Most gardeners begin their love of gardening with annuals. Planting them is thought of as child's play, and that is true, so long as one follows certain simple but sometimes overlooked practices.
Plants grow best in soil that has been loosened before planting. To allow ready penetration of oxygen and water, break the ground and turn the soil for essential root growth.
If your plants are fresh from the protected environment, they need a gradual introduction to direct sun and stiff breezes before planting. Set plants outdoors in a sheltered, lightly shaded spot, increasing their exposure to sun and wind each day. Before planting, check the moisture of the potting mix. Water thoroughly if it's dry, then dig a hole just slightly larger than the pot. Remove the plant from the pot by grasping the rim and turn the pot upside down and tap the plant against the heel of your hand. If the plant is root-bound, gently break up the sides of the ball with your thumbs and gingerly part the roots that at the bottom. This action encourages the roots to grow out of the potting mix and into the surrounding soil. Set the root ball in the hole so that the top of the ball is level with the surface of the soil, then push soil around and just the top of the root ball while firming the soil. Follow with a thorough soaking.
Scatter a timed-release fertilizer around the feet of annuals at planting time, or applying a water-soluble fertilizer (such as 20-20-20) at half or quarter strength.
Plants in containers need special care. They dry out more quickly than plants in the ground, so you may have to water them daily. Frequent watering is necessary as the nutrients soon wash out the bottom of the pot. It is recommend that you use a potting mix specifically designed for containers, and incorporate a timed-release fertilizer into the potting mix before you add the mix to the container. Finally, to look their best, most plants in containers need regular grooming. Remove spent flowers regularly and prune vigorous growers to keep them in check.
© Cinthia D. Stafford