The latest from Mississippi State University Extension's Southern Gardening Radio Show. Segments are designed for persons interested in lawn and garden care. The show features Extension Horticulturist Gary Bachman and is produced by video producer Tim Allison.
Birds liven up any garden with their twittering, singing, and the occasional scolding today on Southern Gardening.
Birds are always a welcome feature in the garden. You can always attract birds by keeping a full bird feeder. But why not just plant the correct types of garden plants and get double duty from your plantings. Try planting for seasonal food and shelter, you don’t even need any large trees for birds to be plentiful.
Seeds are birds primary food source. Plants with flower spikes such as Agastache are good choices as well as Echinacea and Coreopsis. Flowers held up above the foliage allow easier access. Remember not to deadhead and allow the seeds to ripen fully.
Berry producing plants are also great bird attractants as they like berries as much as we do. Two hollies worth considering are winterberry and possumhaw, Ilex verticillata and I. decidua. Their red berries in the winter are like beacons signaling dinner is ready.
Finally, if you want birds in your garden you need to provide shelter. Some species prefer a dense canopy from a blueberry or juniper. Others like an open canopy provided by a pin oak or hawthorn.
Don’t forget to include a bird bath. Birds need a water source all year to drink and take a bath. And be sure to flush and clean on a regular basis.
Growing a wide variety of plants in the garden is a sure way to cover the bases of food sources and shelter.
Providing the right kinds of plants in the garden will ensure you have feathered visitors all year round.
I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.
We all want more color in our landscapes and usually concentrate on flowering annuals and perennials today on Southern Gardening.
When shopping for color often overlooked are plants with colorful foliage. Let’s take a look at a few of my favorite purple and reds.I have been growing Black Pearl ornamental pepper for several years and it is a favorite. The foliage starts off chartreuse and quickly transitions to dark purple is a great color contrast. The round marble sized fruit are purplish black and slowly change to a brilliant red. There are always fruit in various stages of color transition.
Another of my favorites are the full sun coleus. Known for their colorful foliage I think one of the best is Big Red Judy which is a real foliage stunner. Growing up to 3 feet tall and wide the brilliant red foliage is vibrant in the full sun. A big plus when compared to other full sun coleus is that Big Red Judy is slow to flower. This makes it a great lower maintenance landscape plant.
But the one plant I’m most excited about is the newly introduced Delta Jazz crape myrtle. Delta Jazz was developed by personnel at Mississippi State University. The foliage starts as a rich raspberry maroon and matures to a dark mahogany brown. This dark foliage makes a great background when the medium pink flowers appear in mid to late summer.The unique foliage color also makes Delta Jazz a good candidate to be used as a specimen plant.
Plants with colorful foliage can be used in lieu of flowering plants. And why not? These plants have attractive foliage that is showy without having to rely on any flowers
I am horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.
You know there’s a reason experienced gardeners call compost “black gold” today on Southern Gardening.
Plants just grow better when compost is used. Gardeners want compost because this broken down organic matter improves almost any garden bed. It adds moisture holding to sandy soils and helps to increase drainage in a tight clay soil. But some gardeners think composting is complicated and they’re going to make mistakes. But truth be known, composting is really easy.
A simple way to compost if you have a lot of room and time is to just make a pile. This is a good way to handle leaves in the fall after you’ve chopped them up with the lawnmower.
If you want a more contained look then you’ll need to provide a basic bin. Use four posts and chicken wire to complete a simple compost bin. Making the sides of a bin out of four used pallets is a great way to recycle with a purpose.
I personally like the three bin composting method, with each bin measuring approximately three feet wide by three feet high by three feet deep. Fill the first bin with green and brown materials, a good ratio is three parts brown to 1 part green. When the volume has reduced by half move into the second bin and refill the first. Repeat moving from the second to the third to finish, first to the second, and refill the first. You can keep this continuous cycle going as long as you have the “raw materials”.
So whether you’re making lots of compost or just enough to top dress in the spring, your plants will appreciate your efforts. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.
Lavender is relaxing and also a great landscape ornamental plant today on Southern Gardening.
