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Flowering annuals can usually be counted on to provide months and months of bloom, and as such they are a great accompaniment to perennials, shrubs, and trees in the garden. Careful preparation for planting will help ensure that annuals thrive throughout the growing season.
If possible, prepare new beds in the fall. Have your soil tested to find pH and nutrient levels. If it needs adjusting, the soil test will indicate the proper amendments such as lime to raise pH and sulfur to lower it. Contact your local county Extension Office for information on soil testing. If the ground is heavy clay, work in several inches of organic matter such as peat, compost, or composted manure. Dig in all the amendments and let the bed sit until spring.
Beds may also be worked in the spring, but be certain the amendments you select do not rob the soil of nutrients. Microorganisms can tie-up nutrients in the soil if non-composted materials are worked in.
Check the site for drainage. Level sites or sites with a slightly raised center are preferable to sites where the center of the bed is lower than the periphery.
In the spring, dig in a balanced fertilizer such as 12-12-12 and rake the soil surface smooth. If seeds are to be planted, try to remove soil lumps, though if transplants will be used, small lumps may be left.
Whether sowing seeds or setting out transplants, be mindful of the last date of frost. Transplants set out after May 1 in this area run relatively little danger of being harmed by frost. The average frost free date in the Kansas City area is around the middle of April. When sowing seeds in the garden, consider the time needed for germination and figure backward from May 1.
When sowing seed directly into the garden, make furrows about Ĺ inch deep and fill with a fine vermiculite and sprinkle with water. Continue in this fashion. Plant seeds, cover them with more vermiculite, and then water the seeded area with a fine mist. Keep the seed bed mulched lightly, but remove mulch as seedlings emerge. Later, thin seedlings to the recommended distance.
When setting out transplants, dig a hole large enough for the plantís root system and bury the roots so that the plant sits level. Before planting, break up the root system a bit. This is essential if the roots have circled inside the pot. A water soluble starter fertilizer may be added to the planting hole. When planting peat pots, set the entire peat pot in the planting hole. Be certain the pot is well covered with soil in order that no part of the peat pot is left exposed. If not, the pot may have a wick effect, removing water from the plant root zone back into the air. Also, be certain to keep plants adequately watered before and after planting. Check them daily for signs of wilt.
Related Information: Flowering Annuals, www.oznet.ksu.edu
Author: Pat Lawson
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