Baby, it’s cold outside! Of course, it is Winter now. But that doesn’t mean we can curl up by the fire (or couch, in my case) and put off your gardening responsibilities. Nope- we must get those seed catalogs out and start ordering what we want to plant this Spring.
Think about what your family likes to eat and don’t order what no one likes unless you are going to give some of your bounty to your friends or neighbors. More plants-more work. You decide.
Personally, I’m keeping my selections to a minimum. I suggest you also draw a plan on paper or your computer regarding where and what plants you plan on growing. Believe me, it really helps if you are organized from the beginning. Everything can be adjusted to fit different situations, such as, where is the sun? or, how much shade will I have?
Sometimes planting taller plants behind shorter ones may help with providing those solutions. Another aide is noting on a sketch of your garden plot or yard just where, when, and how long the sun shines and when or if shade is present. Although many plant catalogs may suggest 8 hours of full sun for a particular plant, we are in the South and the sun can be very strong. I plant with 4-6 hours of sun, depending on the plant. Never had any issues with the growth or development of my plants. Okay, maybe my tomatoes might have been bigger with more sun. I realize that not all landscapes provide any shade whatsoever and most plants will do just fine. Mulch and proper irrigation may be necessary to keep the soil and plant roots protected with warmth and from drying out.
REPELLING DEER, RABBITS…
While you are planning your garden site, consider if deer or other varmints might pose a problem. High fences, electric fences or plants that repel these guys might be something you should think about before you have a critter-ravaged garden. I mentioned previously that many herbs repel some of the troublesome thieves because the pungent smell sends them running. I’m talking about Rosemary, Sage, Basil, Oregano, Lemon Balm, Garlic, Cilantro, and others. All those smell great to me, but not to Deer, Rabbits, Coons, even Gophers. And who doesn’t like fresh herbs when cooking? It’s like 2 birds with one stone (herb). Yes, it isn’t always 100% but it does discourage them and it’s cheaper than a 6-foot fence. As a bonus, a lot of plant eating insects don’t like the smell either. Try it. Let me know what you did or have done that works. I’ll spread the word.
DOES YOUR SOIL NEED AMENDING?
Another important factor when prepping your garden is to test your soil long before you plant. I know you all did that earlier in the fall, right? If you need to make amendments, some may take time to become effective in the soil. Remember, it’s all about the soil. Healthy soil-healthy plants. Simple but so important. A little effort in the beginning, makes a world of difference in the end. Just ask any seasoned gardener or farmer.
Something just came to me as I was speaking of the soil: Fertilizer. Quite a few years ago in one of my newsletters, I mentioned a fertilizer that also repels Deer. It’s called Milorganite and the Clinton Revell ACE Hardware carries it in the fertilizer aisle. I first heard about it in Florida as many golf courses use it as it will not burn the grass. Studies from Cornell University, Berry College, and University of Georgia have found a link between Milorganite and deer repellent properties of the product. It shows to be an effective, temporary repellent for approximately 35-40 days. That would certainly give your plant time to develop and near harvest time. What actually is it? It’s an organic fertilizer with 4-5% Nitrogen. It was developed in Milwaukee from processed sewage sludge. (Farmers have used sludge as a fertilizer for a long time in their food plots). It has been heated, dried, and made into small granules for easy spreading. The heat process kills the bacteria and pathogens, so it’s not only safe for your veggies, but also in the groundwater. It is totally organic and will not hurt your plants, whether they are edible or decorative. I use it on my lawn and add it to my raised bed soils. Give it a try.
PROTECTION FROM THE COLD
Now for your crops and plants that survived the drought. Let’s try to keep them alive in the cold. Heavily applied mulch helps keep the soil around your plants warm and moist. Container plants can be moved to a garage or up close to the house. If it gets below freezing, wrap the pots in newspaper, towels, or blankets. Be sure to protect the bottoms too. Tomato cages work well to support blankets and keep the weight off the plant. Add plastic on top of that if rain is expected, keeping the blanket dry. Never let the plastic touch the plant. Shrubs can be wrapped with burlap. Deeply mulch the soil around them with straw or store-bought bagged mulch. Being Mississippi, you will undoubtedly have days with 60 and 70 degrees and sunny. Do your plants a favor and open the tops of your protected plants and allow them to bask in the warmth and sun. Just be sure to cover them up when it becomes cooler again. I know, it’s a lot of work, but you’ll be thrilled at how good your landscape looks in the spring – ALIVE!
PLANTING TREES AND SHRUBS
Oddly enough, it’s time to plant trees and shrubs. Even fruit trees. They should be dormant at the Nurseries. I will reiterate: hole preparation for your trees and shrubs is extremely important. If you are new to this process, let me go over it again. The new hole should be twice to three times the size of the existing ball and burlap or the container that it is in. Also dig the edges of the hole at a 45-degree angle and jam your spade or shovel into the sides of the hole, about 5” down from the surface, parallel to the ground. Loosen the soil in the bottom of the hole so the roots can grow down and deep. Carefully loosen the roots of the plant (you can use a knife or a small shovel, stroking downward from the plant) and set the root ball into the hole with the roots flowing downward. Keep the crown of the plant above ground level as it will settle naturally. Fill in the space around the roots and plant about halfway up, lightly packing out any air spaces. Water. Continue filling with soil until you reach ground level. If it is a large tree or shrub, I suggest you walk around the base of the plant to pack down the soil. No stomping please! Create a raised circle around the outside edges to create a small dam. Water thoroughly. No fertilizer is necessary currently. We want the roots to expand deeper and wider into the soil. This helps the plant to create its own foundation. Staking is not necessary unless it is a very tall tree. By allowing the roots to move slightly in the soil, it will naturally dig in to support itself. This is another wonder of nature. Isn’t it great?
Now we can relax a bit and wait for Spring, right? Maybe not exactly, but it sounded good when I thought it. A Gardener’s work is never done. So, get movin’ y’all.
Kari ‘Lady ACE’ Thomas
Contact me with your experiences, suggestions, and questions or just stop in to Revell ACE Hardware and get expert advice from one of our associates. Looking forward to hearing from you.
To reach out to Kari, send her an email at email@example.com, call or stop by Clinton Revell ACE Hardware.