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Dr. Rick discusses organic matter and your soil.

Dr. Rick has new research and ideas for fertilizing trees and shrubs.

There has been quite a lot of research lately on planting woody trees and shrubs in the South. For years, we have always felt that adding a little (or a lot) of organic matter to the soil was a good idea. It just feels like the right thing to do. Well, unfortunately that's not the case. You see, when we add organic matter to the planting hole, we create a rich, nutrient filled environment for the root system. It's sort of like putting the tree or shrub in a larger pot. For the first several years the plant does well. However, once the roots hit the side of that planting hole, they meet this wall of heavy clay and they just don't grow into it. As a result, they become stunted and are much less able to handle the heat, drought and other stresses of our part of the country. So, from now on, no more organic matter in the planting hole. It creates an artificial environment for the root system that does more harm than good. Instead, dig a very wide hole. A $10 hole for your $2 plant. Now the hole doesn't have to be real deep. Most roots grow horizontally, in the top 12" of soil. But it does need to be wide. You want to break up that heavy clay and encourage the roots to venture out into the native soil. If you still feel the need to add organic matter, try a different approach. Spread it out evenly throughout the entire planting bed and till it in. What we are trying to do is encourage the roots to grow quickly and establish themselves before the heat of the summer starts to beat them up. Finally, it is critical that we mulch our woody shrubs and trees if we plant them this time of the year. Mulch is the unsung hero of the Southern Garden. 3-5" of good horticulture mulch. What exactly does that mean? It means a mulch of different size particles that doesn't compress or float away when it rains. Black plastic, and pebbles are some of the worst choices. Black plastic creates an anaerobic swamp under it. It encourages roots to grow on top of the soil which is deadly when temperatures start to climb. Pebbles actually serve as heat sinks as they warm up and then tend to draw moisture out of the ground. (SHOW) If you have a chipper/shredder, the material that comes out of it as you chop up twigs and tree limbs is a wonderful mulch. It may not be as attractive as say pine straw but it really works well to insulate the soil and keep down weeds. Try top dressing this mulch with something a bit more aesthetic to give your landscape a great look as well as provide a mulch that really does what it is suppose to.

It's time to plant tomatoes - we've got some ideas and tips.

Gardening and Kids

Dividing Seedlings

Often times the plants you buy can and should be divided and you will end up with more plants.

Dr. Rick has an interesting way to combat weeds with a Wick Herbicide Applicator and he shows you how to make one.

Did you know that a mature weed could produce thousands of weed seeds over its lifetime? That's why it is critical to nip em in the bud. As your annuals and perennials begin to grow it gets tougher and tougher to spray near them for fear that some of your weed killer will drift onto your favorites and kill them. Here's a handy, inexpensive tool to use knock out those annoying weeds that grow in and among your favorite plants. You'll need a stick of 1" PVC, 2 elbows and 2 caps, one that you glue on and the other should be a screw type. You'll also need a small kitchen sponge and some wire or rubber bands.

Cut the pipe so that one piece is as long as the distance from the ground to your waist. I'm about 6' tall so the long section or me is about 3'. Cut 2 other short sections about 6" long. Now you're going to glue the 6" pieces on opposite ends of the long one facing opposite directions. (SHOW) Glue the solid cap onto one end and the screw-type cap on the other. Now cut several slices on the outside edge through the section with the solid cap. Try using a hacksaw. Three or four cuts should be plenty. Now, wrap the sponge around this section and tightly tie it on with wire or rubber bands. You've now got a great implement to disperse your favorite weed killer. Just unscrew the cap at the other end and pour in the non-selective herbicide of your choice. Make sure you follow the directions as how much chemical to use to water. You do not have to make it more concentrated than the directions state. That just wastes your chemical. You see, the sponge becomes soaked with the mixture and you can dab or swipe it across weeds without injuring any others that are very close by.

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GardenSMART Featured Article

By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers

Now is the time to shop for annuals that will go the distance all summer. Suntory Flowers has a portfolio of gorgeous varieties that thrive in the heat. To learn more, click here for an interesting article.

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