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From The Ground Up

Warmer Weather Brings Out The Gardeners

By Pamela Redwine

The recent warm weather has stirred the gardening urges in many of us.  Remember that the average last frost date for much of Mississippi is in April. Now is the time to be planting cool season vegetables like cabbage, lettuce, spinach and onions. Anyone planting warm season things like tomatoes, peppers or herbs should be preparing to protect them from frost. The protection may be no more than covering them with a blanket, but be sure to have some method of keeping plants from freezing to death.

Warm temperatures and southerly breezes increase insect activity.  Observe the garden for moths and their eggs. The moths do no harm, but the eggs hatch into caterpillars that eat voraciously. The best, and easiest, time to kill unwanted caterpillars is when they are young.  Using Bt insecticides is a safe and effective way to manage caterpillar insets. The protein in Bt insecticides only works on the digestive system of caterpillars and doesn’t harm anything else. The key to this method of control is to have the Bt present when the eggs hatch, so watching for moths is one of the key components of the control system. Most garden centers will sell one of the several brands of Bt insecticide. 


Now is the time to set out rose bushes. Choose a sunny spot in the garden with well-drained soil. You don’t have to create a bed dedicated only to roses. Consider planting them with perennials, annuals or flowering shrubs so they become a part of the landscape. When selecting a rose bush, avoid those plants that are showing evidence of new growth, since the winter weather may damage the new plant. Also make sure the canes are a healthy green color.


Apples, peaches, blueberries, muscadines, and blackberries can all be set out this month.  If the plants at your garden center are growing in containers with soil, look for flexible stems. If plants have their roots in plastic bags with moist sphagnum moss, remove the covering and soak the roots overnight in a bucket of water before planting. With these also, look for flexible stems and avoid if there new foliage is beginning to emerge.


A good warm weekend is a good time to turn the garden soil and get ready for spring planting. Mix in whatever organic matter you have available—last fall’s leaves, rotted sawdust, etc.  If the soil is wet, wait until it dries enough to crumble easily in your hand. If you work it wet, you will have dirt clods all summer!

Increased Mole Activity

Many homeowners have recently noticed an increase in raised ridges of soil across their lawns in somewhat erratic patterns. These ridges are caused by moles shallow tunneling in search of food which is mainly a diet of earthworms, beetles, grubs, and other insect larvae. The soft moist soil from winter rains followed by warmer weather of spring that brings insects and worms closer to the surface really gets these small critters on the move to satisfy their voracious appetites.  While they rarely feed on plant material their tunneling can cause damage to the roots of turf, bulbs, etc.


Article Source: Horticulture Tips:
David Nagel, Wayne Wells, Lelia Kelly

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