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.
When summer starts to roll around to autumn, some gardens and landscapes nearly start all over, as worn-out summer annuals are composted and new seasonal selections take their place.
I came to a shocking realization this past weekend: Even though it still feels like summer, the signs are all around us that fall is about to begin.
First, we see the tropics heating up with storm activity. T.S. Gordon made landfall in Pascagoula Sept. 5 and spread rain all the way up to north Mississippi. Behind it are several more tropical storms that we will have to keep an eye on.
Garden enthusiasts and horticultural industry professionals can enjoy the largest home gardening show in the Southeast Oct. 12 and 13.
I’ve noticed a common characteristic among us gardeners. As we go through the year, our favorite plants in the landscape and garden seem to change from week to week.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about looking forward to the time of year when ornamental peppers start strutting their gorgeous fruit colors. What I didn’t mention is that late summer is not just for ornamental peppers; I always get my best home-grown culinary peppers from August until frost in the fall.
My tastes for culinary peppers range from the mild and colorful bell peppers all the way to the superhot selections like Ghost, Scorpion and Carolina Reaper.