more tolerant of cold, winter weather than pansies. These plants are beautiful massed in landscape beds, and they can be great performers all the way to Easter.
Even though the air is still warm in many parts of Mississippi, it’s time to plant annual winter color. Last week, I wrote about pansies being a great color choice. Another sure-fire pick is dianthus.
These days, I have to wear my hoodie sweatshirts and long pants for anything below 60 degrees. But the falling temperatures also signal something great: racks and racks of great, cool-season color as pansies fill local garden centers.
This year, I’m getting an early start on my ornamental kale and cabbage planting for the fall.
A couple of weeks ago, I found these plants being marketed in variety packs, so I picked up a selection of kale and cabbage. What an easy way to select plants for your landscape this weekend.
Confederate rose is sometimes called Cotton rose and Cotton rosemallow. Despite the references to cotton, this plant is actually a hibiscus that originated in Asia.