I had the pleasure of attending the Mobile County Master Gardeners meeting last night. Janie (our Garden Club president) has been a MG for a few years. She has macular degeneration and is unable to drive at night, so I offered to take her. I would like to take her to all of them because the speakers are excellent.
Bill Finch spoke last night, and what a plethora of knowledge he is!!! I would still be sitting there listening to him talk if I could have. Bill is our local garden guru. He writes in the Mobile Press Register, I have posted his articles on my posts before. He knows A LOT about Alabama, and the South East in general. Really amazing.
He spoke on two VERY important topics....
#1 To garden....you MUST understand where you live.
I have lived in Alabama for 30 years, and I can tell you for a FACT that there is no place in the world like it. When I started gardening that was the very first thing I was taught. Any gardener is Alabama, whether it be South Alabama, or North Alabama will tell you....the Farmers Almanac does not apply to us.
So let's learn a little about where we garden....
States have geological diversities. These diversities can vary, and the flora and fauna in each area changes.
Let's take a look at a few states
Now with the exception of Texas and California...only due to their size....Alabama and Georgia are the two most biologically/geologically diverse states in the US. Take a look and you will see.....Georgia....look at the color variations. Alabama.....and the red dot is where I garden. (note the brown area just north of where I am, This is the Red Hills region)
So what makes Alabama so diverse.....
Lightning.......South West Alabama receives more lightning strikes in one year than anywhere else on earth!!! This explains why I know at least 6 people who have been struck by lightning, one of the twice!!!!!!! I have never lived anywhere else but here.....and I am used to the thunder and lightning. I supposed if I had lived in another region (outside of Mississippi and Alabama), maybe I would notice the high amount of lightning.
The lightning causes forest fires, that burn out all the underbrush in the forest. This causes new growth. Now many of you know to fertilize your bulbs with pot ash....well Mother Nature is fertilizing her woods with pot ash. Now think back to what I said earlier....with the exception of California and Texas, Alabama and Georgia and the most diverse. Look at all the forest fires California has. Thought to ponder.
So lets look at some plants that can only be found in Alabama/Georgia.
The Red Hills of Alabama is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the US. There are plants growing in this regions that can not be found anywhere else. There are anywhere from 40-60 species of wildflowers per square meter found here....more than anywhere else in the country.
This is a wild orchid found only in Alabama. There are similar species of this orchid.
Cleistes divaricata (L.) Ames
Alabama larkspur. This only grows in Alabama.
Mountain Laurel. Yep that's right Mountain Laurel...in Alabama. Many people from our area take trips to North Carolina to see the mountain laurel, and little do they know that we have mountain laurel here! The mountain laurel in the Red Hills regions of Alabama is actually older than the mountain laurel in the Blue Hills.
There are species that can only be found in Alabama
There are species of native azalea that are found only in the Red Hills region. They species get 20'-30' tall. They are currently working on classifying them now.
The Hunter and I hunt in the Red Hills region. So most of these plants I see while out hunting, and then some. We have been looking for a native azalea to dig up for me to plant in my garden. We never could find a "small " one, well now I know why!!!Now do ya'll remember this? This was a flower I found while hunting. Well Bill Finch knew EXACTLY what it was.....Tetrgonotheca. It is in the aster family.
Moving along the the next topic
There are 6 Seasons in Mobile
and if you ask any gardener in Mobile...they will verify this for you.
Feb 15 - Apr 15 - Spring!
-This is the beginning of Spring in Mobile! No matter what the calender says...this is Spring
Apr 15 - Jun 15 - American Summer
April 15 daytime temps get up into the 80's, and it is always dry. We get majority of our rain in March. So April is dry, warm and low humidity. Classic veggies love these conditions. We all know that you plants seeds 60 days prior to the last frost. 60 days prior to the last frost in Mobile, is December 26. Yes that's right....the day after Christmas. Bill Finch plants his seeds the day after Christmas. Now I can tell you that this is the VERY reason that it is MAY and my seedlings are so small. Why...because I planted them in April. Too late for Alabama. Because at this point it is too hot for the seeds. They needed to be planted in Dec or Jan and they would be decent size and blooming right now. I think we all saw my puny zinnia on previous post!
In June it rains almost everyday here. They is no difference in day and night temperatures. Plants can do really well in 90 degree heat, if the ground cools at night. This does not happen during this period. There fore plants are more likely to have less blooms at this time, because they cannot cool down to save energy at night. Make sense....
Jun 15 - Aug 15 - Gulf Summer
This is the sweltering hot, humid, muggy days. The days you want to get outside and garden, but you can't because you would have a heat stroke in an hour. Tomatoes will not survive this growth period, thus the reason you should have planted them back in December. However eggplant, and peppers do great.
Aug 15 - Oct 15 Hurricane Summer
This is the time everyone in the Coastal South dreads....hurricane season. Surprisingly, this time of the year, the air is calm, there is no rain....these combination brew hurricanes. The grounds begins to get cooler during this period.
Oct 15 - Dec 15 Fall
This officially starts fall in Mobile. And yes...all the way into December. We actually have a very nice display of colors in Alabama. That is because there are 39 species of Oak trees, and 27 of those are in South Alabama. Roses bloom the best during the time. The get sun during the day, and the ground is cool and night causing the buds to be more vibrant during this period than any other.
Dec 15 - Feb 15 Winter
In South Alabama our growing season in 10 months. Lucky me!!! The ground never freezes except once in a blue moon. Now is the time to plant sweet peas, and have them bloom in the spring. Now is the best time to start seeds fro spring plants.
Those are your 6 seasons of Mobile.....they are 100% accurate. If you live in Mobile....you will totally understand this. It makes perfect sense to me....this is why some of my plants are not doing well. According the the seed packet and the Farmers Almanac I planted them at the right time....but I am gardening on Mobile's rules, and I planted them 4 months too late.And here I am with Bill Finch.