Saturday, January 20, 2007

Paint Your Garden With Annuals

Never look at a neighbor's yard in total envy, because their garden beds exploded into a rainbow of red, orange, blue, yellow and purple, while yours had all the color of a black and white photo! Creating that palette of color is easy, easier than one might imagine. All it takes is some time, know-how and a few well-placed annual plants. Here are some suggestions for adding instant color to the yard. Selecting Annuals Annuals are flowers that experience their entire life cycle in one growing season. Essentially, they grow, blossom and die, allowing the homeowner to create a new and varied garden every year. Some of the most popular annuals include zinnias, marigolds, inpatients and rose periwinkles. Zinnias come in a wide variety of colors. Marigolds are known for their bright, gold appearance. Rose periwinkles bloom in a white hue with a flush of pink. Make sure you select the plants that will work with your local weather conditions -- heat, drought, frost, etc. Preparing the Planting Site The next step is to select a planting site. Bear in mind that most annuals thrive best with full exposure to the sun's rays. Now it's time to prepare the soil. The goal is to have soil that is well-drained, full of nutrients and free of weeds. Compacted soil makes it hard for plant roots to spread out, while sandy soil doesn't allow enough water to be absorbed. Using a rake, hoe or tiller, turn the soil over several times. Mixing in organic nutrients will prepare and loosen compacted soil while binding sandy soil. Make sure that all weeds are removed from the bed. This can be accomplished by hand or with an herbicide. Once that's done, apply fertilizer according to the directions on the package. Planting Annuals Some gardeners appreciate the challenge of growing annuals from seed, but the most ideal approach is to utilize transplants. For one reason, it's easier to envision how the bed will ultimately look when using transplants. Secondly, seeds take time to grow, but transplants appeal to the instant gratification lover in all of us. In advance of actually putting plants into the ground, draw a picture of the bed as you intend it to look. Use the drawing as a planting guide, almost as a map. "Zinnias go here. Some marigolds go here and there, and way over there..." When shopping for transplants, seek those with rich green leaves and tight, compact growth. Don't worry about a transplant's height. It will grow as tall as it's supposed to. Also, don't give in to the temptation to buy annuals that are already flowering. They're the quickest to suffer transplant shock, and because they're already blooming, may not last as long. Plants without buds are the way to go, as they'll be less vulnerable to transplant shock and will grow quickly once in the soil. Keeping Weeds at Bay Once annuals are in the ground, one of the greatest threats they can face is an onslaught of weeds. A homeowner who hasn't dealt with this problem before it starts could find himself with ravaged plants and hours spent unnecessarily trying to rectify the situation. All it takes to enjoy a summer of weed-free gardening is a good weed preventer and few extra minutes spent right after the annuals have been planted. A product such as Preen will effectively deter weed growth. Preen comes in an easy-to-use, refillable canister that allows granules to be poured -- much like salt from a shaker. Simply sprinkle Preen evenly around the bed, then gently water the area. Follow the package instructions for maximum effectiveness. A single application will last for three months, at which time Preen can be applied again. Those homeowners who want to make the task of caring for annuals even easier may want to use Preen 'n Green. Preen 'n Green prevents weed growth while providing vital nutrients. It's easy to turn your yard into a work of art. Just think of the garden bed as a canvas and annuals as a selection of colorful paints, and go to it!

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