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.
Many of Mississippi’s perennial landscape plants will start to decline after several years. That means they will have smaller foliage and won’t flower as much, even though they’ve been well cared for with regular fertilizer and irrigation.
It’s no secret that I’m a real fan of salvia. A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed highlighting sage, which is a great culinary salvia. This week I’m going talk about perennial salvia, another group of these great plants.
If you read this Southern Gardening column frequently, you realize that I grow much more than pretty flowers in my home garden. Besides ornamental plants, I love to grow vegetables that my wife and I can enjoy for dinner.
Salvia is one of the groups of plants that everyone should have in their landscape. This plant group has flowers with a wide-ranging color palette and different sizes. Salvias are loved -- by me especially -- because of their ability to attract pollinators, butterflies and hummingbirds.
If you’re anything like me, I find any excuse to get outside. The warmer temperatures and colorful blooms are refreshing, especially after the cold winter we had! Working on outdoor chores is a great excuse to get some fresh air. Here are a few tasks you need to cross off your checklist during April: