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Cool weather brings changes

Cooler weather reminded me that it was time for a trip to the local garden centers. The summer annuals I planted in the spring look tired. It’s fun to spruce up the landscape for cooler weather and there are some great choices available that will take you right into next spring.

Cool-season bedding plants thrive in mild days and chilly nights. Most will easily tolerate temperatures in the low 20s or even teens with little or no damage. They will bloom in fall and winter, produce a tremendous display in the spring, and then finally fade out in May as the weather gets hot.

Our local nurseries offer a wide selection of cool-season bedding plants. Select plants so the colors are harmonious. Colors should be grouped together in masses, and try not to use too many colors in the same bed. The visual display in an area where a few massed colors have been used is generally more effective than a sprinkling of many colors, especially if the bed is viewed from a distance.

Cool-season bedding plants will bloom best in well-drained locations that receive six hours or more of direct sun each day. Generally, the more sun they receive, the more they will bloom and grow.

Do a good job of bed preparation prior to planting. Turn the soil to a depth of eight inches, spread a 2-4 inch layer of organic matter, top with mulch, rake smooth and you are ready to plant. As they grow, fertilize occasionally following the directions of the fertilizer you are using.

Cool-season bedding plants can make your landscape an exciting and colorful place this fall and winter. Check with your local nurseries for transplants. Some of the hardiest and most popular include alyssum, annual phlox, calendula, dianthus, ornamental cabbage and kale, pansies and viola.

Rebecca Bates is an MSU Extension-Lincoln County agent, and can be reached at 601-835-3460 or by e-mail at rebecca.bates@msstate.edu.