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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Growing Together: How to plant your annuals with the best care
Because annuals are heavy bloomers, they are heavy feeders, which take a lot of nutrients out of the soil — so, try turning compost or compost manure into the soil. SUPPLIED

It is soon time to start planting your annuals.

I say soon, because the most important thing to know is that you should not be putting out your annuals until after the last frost date for your area.

Here in the Niagara region, our last frost date is usually listed as May 21, but in recent years, we have often been safe by Mother’s Day. 

If you just can’t wait to plant, be prepared on cold evenings to offer protection, such as covering them with a sheet.

Most annuals will start showing signs of distress when the temperature goes below 5 C or will die if the temperature dips below 0 C.

Before planting, now is a great time to be improving the soil where you will be planting. 

Annuals are heavy bloomers, and heavy bloomers are heavy feeders. They take a lot of nutrients out of the soil.

So, to help them perform to their best ability, you can turn compost or compost manure into the soil.

This will help replace some nutrients back into the soil as well as improve the soil structure. 

If you have been growing your own plants from seed, it is best to slowly start “hardening off” the seedlings.

Hardening off is a process that will help the plants adjust to being moved outside.

Start by moving the seedlings out on a warm day and placing them in a part shade location for the day, but bring them back inside for the evening.

Do not place in full sun right away. The sunlight outside is so much stronger than bright light inside your home and seedlings can be easily burnt.

By slowly moving them into their permanent place, this will help them adjust without many setbacks.  

If you are purchasing your annuals, take time to analyze the site that you will be planting them in.

How much sun does it receive?

Full sun is considered to be six hours of sun or more. Part sun is four to five hours of sun and shade is less than four hours of sun.

Knowing this will help you to start narrowing own your plant choices.

Next, consider what height of plants you want to use.

Are they being planted in front of any shrubs or perennials? Are you wanting various heights of flowers?

The next thing to decide on is your colour theme.

Did you know the colours you choose will help to create the mood you want to convey?

Using light pastel colours (cool colours) such as pale pinks, mauve, white or silver will create a relaxing, calm atmosphere. 

Using warm colours, reds, oranges, golds or burgundys, will create a more vibrant atmosphere.

Warms colours make a bigger impact while the cool colours will recede, creating a softer look. Decide what kind of effect that you want to create.

The ideal time to plant is on a cloudy day. This protects newly planted annuals from having sun stress seedlings as they’re settling into their new digs.

Another option is to tackle planting chores in the evening, which gives plants the overnight window to recover.

If you must plant on a sunny day, consider erecting some sort of shade device to protect seedlings.

A piece of cardboard or bedding plant flat propped up to cast shade works fine. 

It’s not hard to master how to plant annuals.

Water any annuals that are dry before removing them from cell packs or pots.

Root balls should be moist at planting time. Never pull annuals from their containers — that’s a good way to break stems.

Instead, remove plants from their containers by gently squeezing the pot and then flipping it over, cradling the annual stem with your hand. It should slip right out. 

Use your hand or a trowel to dig a shallow hole large enough to cradle an annual’s root ball.

If you’re planting many annuals, try the method professional landscapers use: the stab-and-plant technique.

Hold a trowel with the blade facing down and the concave side facing you.

Stick the trowel into soil, and pull the handle forward, creating a hole behind the blade.

Slip the annual from its container and drop it into the hole, firming soil around the plant. This method works best with loose soil.

Always water annuals after planting. Use a watering can or hose-end sprayer or watering wand that delivers a gentle shower of water.

Soak soil thoroughly. You can add a thin mulch layer to slow water evaporation from soil and help reduce weeds.

Happy planting!

Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca

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