Verbena: A hot plant for a hot place

By Lelia Kelly and David Nagel

Extension Horticulture Specialists

Distributed by Lisa Stewart, Webster County Director

 

Need a good plant for those hot, dry, sunny places? How about verbena?

Pink, red, and white-flowering selections are common, but those aren’t your only choices.  One is called “Peaches and Cream” that looks good enough to eat! It is a 1992 All American Selection and is still a favorite.

It bears multicolored clusters of salmon and apricot flowers (not a common color combination in the bedding plant choices) on 8-inch-high plants. Space plants about 8 to 10 inches apart for a good massed effect, and fertilize with one cup of 10-10-10 granular fertilizer per 10 square feet of bed.

Herbs

Keep cutting mint to be assured of fresh new shoots for the remainder of the summer. Use the cuttings to flavor drinks and fruit salads. Keep pinching the basil flowers off as best you can — this is a losing battle eventually as the plant is programmed to go to seed.

Regardless of what the books say you can continue to use the foliage when basil is flowering. My palette cannot discern any real difference in the quality of the foliage.   You can try eating the tiny little basil flowers — actually they are quite good and make your breath smell better! Sow dill again for the fall as the spring crop has long since gone by.

Houseplants

If this is the month you choose to go on vacation you can conserve moisture in your smaller houseplants by covering them loosely with a plastic bag. Water will not evaporate as quickly from the leaves and soil.  Be sure to move the plants away from areas where they will be in direct sun. Otherwise you may come home to cooked houseplants as the plastic traps heat inside.

Vegetables

Spaghetti squash is one of the winter squashes that can be stored for long periods. The flesh separates into long strands resembling spaghetti pasta after cooking. There are many recipes for using this vegetable as a substitute for pasta as it is lower in calories than its wheat based counterpart. Growers in south Mississippi still have time for the long season varieties like vegetable spaghetti or Goldetti while gardeners close to Tennessee may want to plant Hasta la Pasta or Orangetti. The squash have very hard rinds when ready for harvest.

Cucumber and other cucurbit growers need to remember that bees have to work the flowers for pollen transfer to occur. Gardeners in the parts of Mississippi that have not been rained upon in the last few weeks may have to entice bees to the garden by providing a source of water near the vine crops. It can be as small as a glass or shallow pan.

Determinate tomato varieties may be reaching the end of their production cycle. Many varieties will stop flowering after the fifth or sixth cluster . Plant new plants if you want to keep having tomatoes.

Mark your calendars for two field days for home gardeners. The North Mississippi AREC  at Verona will have its fall garden tour Sept. 28 and will feature pumpkin varieties, tomato fertilizer trials and ornamental crops. The Fall Flower and Garden Fest will be Oct. 18 and 19 at the Truck Crops Experiment Station near Crystal Springs. The crops for these field days are currently being grown.