By Brent Gray
If you placed a cheese order from MSU Cheese store, and designated Yalobusha County as pick-up, it will be at the Multi-Purpose Building after 3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6 for pick-up and on Friday Dec. 7 from 8 a.m. to 12 and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
We often get calls from homeowners describing their lawns having a soft spongy feel when walking on it and with hundreds of tiny mounds of dirt pushed up everywhere. After a few minutes of discussion describing the size and condition of these tiny piles of soil the conclusion usually is that they are the castings of earthworms.
In most cases there should be no reason for alarm as earthworms in moderate numbers are beneficial to the lawn as they tunnel through the soil providing pore spaces for air, water and nutrients to move freely helping develop healthy turf with a strong root system.
Occasionally, however, their numbers increase tremendously especially with ideal moisture conditions and the castings become so numerous that they can create a muddy situation that distracts from the beauty of the lawn as well as tracking of mud into the house.
High numbers of earthworms may also attract moles and armadillos onto the lawn to feed on them creating more serious tunneling and digging. While no one advocates applying insecticides to control earthworms since they are so beneficial, some products that are used to control grubs and other soil dwelling insects can suppress earthworm populations.
The best advice though is that if they are not creating any serious problems then consider these tiny mounds of soil as nothing more than nature’s fertilization and soil conditioning.
If you want the sweet scent of spring to brighten up your home during New Year’s, now is the time to pot some paperwhite narcissus bulbs. These bulbs are readily available this time of year. For a full pot be sure to have at least 6-8 bulbs per 6” pot (depending on the size of the bulb). Since these bulbs are usually discarded after blooming, you can use a glass bowl filled with decorative pebbles to contain the bulbs, or you can grow them in a pot filled with a soil mix. The clear glass bowl is fun for young and old alike as the roots can be easily seen as they emerge and thread their way around the pebbles.
It will take from 4 to 6 weeks from potting until bloom, depending on the heat and light conditions of your home. Keep your pot moist, but not soaked. Initially, you should keep the pot in a warm, dimly lighted place. The top of the fridge works well at my house. You are trying to get the roots to develop somewhat before the foliage begins to emerge. When the green leaves begin to emerge, move the pot to a high light, but cooler temperature if possible. This tends to make the foliage a little stockier as opposed to a lower light, hotter situation.
It seems that no matter how much direct light I give these bulbs the foliage and blooms always tend to flop over which ruins the effect—even if I rotate the pot to keep the foliage growing straight and not leaning toward the light! So, I have learned to stick a few gnarly, bare branches in the pots as I am potting the bulbs. I prefer winged elm branches as they are quit pretty with the corky “wings” on the branches. As the foliage emerges it grows among and between these elm branches, which adds just the right amount of support for the blooms, and foliage. The blooms are quite fragrant. Some people find them a little too strong scented and liken the scent to a bowl of rotten fruit.
Camellias are starting to bloom in Mississippi, which means it’s time to start thinking about pruning them. The two questions that people have about pruning are when and how. It’s best to prune them after they have finished blooming in the late winter. If you wait until later in the spring, you will remove the flower buds for the next season. Camellias usually don’t need a lot of pruning, but occasionally you may need to correct the shape of the shrub. It’s better to try and preserve a natural look with camellias, so don’t shear them like a hedge. You want to remove dead or weak wood and thin the branches out if the plant is too dense for the flowers to open properly. Prune back to just above where last year’s growth ended. Look for a slightly thickened, rougher area that may be a slightly different color to find the right spot. If you decide to do a heavy pruning, remove the limbs all the way back to the center of the plant. Make sure that you are using sharp pruning tools to help prevent unnecessary damage to the stems.
There is a “new” cabbage available which might interest adventuresome gardeners. Highpoint cabbages are sold as being superior varieties for salads having thin leaves and a delicate taste. Varieties include Caramba from Seedway and Bejo, Greyhound from Gourmet Seed, Caraflex from Johnny’s Select Seed, Bejo and Burpee’s, and Murdoc from Bejo. Nickerson Zwaan has several varieties including Duchy, Dutchman, Monarchy, Regency and Antelope, but they are not yet available in garden sized lots. There is a red one called Kolibos that is available from seed entrepreneurs on line. Pointed cabbages are not new. Early Jersey Wakefield has been around longer than most of us, but these new cabbages have thinner leaves and milder flavor as well as smaller heads and shorter growing seasons.
Keep a close watch on broccoli in the garden. Favorable temperatures have allowed good leaf size that might obscure the developing head. Heads should be harvested when beads are still tightly closed and the optimal harvest interval is usually only a few days.
Horticulture Tips: Wayne Wells. Lelia Kelly, Geoff Denny, David Nagel