Get ready for Summer – Now!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lawns. Healthier lawns have fewer weeds. If yours is more than half covered by weeds now, get them out by spraying or scalping them off at ground level. Then the task is to grow a thick lawn that overcomes the invaders.

  • Mow at recommended height for your grass.

2-3” St. Augustine 2” zoysia and centipede, ½ -1” hybrid bermudagrass

  • Cut no more than half the blade’s length at once.
  • Water before you can see your footprints behind you in the lawn.
  • Use slow release fertilizers for steady nutrition.

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd and you can’t grow lawn grass in shade! Dense shade is for ground covers, mulch beds and Zen gardens of raked pebbles.


Young trees. Early care pays off with steady growth and a long-lived tree. Remember, the biggest threat to newly planted trees is not bugs, diseases, drought or flood – it’s human beings and their machines. That string trimmer can be fatal to a young trunk.

  • Encircle newly planted trees with a low mound 1’ out from trunk as a water reservoir for the first summer. Knock it down next winter.
  • Surround each trunk with fencing to reduce need for staking and keep them safe.
  • Fertilize lightly in the first two years to favor steady, thrifty growth patterns.        


Shrubs. Basic care of new and established shrubs is not as complicated as it might seem. The big idea is to keep organic matter available throughout their lives so new growth continues even in older shrubs.

  • Lay down a 1” blanket of compost or compost/manure from the trunk of each shrub all the way out to the edge of its canopy. Use a rake, hoe or hand cultivator to scratch the blanket into the top of the soil. Water and mulch.
  •  Use the flowering shrub fertilizer of your choice, but not agricultural products like 13-13-13.
  • Shrubs do not wilt readily, so it’s often better to water by the calendar instead of the weather - regularly, slowly, deeply works best.
  • 1-2” of ground bark mulch is an investment for future use, as it can be worked into the soil in about 18 months. Use pine straw for pretty mulch but remove it once it becomes dark or matted.

In general, prune flowering shrubs promptly once the blooms finish. Prune evergreens in early spring to stimulate new growth and again in summer to thicken and control them.


Perennial flowers. Classic advice says to dig and divide perennials in the season opposite their bloom, but we stretch that to accommodate the hot, humid climate and changeable weather. Once a perennial has bloomed out for the year, its energy heads down to the crown and you can safely consider propagation.

  • In dry weather, water the day before digging.
  • Dig up entire clumps whenever possible to limit crown damage.
  • Get 3 – top, crown and roots – for each new plant.
  • Replant or pot up promptly to avoid dehydration.

Use the power of pinching to tame boisterous perennials like ‘Clara Curtis’ mums, joe pye weed and autumn clematis. Do a ‘soft pinch’ – use fingernails or scissors to clip out just the growing tip to stimulate branching below.


Annual flowers. No plant group can outpace annuals from seed or transplants for quick color for months in garden beds and containers. Remember that ‘full sun’ on the label may not mean ‘full sun’ in Mississippi unless you’re willing to water daily in summer.

  • Jazz up that flat bed for fast good looks with a mound of color for best display and drainage.
  • Plant a wilt detector plant, one that needs water just before others in a grouping, to be sure you water effectively.
  • Don’t hesitate to cut back and fertilize annuals at midsummer, or whenever they become leggy. Cut off spent flowers so more flower buds can form.


Vegetables. Homegrown is best and once you’ve grown some food, you’ll agree. If tomatoes have not done well, try beans and squash for easier growing.

            Elevate those veggies for best air circulation and fewer pests and diseases.

            String trellises and tipis work best for pole beans and cucumbers.

Use bamboo stakes to set up a simple frame around each squash plant to make the best use of space and keep leaves clean and healthy.

Tie rings of soft, stretchy material around th

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