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Planting Cool Season Annuals

As a frugal gardener, I like to get as much value out of the money I spend on plants as I can. One of the most costly items is seasonal color. This refers to those plants we install for a season and then remove Typically, these are annuals that spend their entire life flowering. In fact, typically, they completely exhaust themselves by the end of the season. We're all familiar with our warm season annuals we set out in the spring but fortunately here in the South, there is another season that is equally important and its just about to begin. Really get more for your money when you plant cool season annuals than warm season ones. Let me explain. By planting cool season annuals in September and enjoying them at the end of May, you get 9 months of color. Compare that with putting begonias in the ground in April and removing them in September. You only get 6 months of color. That's 1/3 more months of color during with cool season plants than warm season flowers. Think how much money your saving!

If you want to put pansies out this time of year, understand that it's still a little early and the plants have been grown during the hot summer months, so they're probably a bit stressed. When pansies get stressed, they stretch. It is a natural reaction and it tends to make them a bit top heavy and lanky. Pansy ancestors naturally acted like a vine, and our modern varieties revert back to that when they encounter conditions that aren't favorable. So, the best thing you can do if you buy pansies early in the season, is to give them a hard pinch. By the way there is a difference between a soft pinch and a hard pinch. A soft pinch is one that removes just the top of the plant. Remember, pruning is localized so the effect will be at the top of the plant. Instead, we want to give our pansies a hard pinch. That means we go in and remove � to 2/3 of the plant. This can be very painful as you've got these nice sized plants and all of a sudden they're half their size. Consider pinching half of them back when they are installed and as soon as they fill out a bit, go back and pinch the other half.

It may be a bit early to install pansies but as long as you take care of them they should be fine. This time of year you can install smaller plants and they will quickly establish themselves in the landscape. If you wait until temperatures cool off, especially when soil temperatures cool, you really need to use larger plants with a more established root system if you want them to produce flowers all winter long. Most of us use the same planting bed we used for our warm season plants for our cool season ones. Just make sure that there is at least a half day of full sun and adequate moisture. Here's how to prep the bed for your cool season plants.

1. Remove all the remaining plant debris. Do not till it into the ground as it could harbor diseases and take a while to break down. If there is any remaining mulch, as long as it is a small amount, it can be tilled in.

2. Tilling can be done by hand or with the aid of a small tiller. I love this one, very easy to operate, lightweight and does an incredible job. But before I till I want to

3. topdress with a top quality compost or manure, about 1" or so. Till the compost and remaining decomposed mulch in, and you're ready to plant. Some folks like to fertilize and lime as well. According to our soil test, this bed is at 5.5. That's a little low. We'd like it up between 6.0 and 6.5. So we will be adding 10-12lbs. of lime per 100 square feet. (For clay soil, that's about what it takes to move the pH up a point. If this was a sandy soil, it would be about � of that. A soil test will help determine exactly what is needed. When you get a soil test, you're being a scientist and in the long run your plants will show it. Adding fertilizer when it isn't needed or not liming when you should will certainly negatively affect your plants.

4. I like to start by digging a shallow trench around the bed. This allows us to define the bed and during installation, if soil particles start to fall out of the bed, they'll get caught in the little trench. It makes clean up a lot easier.

5. As far as planting, I like to put the plants on 6" centers. I've seen them put on 4" and 8" centers and here's how to calculate how many plants you'll need based on your spacing. For 4" spacing multiply the number of square feet of planting bed by 9 If you plant on 6" centers, multiply the square footage by 4 and if you plant on 8" centers, multiply by 2.25 . I like to use a planting stick to keep my distances the same as I go.

6. Start your planting around the edge of the bed. This way you can create a very organized edge of your planting. I place the first row and then alternate the second row, making sure that the distance is the same between every plant. You'll need fewer plants if you stagger them like so rather than lining up the second row directly behind the first.

