Posts Tagged ‘mulch’

Soil Preparation & Annual Planting

In general, most annuals prefer being planted in sites with well drained soil. The drainage in poor soils can be improved by adding organic matter like, compost, leaves, peat moss, or aged manure. It’s always a good idea to mix in some organic matter into the flower beds at the beginning of each growing season. Organic matter helps the soil to hold the proper ratio of air, water, and nutrients which results in healthy, strong plants.

Most annuals are considered warm season plants and require warm air and soil temperatures for them to thrive. Cold temperatures will significantly slow down their development and exposure to frost will likely injure the tender leaves, and even kill the young plants. Unless the new plantings can be protected from cold temperatures and frost, it is best wait until after the last average frost date in your area to plant most annuals.

It is always best to plant your annuals when the weather is calm, cool, and overcast. Hot, direct sun and windy conditions may cause excessive stress on the newly planted annuals and may cause them to wilt, dry out, and possibly die under severe conditions. Otherwise, plant them in the early morning or in the evening (not during the heat of the day) to reduce stress from the direct midday sun.

Water the containers thoroughly before planting. Dig a hole slightly wider and deeper than the size of the container you are planting. Carefully remove the annual from the container by holding one hand over the top of the pot and turn the container upside down. Gently tap the bottom of the pot to loosen the root zone from the container and gently pull the pot away. If the container does not easily come off, it may be necessary to squeeze the container until the plant comes out of the pot.

Next, place the plant in the hole so the top of the root ball is at the same level as the top of the hole. It may be necessary to remove the plant and place a little soil back in the bottom of the planting hole and retry aligning the top of the hole with the top of the root ball. Many annuals do not tolerate being planted too deeply and may not perform well or even die when planted improperly. Once the plants are at the proper height, fill in the planting hole with soil, gently packing the soil around the roots and base of the plant, being careful to not overly pack or compact the soil around the new planting.

After planting, it is important to water them well. For the first couple of weeks or so, it is important to keep the soil moist, but not soaking wet. Keep in mind that many new plantings do not perform well or even die because they are either over- or under-watered.

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Perennial Aftercare

100_8149To optimize performance, improve plant appearance, and ensure longevity there are a few maintenance activities that gardeners should consider. Most perennials can be grown successfully with relatively little maintenance, while other perennials will require more work to keep them in good condition.
Although most perennials are not considered to be ‘heavy feeders’, it is important that they are produced with an adequate nutrient supply. Mulching the perennial beds with compost each year often supplies an ample supply of nutrients. In beds covered with bark mulches, it is recommended to fertilize once or twice per year with a general purpose fertilizer. Applying too much fertilizer causes many perennials to grow too quickly and become floppy. Do not apply fertilizer directly on top of the crown or severe injury from the salts may result. Perennials with tall flower spikes or full heavy flowers, such as Alcea or Delphinium, may require staking to prevent them from toppling over following heavy rains and high winds.

Several perennials benefit from deadheading, thinning, or cutting them back. Deadheading entails removing the dead flower heads and faded flowers; this practice keeps the garden looking nice and encourages many perennials to continue blooming for an extended period and improves the appearance of the plant. A few perennials benefit from thinning or removing some of the stems from the dense bushy clumps in the early spring which allows more air circulation and reduces the conditions for certain foliar diseases such as powdery mildew. Similar to deadheading, cutting some perennials back after they flower will often rejuvenate the clump by regenerating new growth and may possibly lead to another flush of flowers later in the growing season. Cutting back is also used to prevent some perennials from flopping over or to prevent the centers of the plants from opening up and appearing ragged following bloom.

Another important consideration is to prepare perennials for the winter. Do not fertilize perennials after they stop growing in the late summer or early fall. This will allow them to prepare for dormancy rather than encouraging them to remain actively growing. Many perennials go completely dormant (die back to the ground each year) and should have the foliage trimmed back before winter. Removing the existing foliage will make the perennial beds look cleaner and will decrease the likelihood of diseases setting in over the winter months or being carried over and infecting next years growth. Other perennials, such as ornamental grasses, are often trimmed in the spring allowing the foliage to provide some structure to the winter landscape. In northern zones or where tender perennials are being grown (marginal hardiness in your area) it is beneficial to apply mulch after the ground has frozen to help protect these perennials during harsh winters.

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There is one place you need to start to begin a trouble free garden, that is the ground below. A reliable garden begins with reliable soil. So you may ask, what do I need to do to my soil to make  it grow good gardens? Well to start, you need to work the soil and loosen it up. Digging, turning, adding organic matter, and natural fertilizer will give you a good start.

There are many different types of soil out there so here is some help in determining what type of soil you have.

  • Sand has large particles that are course and tend not to hold water so well causing your plants to dry out faster.
  • Clay consists of very small particles that stick together and provide poor drainage. But when you mix in an organic matter and cultivate your soil you  are creating areas for air and water to flow along with nutrients which will better help your plants grow.
  • Some of you have a thin layer of top soil and have to deal with a layer of hard subsoil underneath. So how can you dig through that hard layer of compacted hard soil and rocks when chipping away gets old? Here is a tip to help loosen the soil: water. Once you have a hole started, run water in the hole and and let it soak in for awhile, this should help loosen the soil.

Remember to continue to add organic matter  to your soil in the future to keep it rich. A typical plant should have 14″ of good soil to grow best.

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