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Soil Preparation

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.

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A head of cabbage grows in a garden.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens November 29, 2021

Even though I still have tomatoes and peppers producing in my home garden, I know these summer vegetables are on borrowed time. While I like being able to harvest tomatoes on Thanksgiving, it’s the time of year to appreciate the great cool-season vegetables we can grow.

A yellow bloom.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens November 22, 2021

This Thanksgiving week, I’m recovering from a particularly nasty infection in my leg. I’m not looking for sympathy, but it has given me the opportunity to think about what I’m thankful for in the garden and landscape.

This past weekend, the weather was glorious on the Coast, and I hobbled through my garden, which I hadn’t seen for a week.

Red, yellow and red flowers bloom in a raised bed.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens November 15, 2021

When leaves fall and landscapes begin to look bare for winter, it can be easy to think it’s time to stay indoors. But fall is the ideal time for a variety of landscape chores. One job for chilly weather is planting and preparing for spring-flowering bulbs. This is an optimistic chore, as you get to prepare for blooms and beauty months away.

Pink flowers
Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens, Landscape Architecture November 12, 2021

As cold weather makes it way to Mississippi, the vibrant colors of summer and fall begin to fade. Winter months are traditionally very bland in terms of landscape, but they don’t have to be! There are several colorful plants that work well in cold temperatures, and many of them are low maintenance. Here are five annual plants you can incorporate into your flowerbeds or containers to add a nice pop of color into your winter landscape: 

Fuzzy green patches grow on a branch.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens November 8, 2021

I usually don’t need a calendar to tell where we’re at in the four gardening seasons of the year. Each season fills my email inbox and social media channels with the current landscape and garden problems and concerns.

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Portrait of Dr. Gary R. Bachman
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