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Wednesday, July 30, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 7/28/2012

COMMENTARY

Give those annuals some TLC

BY KELLY HEIDBREDER
BLADE COLUMNIST

So, how are your annuals doing in your landscape? You know, the really colorful ones that you have to climb around in your garden and plant each year? With summer in full swing and weeks of dry weather, you may need to pick on them a little bit.

Annuals are plants that go through their growth cycle in one season. They may be considered perennials and come back year after year if they are in a milder climate than ours. You can find just about any color of annual plant to grow in your garden and they come in different shapes and sizes. One of their best attributes is that they will flower longer than plants that come up year after year. But in recent weather like ours, they may be struggling a little bit.

Pruning

Many people think you can just plop annuals in the ground or in a container and let them do the rest. But they need to have good soil, be fed regularly and they are very thirsty. They also need to be pinched back or deadheaded to keep them blooming.

Petunias and impatiens are popular annuals and they might be starting their summer stretch right about now. Because of the lack of sun, water or fertilizer, their stems may become long and thin. Gardeners say they are looking "leggy." We don't want these plants and others like them to be leggy because we grow them for their blooms, not their stems. So how do we get more blooms? You need to cut them back.

Pinching or cutting their stems back a few inches causes a chemical reaction in the plant to create more blooms. You are also stimulating new foliage to grow and fill in the center of the plant. Even the long plants hanging around the edges of your containers could use a hair cut right now. In just a few weeks, you will start to see new growth coming from the center of the plant.

Fertilizing

Annuals are very hungry beasts. You can add a slow acting time released fertilizer to the soil, or buy soil that already has it mixed in it. Proven Winners has a great bag of potting soil that has everything your annuals need. Those nutrients last about six to 10 weeks.

But they can't live by the boosted soil alone. You will still need to add some fertilizer during your daily watering. This also helps keep the plant blooming all season. If you have ever driven by a greenhouse or neighbor's yard that has petunias just spilling out of the containers in thick pink waves, you can bet that they are giving them a constant source of fertilizer and water every day to keep their roots strong throughout the summer.

Watering

Speaking of watering, you need to keep your annuals from drying out. Water your containers until the water starts draining out the bottom holes. This will ensure that you are getting all of the roots wet. Keep the annuals planted in your garden watered too. They will need early morning irrigation more often than the perennials in your flowerbeds. Set up a soaker hose around the base of your annuals and set it on a daily timer to make your job a lot easier.



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