North Mississippi Gardening Tips

Flowers
Canna, dahlia, ginger lily, gladiolus, crocosmia, lily and tuberose can be planted directly in the garden now. Plant caladium bulbs when soil temperature goes above 70 degrees. Caladiums prefer shade to partial shade. The strap shaped leaved varieties can tolerate sun and typically have a dense growth habit. After bearded iris bloom cut off bloom stalks. Dahlias and tall lilies should be staked early in their growth for best results. Experiment with some of the smaller bulb plants that have long bloom periods between summer and fall. Some to try include the summer scillas (Scilla autumnalis and S. scilloides), alliums (Allium globosum and A. senescens), and zephyr lily (Zephyranthes candida). Do not cut the leaves of daffodils until they have died naturally as these leaves are necessary to produce the sugars that build strong bulbs capable of flowering strongly next spring.

Tips for Bulb Gardening
1. To camouflage dying daffodil foliage:
a. interplant with perennials that will grow above and hide the bulb leaves, such as daylilies or salvias
b. sow fast growing annuals like zinnias, cosmos, cleome or marigolds among daffodils
c. plant taller growing daffodils behind lower-growing shrubs such as dwarf nandinas

2. To remind you when to fertilize your daffodils plant grape hyacinths around or among your daffodils plantings. The grape hyacinth foliage emerges in the fall which is the time to fertilize daffodils.

3. To cut bulb blooms for flower arranging always use sharp scissors and carry a bucket of water with you into the garden to submerge the flower stalks to prevent wilting.

Container vegetable gardening
If you just don’t have the space for a vegetable and herb garden you can grow these plants in containers. For those of us who may have a physical disability or just can’t get up and down like we used to, container gardening is a great way to get around those limitations. Choose containers that are light-colored so less heat will be absorbed. Also choose large containers to provide enough depth and root growing space and to lessen the need for watering so frequently. Some examples of minimum container sizes for particular crops follows: 1 gallon for beets, carrots, lettuces, onions and radishes; 2 gallon for bush beans, mustard and turnips; 5 gallon for bush squash, cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, cabbages and other cole crops. Use a good quality potting mix to fill the containers and provide the same requirements of moisture, light and nutrients that you would for in ground crops. Be aware that watering will be more frequent for container plants than in ground plants. These will also require more frequent fertilizing. Use a complete slow-release fertilizer to provide a more constant supply of nutrients and to lessen the frequency of application compared to a soluble fertilizer.

Lawns
Because of the downturn in the economy most of us are looking for ways to conserve our money and reduce bills including the water bill. Encouraging development of a deep root system on our lawns by watering only when the need arises and watering thoroughly and deeply is a good way to cut that water bill. Only water grass areas that exhibit symptoms of moisture stress such as a curled, dull, or bluish colored leaves; or footprints that remain long after you have walked over the turf. Watering late at night or early in the morning when dew has formed will not encourage disease. It will also save you money as watering during the day when it is hot, dry, windy weather can cause up to a 30 percent loss of the irrigation water due to evaporation. Gradually raising the mowing height as the temperature climbs can encourage deeper root growth and reduce heat stress. Cutting your grass cleanly by using a sharp mower blade results in less water loss. Also, the grass heals more rapidly than grass leaves that are shredded by a dull mower blade.

Shrubs
Container grown shrubs can be planted throughout the summer months as long as you pay particular attention to watering. Dig the hole only as deep as the root ball or even a little shallower, backfill with existing soil, water deeply, and mulch. After the blooms fade on your Mother’s Day hydrangeas, snip the old blooms off and plant the shrub in the garden where it will receive morning sun and afternoon shade. Before indiscriminately throwing out fertilizer around your shrubs, take the time to observe the new growth. If the leaves and stems are green and growing well you probably do not need that fertilizer right now. If the new growth is yellow use a slow release fertilizer at the recommended rate. To renew bigleaf (French) or lace cap hydrangeas and encourage new growth, remove about one-third of the older stems by cutting them off at the base of the plant. Do this right after flowering is completed. These older stems will be replaced by vigorous new stems which will flower next growing season. Typically, azaleas should not need pruning, but if they are overgrown, have dead branches and not flowering well, these may benefit from some selective pruning. Remove individual branches by cutting just above a lateral branch. Remove the oldest branches by cutting all the way to the base of the plant. Prune after flowering. If your aucubas have gotten too tall, do not shorten by just cutting across the top of the plant. Prune away the tallest branches by cutting them back to their point of origin.

Lelia Scott Kelly, Ph.D., writes North Mississippi Gardening Tips monthly and is a Horticulture Specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Her office is in the North Mississippi Research & Extension Center, Verona.

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Dr. Lelia Scott Kelly/Mississippi State University Extension Service