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Growin’ Green

Learn To Be A Detective In Your Garden

By Brent Gray

If we garden, we are going to have plants that die. When this happens, don’t just cut them down or dig them up—look at their roots.  Examine them for problems that might have killed the plant. For example, if a dead plant has roots growing in circles, as if they were in the pot, it could be that when the plant was planted it was already pot bound and someone (certainly not you!) failed to tease the circular roots loose before planting.  Or it could just mean that you need to amend the soil in the garden with organic matter which will loosen the structure to allow roots better penetration into the surrounding native soil especially if your native soil is high in clay.   
If the roots have rotted you can assume the culprit is poor drainage, soil fungus, or both. Modify the bed to improve drainage, again by adding organic matter, or build a raised bed. There are many factors that contribute to the death of a plant. Examining the roots can help you diagnose some of these factors.

Lawn Improvement
With the excitement of a new year you may be making several resolutions to improve your health, wealth, etc. for 2013. But have you ever thought to make a resolution to im-prove your lawn?
Most of us are delighted that our warm-season spe-cies lawns have gone dormant and we are enjoying a reprise from our weekly or more often mowing chore.  But we shouldn’t forget our lawn completely at this time.  There are a few things we can do that will ensure a more aesthetic and healthy lawn this spring.  
With the recent rains and cold wet soil we can much easier determine poor drainage areas and begin filling these with topsoil or determine some drainage options. Continue the re-moval of any leaf litter from your lawn. Controlling winter weeds now will be much easier than waiting until they reach maturity and become unsightly.
Warm-season turf species will not benefit from fertilization until they are actively growing so make plans for a fertilization program but don’t apply any fertilizer now unless you have over seeded your lawn with a cool season species.
Applying lime to raise the soil pH (acidity) is a different matter however.  If you have taken a soil sample and found that lime is recommended, then by all means get it out any time during the year.  
Some areas in the state dropped below twenty degrees recently and many things in the vegetable garden froze. Gardeners have to decide whether it is better to prune away dead areas and apply fungicide to the remaining plant or to just plant over. It is generally better to start over unless more than 75% of the plants are still alive.
Mid January is early planting time for peas and potatoes, particularly in southern Mississippi. Eng-lish peas do not set pods well when temperatures are above 85 degrees. Even though Good Friday is relatively early this year on March 29 waiting till then to plant peas means they will be blooming in May when temperatures in the mid to upper eighties are common.

Fruit trees
Mid January is a good time to prune apple, pear, other fruit trees and muscadine vines. The pruned wood adds fragrance to the fire and flavor to the barbeque. Check the price of apple wood smoked bacon or cheese next time you are in the gourmet section and you may want to set aside the cuttings for later.

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