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Preparing Beds for Annuals


Jerry Parsons:
First thing you need to do is if you have an established bed is to clean it up and plant it this fall so it will bloom this spring, is remove all the old plants and debris. This hard for some people because every now and then they may have some plants that they want to leave here and few plants they want to leave there. What you end up doing is ruining towhole continuity of the whole bed. It's not as pretty as if you plant a design and remove some of these lone plants. The best thing to do is to remove them and put them in some other bed and then open up your bed and get ready to plant something pretty that you can be proud of.

Now the first thing, especially if you have a bed that you have worked up really good, is to spade it. I like to spade it with a shovel first so you can get it broken real deep. Once you've got that done, you can get the old reliable rotor tiller and mix it in with a little bit of fertilizer or whatever. We will talk about that after my apprentice gets through tilling.

Well Greg with all our hard work at digging and your rotor tilling it looks like we've got this soil real loose, but it looks like if we get down beneath the surface, it looks like the soil turns wet and soggy on us. Maybe that's why some of the plants wouldn't grow any other time. It's got a funny smell to it, a funny odor. So what do you think the problem is?

Greg Grant:
The problem with this is the internal drainage of the soil. At one time they did this bed up right. It's a raised bed, but over time the bed has settled and most of the soils in Texas don't have good internal drainage. So in other words you can go down about a half a foot or so and the soil is real hard clay and the water doesn't drain so it stands there the roots rot on the plant and the plants don't do very well. People wonder why they're not doing good. So we need to go into this bed add some good soil, raise it back up to it's level so the drainage will be good.

Jerry Parsons:
So even if we have it in the sun where it should be, and is raised...

Greg Grant:
If it doesn't have good drainage you'll over water and kill your plants. You have to fix the soil to make it right.

Jerry Parsons:
One give away is that I found a worm with a snorkel on it.

Greg Grant:
That's generally a good idea that it isn't draining well. I think it's got a bikini on it too.

Jerry Parsons:
We'll put her, him, or whatever back. Now what should we add, what should we build this up with? Most of the time on a new bed, we haul in a mix and mix it ourselves. What did you say a third, third, third?

Greg Grant:
Exactly, we have a pretty good soil, so we'll skip bringing in the topsoil. We start by going in with bringing in a washed sand and some organic material such as sphagnum peat moss or shredded or crushed pine bark. But we've got to get it back up. I'd go a little heavier with the sand to increase that drainage.

Jerry Parsons:
By heavy usually in a garden mix, we're talking about when your tilling or working the soil 10-12 inches deep, we think about having 4 inches of soil, 4 inches of sand and 4 inches of organic material. Would that be right?

Greg Grant:
I think that would be absolutely correct with this bed.

Jerry Parsons:
Okay we are dealing with all the soil here, and we tried to get all the debris out, but we may have some nut sedge or nut grass, as a lot of people call it, or worse.

Also we may have what we call a damping off fungus. Now damping off is some of the things that kill the plants like petunias in the spring, all of a sudden they begin to die. So what could we do to this bed to sterilize it or get rid of some of the noxious plants that you can't get rid of any other way that might help us next spring?

Greg Grant:
It just so happens that we have a product that you can get at the nursery to help solve that called Vapan, not only helps increase drainage but it will help cut down on it. But the fact that the fungus is already in the soil, we'll have to go in and sterilize it with Vapan to eradicate it.

Jerry Parsons:
Okay, let's show them how to do that.

Once you found all your pests are all in the form of nematodes and weeds and grass and whatever else, whatever fungus you've got in these beds. We're trying to accumulate all the soil that we'll eventually use to grow the roots of our plants into these tall beds. Now we can go about sterilizing it, literally killing everything. Now the soil sterilant that we have is called Vapan. It's very simple to use. A lot of people have bad luck with it because they aren't using it properly. They just spray it on and try to water it and it doesn't seem to work as well as making these prepared beds.

As Greg will show you, once you have your bed, then you split them, right down the middle fairly deep, as deep as you can. Then you take a quart of this Vapan liquid. A quart treats 100 linear feet of this bed. So if you have 100 feet of a bed one quart of this should do it. That's all you need to do. So what you need to do after you've got your bed split open, just like your getting ready to plant some seed in there, but your not.

By the way, here is some more of those pestilence that we are getting ready to get rid of, a grubworm, that will get rid of it. Some people ask, "What will it kill?" Grubworms? Yes. Will it kill earthworms? Yes. It's a full sterilant.

You'll also have to remember that with Vapan, another important thing when cleaning it out, that you want to keep it 5-6 feet away from trees. It will root prune the trees, it won't kill them, it won't go into the trees, but it will kill the roots that it will come into contact with.

Take a quart of this, and poor it into just a regular watering bucket, until it is all in there. Then you have enough to treat 100 linear feet, remember 100 linear feet of this, and you just simply go back and you poor it in this trench. Right down the trench. Once you've got this trench filled, once you've distributed this load over 100 linear feet, then you can come back in with some water and make it carry it down even deeper. Then you immediately cover this over, such as you have here and pack it down a little bit.

If you really want to make sure you kill them, you cover it with plastic and wait for 3 weeks. Wait 3-4 weeks before you get ready to plant. Then after the 3-4 waiting period, come in and take the plastic off and spread this level and your ready to plant your flowering annuals.

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