Tis the season to be planting

Kathy Henderson

Garden Columnist

This is perfect weather to be out there in the landscape and garden planting annuals, perennials, vegetables, shrubs and trees. You can also begin planting those spring flowering bulbs. Let’s enjoy the best time of the year to plant - the roots will be cool and grow all winter; then when spring arrives, the stems, leaves and blossoms will begin to emerge. Of course the fall annuals and fall veggies will give us pleasure all winter.

A perfect time to plant a Camellia is when you can see the bloom - right now. Special photo

The best thing about living in the South is that gardening is year-round. You never put away those tools and equipment.

It is not too late to plant lettuce seed or plants. If you plant seed, you will probably have to thin them. Use the “thinning seedlings” as part of your salad, along with the “thinning” plants of mustard, turnips, beets, radishes, carrots and even collards and kale. Thin early while the seedlings are very young, right after they have put on their first or second set of true leaves. These are the leaves that look like tiny replicas of their mature leaves (the second leaves that form). When you use these on your salad or in your cooking, you are in fact, using “micro-greens.” I grow mixtures of these plants just for clipping which is a gourmet delight that is so easy. Mix seed, scatter seed, clip seedlings - what could be easier?

If you have sticky clay soil, I recommend adding compost or other organic material to your soil and blending the additives thoroughly with your native soil. I also recommend the addition of an expanded slate material called “permatil.” This will help the roots develop quickly since it is able to absorb some water, but allows excess water to drain away thus allowing the roots to also absorb oxygen. This is very important. I was having a problem with my raised beds absorbing water sufficiently. The soil had organics in it, but it remained dry in places after having been watered. I added “permatil” to the soil, roto-tilled it into the top 6-12 inches and that seems to have solved the problem. It is kind of pricey, but you only have to do it once; it does not break down year after year. So, if your plants have not been developing good root systems, incorporate some “permatil” into the soil and see if that helps.

When planting trees and shrubs, be cautious and do not plant them too deep. I see this a lot in the landscape especially when the soil has been disturbed to a depth greater than the depth of the rootball. When you plant, remember that the plant will settle downwards. Allow for this by planting it higher than you want it to be - raise it a few inches above natural soil level and work the soil up to the top of the rootball. Do not cover the rootball with soil. If the loose soil sinks after watering, you can always add soil; but if you plant it too deeply; it is almost impossible to accurately remove soil. This is a rule that, if broken, will affect the proper growth of a shrub or tree for its lifetime.

While we can have droughts in the winter; the soil does not dry as quickly as in Spring and Summer, so you will have to water less frequently. That water will need to be placed on the rootball so that it is moist until the roots reach out into the new soil.

The nurseryman that sells you the plant will help you with the proper instructions. You can also go online or to your Cooperative Extension Office and they will also help you. If you are new to gardening, do a little research before you buy plants so that your money will be well spent in getting the right plant for your space and planting it correctly.

For more photos and information, visit Kathy’s Plants on Facebook.