7. Once we're finished planting, it is time to mulch. The professionals use a quick throw to spread the mulch like this.

Year Round Use of Color With Helen Phillips

By selecting unique, yet eye-catching plants you can have an interesting garden even in the Fall and Winter. It's not always
necessary to have blooms for a garden to be attractive. Dwarf Trees,
mainly Conifers (cone bearing plants) are excellent selections. Helen
Phillips from Callaway Gardens shows us some great examples. Some of the plants shown are: Contorted Hazel "Sir Harry Lauders Walking Stick," Weeping White Pine, Chamaecyparis "Green Fern Spray," Dwarf Blueberry, Dwarf Mondo Grass, Junipers, Mazus Reptans, Creeping Blue Star and Lettuce Ruby Red.

Fall Bag Worms

In the spring it's Tent Caterpillars, in the Fall it's the Web Worm.
What could or should be done with this unsightly critter? Remember
inside this cocoon is a Caterpillar, it came from a Moth. It built this
web to protect itself from predators such as birds. We could use an
insecticide or an organic spray but the only thing that will happen is
that the tree will lose its' leaves and they're going to come off in the
Fall anyway. It's not really a problem. If it bothers you and you can
reach the unsightly mess take it off with a stick, once the bag is
opened birds and others will finish the job, otherwise let it go

Dr. Rick Shows Us Some Pollen Free Plants

Well it's sneeze season again. Pollen counts have been extremely high in many parts of the south this time of year. For all the trouble pollen brings us, it is an amazing substance. Every species of flowering plant can be identified by the distinctive shape of its pollen and the elaborate sculpturing of its outer walls. Did you know that the pollen wall is so resistant to decay that fossil pollen, retreived after being buried for thousands of year, have provided an accurate record of early-day floras throughout the world. Pollen is microscopic and looks like a stickery burr under a microscope. That's why it bothers our respiratory systems so much. It is like inhaling thousands of tiny stickers that irritate and annoy our throat, nose and eyes. As a gardener, is there anything we can do to reduce our exposure to the problems of pollen?

Absolutely! First understand that the highest levels of pollen occur in the morning between 5 AM and 10 AM. So try to do your gardening in the afternoon and early evening. A small mask is very beneficial and as you come in from outdoors, make sure you remove your clothing and shower immediately Otherwise, you bring in a lot of the pollen on your clothes and hair and can suffer the effects for hours, even days afterwards. Be careful about bringing pets in from outside and especially keep them away from sleeping quarters. Also, keep tuned into the pollen count. By the way, if the pollen count for ragweed is 76, that means that the researchers found 76 pollen grains of ragweed per cubic meter of air. You can find out what the pollen count is any time of the year by dialing the national pollen hotline. Just call 1-800 9 POLLEN.

Unfortunately, pollen can travel hundreds of miles, so even if your yard is filled with low allergen plants pollen can get you. However, if you surround your garden with plants that do not produce the bad type of pollen, your chances of itchy eyes and nose are definitely reduced. Also, if you like to bring plants indoors, certain plants are better than others. Here's the key: The smaller and lighter the pollen, the more likely it will cause problems. To reduce allergens, look for plants with large, waxy flowers, which often have pollen that is too heavy and sticky to enter the air. Begonias are a perfect example of a flower with waxy flowers tha has pollen that is heavy and sticky. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, here are some of the best plants to have in your garden to reduce your exposure to unpleasant pollen problems.

Good Trees and shrub choices - Apple, Azalea, Boxwood, Cherry, Dogwood, Hibiscus, Magnolia, Pears and Plums.

Good Bulbs, flowering plants and grass choices - Alyssum Begonia, Clematis, Columbine, Crocus, Daffodil, Dahlia, Daisy, Dusty miller, Geranium, Hosta, Hyacinth, Hydrangea, Impatiens, Iris, Lily, Pansy, Petunia, Phlox, Roses, Salvia, Snapdragon, Sunflower, Tulips, Verbena, Viburnum and Zinnia.

Best Lawn Grass - St. Augustine

Plants to avoid - Ash, Beech, Birch, Cedar, Cypress, Elm, Hickory, Juniper, Maple, Oak, Pecan, Pine, Poplar, Sycamore, Walnut and Willow.

Grasses to avoid - Bermuda, Fescue and Perennial Rye.

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GardenSMART Featured Article

By Heather Blackmore for Proven Winners
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners

Heather has written a great article about 5 new annuals that take the heat and thrive all summer long. To learn more click here for an interesting article.

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