Sunday, 21 March 2010

Growing annuals

ANNUAL plants are easy to work with, and can liven up any garden with an infusion of colour. They are garden flowers that complete their life cycle in the span of one growing season. Some examples of annuals include geraniums, petunias and sunflowers.
A starter can follow some simple steps outlined by gardeners for successful growth of these plants. To grow annuals, it is important to first start by making good choices.
Determine whether to start the annuals from seed or from established plants. Established plants are fastest and easiest but cost more and are available in a limited variety. Starting from seed takes a bit of skill and more time but hundreds of flowers can still be got for what is spent on just one flat of established annuals.
Look carefully when buying seeds. Beginners should choose annuals that are touted as being especially easy or that perform especially well. Also look for those that germinate fast.
Look for short, stocky (not leggy) established plants that do not have roots coming out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Blooms indicate that the plant is putting too much energy into the flowering when you want it first to put energy into root development at planting time; roots coming out of the bottom of the pot is a sign that the plant has been in the pot too long.
Read the label or packet carefully and note the plants needs for sun soil, water and other conditions. Ensure that conditions can easily be met.

Planting annuals
PREPARE the planting area well. Prepare a flowerbed. Also work a little slow-release granular fertilizer into the planting area if desired. Fertiliser can help fast- growing annuals reach their maximum height and bloom. Follow the required directions. Pinch off any flowers on the plant. (There will be some in most cases). This will help the plant get established and produce more flowers in the long run
Plant annuals close together. It helps the plants to attain good health in addition to the providing visual effect. Plant in groups. Most annuals look far better when grouped in plantings of 12 or more.

Caring for annuals
USE mulch such as grass clippings or wood chips. Mulch suppresses weeds, conserves moisture and prevents some soil-borne diseases. Apply a layer one to three inches thick.
Keep annuals appropriately watered. Most require one inch of water per week, either as rainfall or watering. It is better to water them deeply and occasionally rather than giving them just a little water here and there.
Remove deadhead from most annuals regularly. This means trimming or pinching off spent blooms every few days. This not only keeps the plant looking tidy but it also encourages more flowers.
Fertilise regularly during growing season, using food formulated for flower production, following label directions.
Tear out annuals when they are spent. Dispose of healthy annuals in a compost heap. If disease has been a problem, put them in a separate area or in the garbage.

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