BEFORE YOU PLANT
Annual flowers can provide landscaped areas with more seasonal variety and colorful accents than most other plants. The key to success with annuals is to plant only the area that can be adequately cared for. Remember, color can have more impact on the landscape than any other design element. However, nothing has a more negative impact than a poorly maintained color area.
SOIL PREPARATION Soil preparation is perhaps the most important aspect in maintaining areas with ornamental annuals. This begins with the addition of large quantities of organic matter to obtain optimum aeration, drainage and water holding characteristics. Generally speaking, beds should consist of at least 50% organic matter for best results. In addition, bed areas should be raised to a minimum of 4-6 inches to avoid "drowning" during wet, rainy weather. Since organic matter can be difficult to re-wet after excessive drying, a wetting agent can be used to achieve uniform water distribution throughout the soil.
ADDING FERTILIZER Fertilizer should also be incorporated into new beds. Normal rate of application on new beds is generally 2 to 3 pounds per 100 square feet of a slow-release fertilizer formulation such as 19-5-9. Spade, rototil or otherwise mix well until uniform and level off.
PRE-PLANT WEED CONTROL To reduce weeding maintenance rototil one of the commercially available soil sterilants, such as Roundup, into the soil about three weeks before planting. Then just before or immediately after planting, apply a pre-emergent herbicide labeled for ornamental use, such as Treflan, and leave it undisturbed on the surface. (Refer to the chart on plant sensitivity to various pre-emergent herbicides.)
Other methods of weed prevention include the use of a physical barrier such as a film of black plastic which may be covered with a thin layer of decorative mulch. Be sure to punch numerous holes into the plastic with a garden rake to ensure adequate water penetration. Other weed barrier materials may also be used.
WHEN TO PLANT Wait...don't try to jump the gun on planting! Most spring annuals can't be planted until after the danger of killing frost has passed; refer to the chart on hardiness for more details. Many warm season plants, such as periwinkles and caladiums, cannot tolerate cool soil temperature. Delay planting until the medium reaches 70 degrees.
Discard any plants that may have reseeded themselves from last season. They'll be less vigorous and may not resemble their hybrid parents. If it's not possible for you to plant right away, keep plants in a lightly shaded spot and be sure to water them as needed. If possible, it is best to plant on a cloudy or overcast day or late in the day to reduce transplanting shock.
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