Gardening Guide

by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace

Smith’s Nursery in Saltillo is celebrating its 10th year of being in business. Founded in February of 2010, this nursery focuses on setting its customers up for success: Answering any questions, making sure its customers know the best care for their plants, etc. Now with a local following, they have started delving into the world of education. By offering classes, they’re showing that different gardening techniques can be mastered by anyone, and that everyone can, in fact, garden. Owner Bill Smith said many nurseries are steering toward this new mentality of fostering a love for gardening, and he couldn’t be happier about it. For him, he has found great satisfaction by opening the world of gardening to anyone who is interested. Kimberly Courtney often leads the classes, like her gnome gardening class that utilizes a lot of succulents, or the potting arranging class, which is focused on teaching which plants will bode well together. Not too long ago, Courtney said she knew nothing about plants and gardening. Initially, she fell in love with gardening because of how therapeutic she found it; she said she loves watching the plants grow, and is surprised everyday when she learns something new.

Gardening Guide for Northeast Mississippi:

Late winter: Deadhead and trim trees like crepe myrtles before it gets too warm and they start taking their sap back up into the limbs; don’t trim or deadhead bushes until after the first frost. Fertilize for the first time of the year. Apply pre-emergent treatments before the first sign of any growth to reduce weeds later on.

“I love to plant late winter through the spring, that way stuff gets its roots established before we get into that summer drought that always happens late summer,” Smith said.

Early spring: Start planting trees, like fruit trees, so they can get their required chill hours. Begin watching for any sign of insects, especially on new growth.

Spring/Early summer: Think about replacing mulch (especially if it is in a bed with crepe myrtles or roses that have any black spots), followed by a systemic drench.

Summer: Apply fertilizer to trees once more. Plants, especially those in containers, are going to need watering every day.

Fall: Begin winterization: Do not fertilize, continuously remove dying leaves and water until the first freeze.

For those with killer instincts — aka without a green thumb:

Smith said it’s easy for beginners to go into gardening with high hopes – they plant a massive vegetable garden, multiple indoor plants – the whole shebang. However, he said when the summer’s heat finally hits and those outdoor plants need to be watered every day, it can be so easy to let them die out in the sun instead. But, by starting moderately, either with indoor or outdoor plants, he said people are far more likely to see it through. Just a few potted tomato plants on a back porch are the perfect starting point, especially for people who have young children. Smith said it’s really fun for the kids to watch a plant grow, and eventually be able to eat the fruit of their labor.

Container size plays a huge role on a plant’s success rate. “Some people fall so much in love with the container itself that it sometimes is the wrong container for a plant,” Courtney said. “If there’s no drainage, then you have no release for that extra water, so you’re looking at fungus or root rot because of the water that it’s holding inside the pot with the roots.”

Courtney said that if a plant is showing signs of mold, it’s likely best to repot.

Smith and Courtney both agreed that the first step in gardening is picking the plant. They said gardening can be as easy or as complicated as one wants to make it, as some plants are very fickle, while others are as close to indestructible as a plant can get (looking at you, succulents). These plants are low maintenance and can withstand the summer heat without needing a lot of care, yet can usually last inside during the winter, too. Courtney said that tropical plants, while usually just an annual in the Mississippi climate, are also great starting points.

Other tips:

  • Smith and Courtney said it’s best to water plants in the morning, as opposed to late afternoon/evening. This way, the soil has a chance to dry out slightly, which Smith said is better for the plant than waterlogging and it helps avoid fungus issues.
  • “I love to plant late winter through the spring, that way stuff gets its roots established before we get into that summer drought that always happens late summer,” Smith said.
  • Container size is key: “Those roots just form one huge mass in those pots,” Smith said on root-bound plats. “There’s not enough soil for the water, so when you water, the water runs right through and it doesn’t really have the chance to soak it up.
  • If a plant doesn’t look great, talk to your local growers to see if there is a solution. “When they start looking bad, that doesn’t mean throw them in the Dumpster. You can baby them a bit and get them looking pretty again,” Smith said.
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