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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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Publications

News

Small red berries and green leaves line a distylium branch.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens February 12, 2018

Distylium Vintage Jade is an exciting new plant that brings pizazz to the traditional role of foundation planting.

A arrangement of pink, orange and yellow zinnias sit on a stool against a black background.
Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens February 1, 2018

Individuals interested in floral design can attend a live demonstration to learn about new arrangement techniques using Mississippi products March 8.
Jim DelPrince, horticulture specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, will show attendees how to use materials from their landscapes to create arrangements in Mississippi-made pottery.

White flower pots containing green lemongrass are lined up on the ground.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens January 29, 2018

Last week, I focused on the 2018 Mississippi Medallion Winner fancy leaf kale. This week, let’s look at a second 2018 winner: lemongrass.

Grayish-purple kale plants are displayed, each with light purple centers.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens January 22, 2018

Garden catalogs start piling up by the front door at this time of year, and our two recent cold spells gave me time to look at them. I’ve had the best time flipping through these catalogs and dreaming about all the new plants I’m going to grow this year.

A small bush with bright red leaves contrasts against a rock-filled garden.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens January 15, 2018

The weather to start 2018 has certainly been crazy. We had more than a week of temperatures in the mid-20s (Freezemageddon) followed by a week of moderate, more normal January temperatures. Now, we’re freezing again this week.

Watch

Wisteria
Southern Gardening

Wisteria

Sunday, February 18, 2018 - 7:00am
Indoor Plants
Southern Gardening

Indoor Plants

Sunday, February 11, 2018 - 7:00am
Gary the Godfather
Southern Gardening

Gary the Godfather

Sunday, February 4, 2018 - 7:00am
Winter Wonders
Southern Gardening

Winter Wonders

Sunday, January 28, 2018 - 7:00am
Crape Murder
Southern Gardening

Crape Murder

Sunday, January 21, 2018 - 7:15am

Listen

Monday, February 19, 2018 - 2:30am
Friday, February 16, 2018 - 2:00am
Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 2:00am
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 2:00am
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 2:00am

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