Alabama Gardening

drippy(7bAL)August 28, 2009

Hi, folks - I am probably relocating to the Huntsville, AL area by the end of next month. I spent 13 years in southeastern MA, where the soil was largely sand & I fondly dubbed any shoveling "New England rock gardening". Zone 6b there. The last 3 1/2 months I have been in Upstate SC, zone 7b, red clay, doing container gardening, as my living situation was in limbo.

I will hopefully be staying in Huntsville long enough to establish a garden. I know I am due west of Greenville-Spartanburg, so I'm guessing that zone and plant types that work are probably roughly the same. What is the soil like? I figured it would be more red clay, but DH tells me that it's probably better since it is part of the Tennessee River Valley. I have a memorial hydrangea from SE MA I would like to bring with me; will hydrangeas work there? Also, I am an avid wintersower - are there any of you on this forum, and if so, how do you time your wintersowing?

Thanks in advance,

Kim (drippy)

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daffodillady(7b/8a central AL)

Hi Kim!! Welcome to Alabama. I tried wintersowing for the first time two years ago and loved it. Did not get to WS last winter due to an impending move, but I am very excited to be able to participate again this winter. I will probably start sowing my containers in mid to late December. I am southwest of Birmingham, and my soil is predominately red clay. All of my plants are grown in pots, and most do very well, even my daylilies and irises. Hydrangeas do well in my area, but I will allow others closer to your location to tell you more about that. The Alabama Fall Plant Swap will be held October 3 in Talladega- you should plan on joining us :-)

    Bookmark   August 28, 2009 at 11:04PM
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catbird(z7 AL)

Kim: Welcome. I live in Gadsden, SE of Huntsville and we have red clay, but I think the soil is better where you'll be. Your hydrangea should do fine. Bring it on. And do plan to come to the swap in October if you can. If not, watch for the one in the Spring.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2009 at 12:08AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Just remember, there is nothing wrong with red clay soils, as long as they drain reasonably well. The soil I am most familiar with in the Huntsville area is HARD (brick hard) red clay, yet anything planted in it can thrive with little effort on your part.

I tilled in organic matter once into my new garden beds when we moved here, and keep a layer of mulch at all times. Trees that are planted in non-bed locations in the yard have all been planted directly into the clay soil with zero amendment. If our plantings did any better, I'd be 'skeered', lol!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2009 at 9:01AM
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Thank you folks! Daffodillady and Catbird, I don't know whether I'll be fully moved by the time of the swap - LOL, we've been in limbo for so long I'm beginning to think limbo IS my destination - but if I actually do have my feet on the ground by then, I'll come! I won't have anything to bring, nor will I probably have a permanent place, so I won't need to take anything - but it would be fun just to come and meet people.

Rhizo 1, thanks for the heads-up - I've been a long-time composter, and am itching to get a place where I can get composting started again. What I'm putting out in garbage bags right now is killing me. I do have to get better about mulching - I always used to say snidely "real gardeners don't mulch" (instead, they fill in every place in their garden), but that was before I experienced the heat down here (which I love, BTW). I've been watering my little container farm a couple of times a day when we don't have thunderstorms - mulch is a necessity.

I hear the Huntsville area is very nice, and am looking forward to my move. :)

    Bookmark   August 31, 2009 at 9:01PM
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Let us hear from you when your move is more firm. There are several of us who live in and near Huntsville and can steer you to the good nurseries. And the Botanical Garden has a good plant sale in the spring.

Rhizo is absolutely correct in all she says about our soil and what to do. The only thing different thing that I do for trees or shrubs in non-bed locations is add a little compost and top soil to the red clay I dig out of the hole and re-fill with the mix. That's about all you can do other than water, water, water. And this year we haven't had to do much of that. Hydrangeas will need a good soak when you first plant them and through much of their first year getting started.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2009 at 11:59AM
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How late can I plant perennials here? I will be in an apt. before the end of September, but I figure I'll be lucky to be in permanent housing by mid-November or December. In a good year in MA, I could get away with planting perennials up to early November - bulbs even later - but I would be willing to keep my hydrangea in its pot until next spring if necessary.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2009 at 11:54PM
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I lived in Huntsville for 19 years prior to retirement when I moved to lakeside in Rainbow City. Most of that red soil around there is a red loam and very rich not hard clay and as Rizo said you can improve it with compost. Plant your hydrangia and other transplants any time before they break dormancy in the spring. but it's best to do it as early as practible so it gets settled and grow a few new roots before spring.
BTW The Catbird Seat nursery in nearby Madison is excellent and is owned and operated by an Auburn Horticulture grad. He will tell you what will and won't do well there.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2009 at 5:18AM
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catbird(z7 AL)

One of the advantages of living in the South is being able to plant things most anytime before hot weather hits. It is definitely better to plant in time for the roots to get settled in before summer hits, but if you keep it watered the next summer you can stick it in the ground in February.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2009 at 7:52AM
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