There are 4 species of lavender commonly grown in the garden, but in Mississippi for the best success grow Spanish lavender. Spanish lavender grows 2 feet tall and wide and has fat, purple flower buds with spiral petals. The other lavenders, lavandin, English and French, do not like high humidity. Lavender grows great in hot and dry conditions, so in Mississippi gardeners have a challenge. Modification of the soil environment is required and good soil drainage is a must. This is where using raised beds are a good choice. Amend the soil with grit, pea gravel, or oyster shells to make the soil gravelly. Oyster shells will help to keep the soil alkaline and help your lavender thrive. Containers also work well. Use a good draining potting media amended with plenty of vermiculite, perlite, and pea gravel. Apply a good 3 to 4 month slow release fertilizer a couple of times during the year. After the lavender blooms prune back the stems to shape the plant and prevent the center from opening up.
Harvest fresh cut flowers just as buds start to open. For dried lavender, cut just before the first flowers open and bundle, 20 stems per bundle. Hang upside out of the sun and with plenty of air circulation. They will soon be ready for potpourris and sachets.
So after a day of working in the garden sit back and enjoy the fresh, relaxing fragrance of freshly picked lavender. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.
Canna lilies are valued for their large tropical foliage and showy flowers today on southern Gardening.
Many gardeners are familiar with the big cannas that have to be grown in the back of the planting bed. With their upright growth habit canna have an almost statuesque presence in the landscape. But the plant breeders have been at it again, developing selections that have dwarf characteristics. At 16 to 24 inches tall, these canna demand to be planted right up front. A great example is the Tropical canna series, which typically has flowers that are about 3 to 4 inches across. The beautiful flowers are soft and form on a spike held high above the wide lush foliage. Tropical Rose is an All-America Selections winner and has soft rose blooms. As the first flowers mature another flower spike will begin to grow and soon open. Tropical Rose will produce flower spikes all summer for reliable color in your garden. Other colors include Red and Yellow. There is even a selection called Bronze Scarlet. This plant features bold spikes of brilliant scarlet blooms speckled with gold flecks and stunning deep burgundy leaves having hints of coppery bronze all summer season.
South Pacific Scarlet is a 2013 All-America Selections winner. This plant has 4 inch flowers that are a delicious blend of scarlet shades. You can prolong the bloom period of these dwarf canna through the summer by deadheading. Removing the withering flower stem will allow the shoot below to develop and flower.
It’s interesting that these dwarf cannas are not produced from rhizomes, but grown from seed. This means better branching and more flowers for your landscape. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.
Hostas are popular shade garden plants and here are a few of my favorites today on Southern Gardening.
If you have shade in your Mississippi garden you can enjoy the wide range of leaf sizes, shapes, and colors.
‘Sum and Substance’ is a super-sized plant. The leaves open chartreuse and transition to a golden yellow. The plant can achieve a mature size of 30 inches tall by up to six feet wide with deeply veined leaves. It may take several years to reach its full size potential.
A hosta that will stand up to high summer heat is ‘Patriot’. Having irregular bright white margins on dark green leaves ‘Patriot’ will be a 15 inch by 36 inch wide plant. ‘Patriot’ emerges slower in the spring but the wait is worth it.
A good choice for containers is the hosta selection ‘Krossa Regal’. The foliage is upright instead of spreading which adds an architectural element. The vase-like growth habit allows splashes of color underneath from impatiens or spotted deadnettle.
But a special hosta I like is ‘One Man’s Treasure’. While the foliage looks good, it’s the stems that draw attention. The stems are covered with red and purple spots that give the impression of pubescence. This hosta is fantastic under planted with Australian Tree fern which has stems that match.
With so many hostas on the market you always want to choose truly outstanding selections. The one’s I have suggested will get you off to a good start. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.
Today I’d like to share a couple of plants I’ve had success with growing in the hell strip today on Southern Gardening.
