Gardening With Tim, October 29, 2010

The days are cooler and it is a welcome relief for many of us that work outside.  The summer was so hot this year or it seemed so maybe because I’m getting a little older.  I hope you are enjoying the weather as much as I am, especially the rain we’ve had the last few days.

I did have question sent in to me about tropical hibiscus.  The lady wanted to know what to do before she brought them in for the winter.  I spoke with my local hibiscus guru and he said that he always pruned his before taking them in.  He said to trim the tree form ones back by about 1/3rd and to do it in a fashion that made them have a shape that was pleasing to the eye.  The shrub form hibiscus need to be cut back by about one half. This will invigorate the plants to grow better in the new season and give better blooms.  She also wanted to know if she could root the cuttings.  He says to put them in a large vase or jar with blue water and roots should start to appear within a couple of weeks and when they have a nice, healthy set of roots showing, you can pot them in a good potting soil and they will be fine.  

I am in the process of making a new flower bed and the tiller was doing nothing but bouncing up and down on top of the ground.  The rain made the ground a lot softer and the tiller is now doing it’s job much better.  Several weeks ago I talked about taking soil samples in and around the yard and in several of our flower beds.  

Well the results came back and things were not near as bad as I had thought they would be. In one of my rose beds the ph came back 7.0 and this lets me know that the soil was of a neutral status, being neither acidic or alkaline.  The other rose bed had a ph of 7.5 and had an slight alkaline base.  The hydrangea bed had a ph of 6.4 and had a slight acidic base.  No lime was recommended for any of these three beds, however two applications were recommended for each bed.  All three were low in nitrogen and needed two applications of a 34-0-0 nitrogen rich mixture in March and August.  They were all slightly low in phosphorus and needed an application of 0-46-0 also to be put out in March and August.  All recommendations were made in amounts per 1000 square feet which made the math very simple.  The fourth bed which is the new bed that I’m building had a ph of 5.5 with an acidic base.  

Recommendations for lime were made for this bed and for the grassy areas of my lawn, so lime has been added and now tilled in.  Heavier rates of nitrogen and phosphorus were made for this bed to be put out in March and August also.

 They also included a chart to help with calculations of the right amounts to put out.  The result sheets are easy to read and interpret.  The good thing is that a copy of these sheets are also sent to your local extension agent in case you need help with them.  I am glad that I had this done as it will help me not to put the wrong things out to improve the landscape.  It also helps to let the lab know what you are growing in the area in which the soil samples came from. 

When I was at Chrystal Springs this past weekend I talked with Dr. Karl Crouse, of the MSU Soil Testing Laboratory and he said to continue adding compost and other organics to my soil and tilling it in.  My wife has noticed also that since we have been adding compost on a regular basis that the beds are much easier to dig in with small hand tools.

I hope that I haven’t bored you too much with all this, but it has been a tremendous help to me and I hope it will help you too.  You don’t have to do soil samples every year, but every couple of years would be a good idea.

If you have any questions or comments, send me an email at or leave me a message at the Union County Extension Office at 662-534-1916.

 Happy Gardening and keep digging in the dirt.