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Irrigation, Mulches, Fertilizers & Weed Control

Mississippi summers are typically dry for weeks. Therefore, be prepared to water annual plantings as needed. To promote deep root growth, water thoroughly and deeply, then let soils get nearly dry before soaking again. Gently water annuals, using the fine spray setting of an adjustable nozzle or a breaker specially designed for watering. Soaker or sprinkler hoses are more convenient than hand watering because they provide a gentle flow of water that seeps into the soil. Trickle or drip irrigation kits conserve water by putting it only at the base of plants, a little at a time, and are best used frequently to keep soil moist. Soakers and drip systems also help keep foliage dry, which can reduce the spread of leaf diseases.

Decorative mulches such as pine straw, shredded bark, composted leaves, or other porous materials that allow air and water exchange help to conserve water and keep the soil cooler. Mulches also prevent many weed seeds from sprouting, but they can hinder reseeding annuals for the same reason. Soaker hoses can be hidden beneath the mulch.

Annual plants often require extra doses of fertilizer during the growing season. Whether a granular or a water-soluble fertilizer is used, follow label directions for use. Water-soluble fertilizers give fast, but temporary, effects. Slow-release fertilizers are the most expensive; however, they provide the appropriate amount of fertilizer to the plants throughout the growing season with little effort and waste, which makes them more economical and environmentally safe. Most annuals benefit from an all-purpose fertilizer having an even or nearly even balance between nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash, as indicated by the three numbers on the container. Flowering plants may perform better when you use a fertilizer with a higher middle number (more phosphorous); green or colorful foliage plants such as amaranth, caladium, and basil benefit from higher nitrogen (first number). Remember that fertilizers, like salt, go a long way; a little is better than too much.

The ideal soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.5 for most flower species. A soil test will indicate the need for lime, if any, and the amount for your particular soil type. For soil testing information, contact your county Extension office or use an inexpensive test kit available from a garden center or mail order catalog. Agricultural lime often lasts in Mississippi soils for three or more years; for this reason, it is best to not add lime unless a soil test indicates a need and quantity.

Few things can dampen enthusiasm faster than weeds. To reduce the need for hand-pulling or chopping weeds, there are herbicides that prevent weed seed germination and others that eliminate existing weeds on contact. Some may be used to control grasses without harming flowers. There are precautions and guidelines on the uses of herbicides, making none completely foolproof. Consult with your county Extension agent or local garden center on the selection and use of weed control chemicals, and carefully follow label directions. Mulches shade weed seeds and prevent their germination, thereby eliminating or reducing the need for hand or chemical weed control.

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News

Purple and green plants grow from a rectangular, green container on the ground.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens, Herb Gardens April 6, 2020

As we continue to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve read that our eating habits are changing. The options for eating out have been limited as we practice social distancing.

This is the perfect opportunity for gardeners of all abilities to grow vegetable gardens.

A woman uses a hoe to tend a flower bed.
Filed Under: Fruit, Coronavirus, Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens, Vegetable Gardens April 3, 2020

Interest in gardening has nearly kept pace with social distancing and self-isolation rates across the country as the COVID-19 pandemic has circled the globe.

Tiny, purple eggplants grow on a vine.
Filed Under: Coronavirus, Flower Gardens March 30, 2020

As we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing numbers of people are working and sheltering at home. Although no one even heard of it a year ago, social distancing is a crucial step in reducing the transmission of this very contagious and dangerous virus.

Gardening is the perfect social distancing activity.

Cabin fever can set in with everyone trying to stay home, and some people may think this cure may be worse than the disease. It is definitely not, and gardening can help make it enjoyable.

A person spreading mulch in a flower bed.
Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens, Landscape Architecture, Vegetable Gardens March 26, 2020

Everyone’s normal routine is being flipped upside down. Employees are working from home, kids are out of school, and social gatherings are postponed. Boredom and stress are setting in. Gardening to the rescue! 

A carpet of tiny green and purple plants fill garden trays.
Filed Under: Coronavirus, Flower Gardens, Vegetable Gardens March 23, 2020

With much of our workforce telecommuting from home and with school suspended or cancelled for the kids, cabin fever has already become an issue for many households.

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Portrait of Dr. Gary R. Bachman
Extension/Research Professor
Ornamental Horticulture Host of Southern Gardening