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Growin’ Green

Greens Should Be Growing Well In Cold

By Brent Gray

The recent freeze in north and central  Mississippi may have ended the tomato and pepper harvest for this year…or did it? Many areas had temperatures in the thirties which may have killed some leaves but left the plant alive. Don’t be too quick to strip the young fruit  and throw the plant on the compost pile. Wait until the plant is  no longer putting out new leaves or completely turns brown.
Beets, spinach, and other greens should be growing well now.  Young leaves of plants that are not thriving should be examined for pale colors between green veins or dark, malformed leaves. The yellowed leaves may be due to zinc or iron deficiency while the dark, ugly ones may be due to boron deficiency.  Applying one of the water soluble complete fertilizers (make sure they contain the micronutrients)  from Miracle grow, Peters,  Schultz or other manufacturer will likely cause a rapid recovery.
Broccoli transplanted now can be ready for Christmas.
Dependable Fall Color
More than any other phenomenon, the turning leaves are nature’s signal flags for a change in season. So it’s no small disappointment when trees don’t provide the foliar fireworks we expect from them. But in the following paragraphs are some tree selections with never fail color in fall, the kind of trees that you depend on year in and year out for colorful displays.  Most of them are available in local garden centers and nurseries. And fall and winter is an ideal time to plant them.
• Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Frankly, the tiers of white flowers that clothe the branches in spring are quite enough to sell anyone on this tree. But then comes the second show in fall, with dropping red leaves and bright-red berries. Variegated selections, such as Cherokee Sunset, offer even more color. Remember it prefers light shade rather than full sun.  And be sure to water this shallow-rooted tree during summer droughts, or scorched leaves may ruin the fall show.
 • Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
Although native to China, ginkgo is right at home in Mississippi.  Its unusual, fan-shaped leaves look like little fishtails that suddenly turn the purest yellow.  Unfortunately, the effect doesn’t last long—the leaves shed quickly and completely—but they look almost as beautiful lying on the ground. One caution: There are male and female ginkgo trees.  The females produce foul-smelling fruit, so plant only male selections, such as Saratoga and Shangri-la.  Don’t count on this tree for quick shade—young gingkos grow slowly.
• Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum)
This is absolutely one of my favorite trees. It is one of the earliest native trees to exhibit fall color—showing off leaves in brilliant shades of yellows, reds, and purples—predominately red.   And that is not all. In summer it is covered with long (10”) racemose-panicles of   white very fragrant flowers. The inflorescence looks like long, slender, out stretched fingers. Small wonder that Dr. Michael Dirr in his tome, Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, says, “Truly an all-season ornamental; excellent specimen plant; it has so many attributes that it should only be considered for specimen use; many gardeners feel, among native trees, this is second only to flowering dogwood.”  Plant in full sun or partial shade although flowering and fall color are best in full sun. Acid soils preferred.  Not for polluted or urban areas.  
• Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica)
You can count on this native tree to be among the first to change color in the fall. It will have the first tinge of red foliage. Fall leaf color is mostly red with some trees exhibiting yellows, oranges and purple colors as well. One of my favorite childhood playhouses was built under the huge canopy of the black gum. My sister, brother and I enjoyed many a summer day perched up high in the huge horizontal limbs of this magnificent tree.  It is somewhat hard to find in the nursery trade, but well worth the hunt.  
This is an excellent specimen tree, good street tree in residential areas, but not for heavily polluted areas. It has outstanding summer and fall foliage and habit, well suited for naturalized areas and certainly one of the very best and most consistent native trees for fall color.  Another plus is the bluish black drupe fruit that ripens in the fall and is eaten by many species of birds and mammals.  It doesn’t tolerate high pH soils and grows in semi-shade or full sun.

Horticulture Tips
David Nagel, Lelia Kelly

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