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Irrigation, Mulches, Fertilizers & Weed Control

Mississippi summers are typically dry for weeks. Therefore, be prepared to water annual plantings as needed. To promote deep root growth, water thoroughly and deeply, then let soils get nearly dry before soaking again. Gently water annuals, using the fine spray setting of an adjustable nozzle or a breaker specially designed for watering. Soaker or sprinkler hoses are more convenient than hand watering because they provide a gentle flow of water that seeps into the soil. Trickle or drip irrigation kits conserve water by putting it only at the base of plants, a little at a time, and are best used frequently to keep soil moist. Soakers and drip systems also help keep foliage dry, which can reduce the spread of leaf diseases.

Decorative mulches such as pine straw, shredded bark, composted leaves, or other porous materials that allow air and water exchange help to conserve water and keep the soil cooler. Mulches also prevent many weed seeds from sprouting, but they can hinder reseeding annuals for the same reason. Soaker hoses can be hidden beneath the mulch.

Annual plants often require extra doses of fertilizer during the growing season. Whether a granular or a water-soluble fertilizer is used, follow label directions for use. Water-soluble fertilizers give fast, but temporary, effects. Slow-release fertilizers are the most expensive; however, they provide the appropriate amount of fertilizer to the plants throughout the growing season with little effort and waste, which makes them more economical and environmentally safe. Most annuals benefit from an all-purpose fertilizer having an even or nearly even balance between nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash, as indicated by the three numbers on the container. Flowering plants may perform better when you use a fertilizer with a higher middle number (more phosphorous); green or colorful foliage plants such as amaranth, caladium, and basil benefit from higher nitrogen (first number). Remember that fertilizers, like salt, go a long way; a little is better than too much.

The ideal soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.5 for most flower species. A soil test will indicate the need for lime, if any, and the amount for your particular soil type. For soil testing information, contact your county Extension office or use an inexpensive test kit available from a garden center or mail order catalog. Agricultural lime often lasts in Mississippi soils for three or more years; for this reason, it is best to not add lime unless a soil test indicates a need and quantity.

Few things can dampen enthusiasm faster than weeds. To reduce the need for hand-pulling or chopping weeds, there are herbicides that prevent weed seed germination and others that eliminate existing weeds on contact. Some may be used to control grasses without harming flowers. There are precautions and guidelines on the uses of herbicides, making none completely foolproof. Consult with your county Extension agent or local garden center on the selection and use of weed control chemicals, and carefully follow label directions. Mulches shade weed seeds and prevent their germination, thereby eliminating or reducing the need for hand or chemical weed control.

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News

Red, green, and yellow pods on a Chilly Chili plant, a colorful pod producer without the heat.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens September 18, 2017

Late summer and early fall are among my favorite times of the year because the ornamental peppers are starting to really color up.

More and more fellow gardeners are jumping on the bandwagon and planting these beauties in their landscapes. These plants are hot -- in landscape character and accent -- and they carry the garden through the fall season and maybe beyond.

Most ornamental peppers begin setting fruit as the temperatures rise, so the best show is always saved for late summer and continues through the fall as they keep producing. This means you need to set these plants out in the late spring.

A Lycoris, pink/red flower with no foliage, better known as the spider lily or naked lady.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens September 11, 2017

This is the time of year many gardeners have been waiting for all summer.

If you’re thinking about the cool front that blew through this past weekend, I’m afraid you’re incorrect. What I’m talking about is the emergence of naked ladies in gardens all across Mississippi.

I’m talking about the seemingly magical plants known botanically as Lycoris. Common names include magic, surprise or resurrection lily, but some gardeners simply call them nekkid ladies.

These Lucky Pink pentas offer a rich pink color on branching, compact plants.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens September 4, 2017
I’m often asked which flowering plants I think are best for our landscapes and gardens. This is not a simple question!
 
Through the Southern Gardening column and television program, I try to highlight great garden plants. Of course, these flowering plants happen to be my current favorites. That means my list of favorites is in a constant ebb and flow, as many readers know.
 
Today, I want to tell you about a landscape star that is shining brightly while others have faded pretty badly as we near the end of the meteorological summer. Today’s star is the penta. The reference to stars is very apt, as one common name for this plant is Egyptian Star Cluster.
Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens, Herb Gardens, Vegetable Gardens August 29, 2017

CRYSTAL SPRINGS, Miss. -- Home gardeners and horticulture professionals can learn about the latest plants, research and gardening techniques during the 39th annual Fall Flower & Garden Fest on Oct. 13 and 14. 

These Daybreak Charm Supertunias are thriving in a basic, 25-gallon container that has been dressed up with vertical wooden slats. (Photo by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman)
Filed Under: Flower Gardens August 28, 2017

This year has been a challenge in my home landscape and garden.

First, we have had a lot of rain: more than 93 inches and counting collected in our Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network rain gauge. If you’re interested in being a volunteer rain reporter for them, go to http://www.cocoraahs.org for more information. I’ve seen so many waterlogged landscape beds and lawns that just won’t dry out.

The second big challenge was the heat. When it’s not raining, the high temperatures and humidity have maintained heat indexes that make me -- and many others gardeners -- just stay indoors. Surely that yard work can be put off until October.

But I’ve taken the steps to make my gardening an easier chore

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Roundabout Color
Southern Gardening

Roundabout Color

Sunday, September 17, 2017 - 1:00am
Burgandy and Silver
Southern Gardening

Burgandy and Silver

Sunday, September 10, 2017 - 1:00am
Landscape Gold
Southern Gardening

Landscape Gold

Sunday, September 3, 2017 - 1:00am
Reliable Late Color
Southern Gardening

Reliable Late Color

Sunday, August 27, 2017 - 1:00am
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