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.
I’m enjoying the changing weather that has finally arrived across Mississippi, and many of my summer annuals growing in planters and containers are getting a second wind. But, unfortunately for them, it’s time to get cool-season color planted. A popular cool-season flowering annual that I always count on are pansies.
Gardening in October brings many opportunities to change up the landscape for the cool season. But before we focus on pansies, violas and snapdragons, one of my favorite flowering landscape shrubs is just starting to show off.
I can’t deny that I love really, really dark landscape plant foliage. Any plant sporting burgundy- or maroon-colored leaves gets my attention. If you feel the same way, consider some of these plants to add to your home landscape.
When we get into the fall of the year, many gardeners get tunnel vision and only look for cool-season color. I will soon write about some of my favorite annual color for the season, but today I want to remind home gardeners that fall is for planting. Fall is a great time to plan for and then plant colorful shrubs for next year and beyond. I’ve already seen a variety of flowering shrubs in garden centers.
I took time to just enjoy my home landscape this last weekend. I put off chores just to take a look at some of my solid garden performers. Here’s what I observed. Coleus has become one of my go-to plants for looking great all summer and still going deep into the fall. Nobody can get bored with its kaleidoscope of colors and various leaf shapes.