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.
Most folks have poinsettias and entertaining on the agenda during the holidays, but for this week’s column, I want to highlight a plant that has been an outstanding performer for me all year.
It took this past weekend’s hard freeze to finally shut down my black-eyed Susan vine (I’m going to use the abbreviation BES for this flower), known botanically as Thunbergia alata. For many gardeners, in their experience this is traditionally a basket plant that deserves to be grown more often.
It seems like I've seen Christmas decorations in stores for at least a couple of months. They really accelerated after Halloween, completely ignoring Thanksgiving, which was when I noticed early poinsettias out in force.
Along with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, the appearance of these poinsettias means we are in the full swing of the Christmas season.
In my opinion, the poinsettia is the quintessential Christmas plant. With its brightly colored bracts, it is a plant truly full of holiday cheer. I think most people will agree that the poinsettia is second only to the Christmas tree in essential Christmas season decor.
Celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends got me thinking about traditions and beliefs, some popular in the distant past but gone by the wayside today.
In agriculture, some of the most popular myths revolve around the changing seasons.
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.