Planting annuals in beds or pots marks the beginning of a season-long show of eye-catching flowers and leaves. Annuals race through the growing season, unfurling flowers and colorful foliage until frost arrives on the scene. Knowing when to plant annuals helps get the seasonal show off to a solid start. Understanding how to plant annual flowers is the other key to success.
Some annuals thrive in cooler seasons of the year, while others need a little summer sizzle to strut their stuff. Typically garden centers sell the appropriate annuals for the season at hand—or soon to come. If in doubt, ask. This is especially important in early spring, when summer annuals have started their growing season in the cozy confines of a warm greenhouse. Once they enter the world of cool spring nights, they often stop growing. For these heat-loving annuals, planting too early can pronounce a death sentence as chilly air and cool soil causes plants to stall or even rot.
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.
Before planting annuals in a bed, it’s a good idea to arrange plants—in their pots—in the pattern you’ll follow when planting. If you’re planting a container, arrange pots on the work surface beside the pot. With in-ground beds, finesse the spacing based on mature plant size. Give plants enough room to spread and soar.
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. Add a mulch layer to slow water evaporation from soil and help reduce weeds. -From HGTV.com
Proper mowing increases the density of the lawn, which in turn decreases weeds. Each type of grass has a recommended mowing height. Find out which type of grass is in your lawn (you may have more than one) and mow at the proper height. Stick to the 1/3 rule — never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade length at any one time. A healthy lawn can survive an occasional close cut. Repeated close mowing produces a brown lawn and has several harmful side effects, including: • Injury to the crown, where new growth generates and nutrients are stored. • Reduction of the surface area of the blade, making the blade surface insufficient to produce food through photosynthesis. • Increased vulnerability to pests and disease. • An increase in the sunlight reaching weed seeds, allowing them to germinate. • Risk of soil compaction.
Also remember to: • Mow when the grass is dry. The blades will be upright and less likely to clump when cut. • Avoid mowing in the heat of the day to prevent heat stress on your grass and yourself. • Keep mower blades sharp and balanced. Ragged cuts made by dull blades increase the chance of disease and pests. • Change the mowing pattern each time you mow. Grass develops a grain based on your cutting direction, tending to lean towards the direction you mow. Alternating the pattern causes more upright growth and helps avoid producing ruts in the lawn. • Mow moving forward, whether you're pushing a walk-behind mower or sitting behind the wheel of a lawn tractor. • Discharge the clippings (unless you bag them) towards the area you have already cut. • Leave clippings on the lawn unless they form clumps or rows. This technique (known as grass cycling) returns nutrients and nitrogen to the lawn. • Consider using a mulching mower or mulching attachments. • If you bag your clippings, consider composting them. • Mow grass higher in shaded areas under trees. In these areas grass has to compete with tree roots for water and nutrients. • Reduce mowing frequency and raise the mowing height of cool-season grasses when hot, dry weather slows their growth rate. • Follow the proper fertilizing schedule for your type of turfgrass.
Here are some tips from the NC Cooperative Extension Center:
Plant your small fruit plants, grape vines and fruit trees before the buds break.
March is a good month to transplant trees and shrubs
New shrubs and ground covers can be planted the entire month of March. Be sure to follow your planting plan.
Plant seeds of the following perennials: columbine, hollyhock, coreopsis, daisy and phlox. Sweet William can also be planted this month.
New rose bushes can be planted this month.
Plants of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower should be set out in the garden in mid-March.
The following vegetables can be planted this month: beets, carrots, Chinese cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, Swiss chard, turnips, potatoes,cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Start any annual flowers or warm-season vegetables inside your home that are not commercially available in early March.
In order to ensure that your lawn is ready for the warm weather to roll in, you need to make sure you’ve pruned, weeded, and cleaned out your garden appropriately.
You may have seen some sprigs coming up at this point. Now is the time to clean out winter debris from your garden. Dead branches or fallen leaves, twigs or branches that may have fallen during winter weather will stifle the growth of plants trying to thrive.
Pruning is a little more tricky.The plant and its needs will determine the type of pruning to be done. Many shrubs are going to benefit from heading and thinning, as it will give room for air circulation and light. The general rule is to not remove more than 1/3 of the plant. Again, it depends on the tree or bush. As always, you can contact us to do it for you.
Hopefully, you brought in your tender plants for the winter. Continue protecting container plants from cold temperatures, and don’t forget to water them! We are getting some warm days but that can be misleading. It is best to wait to purchase new plants for your outdoor areas, too. Spring is still a month away. You can, however, still shop for seeds! Inspect your patio furniture and see what maintenance needs to be done. You can also start shopping for new cushions, as most stores are bringing out their outdoor items now. While you’re at it, Check for winter damage. Snow and rain may have created issues such as drainage problems or rotted wood that will need addressing at the start of the growing season.