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.
This past weekend, I started planting cool-season color in my 25-gallon citrus containers.
I like underplanting in these containers for a couple of reasons. First, I can maintain a color pop through the year. And second, these annuals act as a colorful ground cover carpet that helps keep weeds at bay. I really do hate weeding, and even plants grown in containers need help with weed control.
You’ve got a lovely container, and you want to put a plant in it. But if that container doesn’t have drainage holes, you’ll end up with a dead plant. (Photo by Jonathan Parrish/Cindy Callahan)
I love the annual color we can grow all winter in most of our Mississippi gardens and landscapes, so I'm going to spend a few weeks concentrating on cool-season color. Dianthus is my first choice for fall color.
The fall and winter seasons mean it’s time for colorful pansy, viola and dianthus. But the changing seasons also mean that home gardeners who grow citrus will soon harvest delicious fruit -- satsuma, kumquat, Meyer lemon, oh my!
Those of you who keep up with Southern Gardening know that I’m a real fan of salvias.
One reason I like them is there are so many different types to choose from. I particularly like salvia farinacea, commonly called mealy cup sage or blue sage, for its landscape performance. These are tough plants, perfect for our Mississippi landscapes.