Purslane is a succulent that thrives in high summer temperatures. Purslane has long been regarded by many as a garden weed, and I have removed many of these from the garden and landscape. Purslane’s summer-loving qualities make the improved selections perfect for the landscape. Known botanically as Portulaca oleracae, purslane is a larger and more robust version of its relative, the popular bedding plant moss rose. Regular pinching will keep purslanes dense and full. Purslanes are heavy feeders that require adequate nutrition throughout the season for best flowering and growth. The flowers will close on cloudy days and when the plant is under stress, and they have been observed to close in late afternoon and early evening, as well. The other plant that really surprised me last year was the annual Gold Dust mecardonia. I planted this in the spring intending to use as a ground cover until I found some other plant to plant. I never did. The mecardonia created a gorgeous mat from the profusion of bright yellow flowers. That is until my drip irrigation had a problem and once the bed dried out so did my mecardonia. So you can imagine my surprise this spring when the mecardonia came back from seed. I have my drip irrigation fixed and I’m well on my way to having the bright yellow carpet again. Feeding weekly with a water soluble fertilizer will keep the continuous flowering going all summer long. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.
There’s one area in almost everyone’s landscape that can cause a lot of problems today on Southern Gardening.
It’s that area between the sidewalk and the street. I try to garden in this area and have a small planting bed that surrounds my mailbox. And I have tried many different planting combinations that change with the season with some success. But it is the summer season that causes the most trouble. The conditions that cause our gardening angst in this area are many and build upon each other. The summer soil temperatures skyrocket from the reflective heat radiating off concrete and other paving materials on both sides and this really bakes the planting bed. Even with the harsh conditions the weeds just thrive. I have particular trouble with the combination of green kyllinga, nutsedge and Virginia buttonweed. Watering is problematic because of the slope to the street for drainage, which of course it does. No wonder professional horticulturists and homeowners alike call this area the hell strip. A trend in newer subdivisions to make this area more attractive is to build brick and mortar mailbox enclosures that have planting beds built in. The planting areas are convenient and but we still need to address the heat load issues. Tomorrow I’ll share a couple of plants I’ve had success with growing in the hell strip. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.
One plant we should grow more of is the easy to care for dahlia today on Southern Gardening.
Growing dahlias is not complicated. A good rule to follow for getting started is plant your dahlia tubers directly into the garden when you plant tomatoes after there’s little chance of a frost. Dahlias planted this way will typically bloom from mid-summer through the fall season. If you want flowers earlier you can start tubers indoors under lights along with your tomato seeds about a month before transplanting. If you don’t want to start your own almost every garden center will have a good selection of blooming plants. Be sure to deadhead through the season as this will encourage more blooms as the season progresses. Collecting stems for indoor use is a great way to deadhead and it doesn’t seem like work. Dahlia are perennial and normal recommendations are to dig and store the tubers after the onset of cold weather. For dahlia grown in containers, prune the stems at the top of the growing mix and store in a cool, dry location. If growing in the ground prune the stems at ground level and mulch with about twelve inches of pine straw. Either way the following March dig up and divide the tubers and replant when you transplant your tomatoes. I prefer to use dahlias as annual color providing nothing special in terms of winter protection. I do this with most of the color plants I grow. This way I’m always surprised when plants do come back the following year. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.
Small dahlias are a great choice for containers on the porch or patio today on Southern Gardening.
Finally, we have finally turned the corner and are enjoying the warming temperatures of spring. In my travels visiting garden centers and greenhouses I’ve been reminded of plants that we don’t grow enough. Whether it’s because gardeners think these beautiful plants need an extraordinary amount of care or they’re just not on gardening horizon; regardless of the reason we need to grow more dahlias. Dahlia grows from bulb-like structures that resemble a sweet potato tuber. These are easy to grow plants and if you can grow tomatoes you can grow dahlias. Almost every garden center will have a good selection of blooming plants. Talk about instant impact. Some dahlia varieties can be over four feet all, but I like the smaller selections that can be grown in containers and enjoyed on the porch or patio. I really like the Dahlietta dahlia series with their small, compact growth habits which have many unique colors and flower forms that only grows eight to ten inches tall. Dahlias don’t require any care beyond what many other landscape needs. In Mississippi I always suggest planting in a site having good drainage; this is where growing in containers is a great idea. Dahlias do need to be deadheaded to promote continued flowering through the season. This will also help to maintain bushy and compact plant growth. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.