DALY: Keep your garden flowers thriving throughout the summer – Gwinnettdailypost.com

Our gardens are full of spring and summer annual flowers such as begonias, marigolds, impatiens, vinca, and numerous others, providing to the home landscape.

These plants only last for one season and usually die with the onset of cold weather. They do require maintenance to them looking their best throughout the rest of the summer. By properly watering, fertilizing, pinching, and removing the old blossoms, you can keep your annuals healthy and attractive until cold weather arrives in the fall.

The sporadic summer rains may not be enough to keep your flowerbeds adequately moist. These plants need one inch of water every week for good, continuous growth. An ordinary garden hose takes 15 to 30 seconds to deliver that much water to a particular spot. If the water does not penetrate deeply, the roots will develop near the soil surface, where they are much more susceptible to drying out. To improve water, place soaker hoses in your flowerbeds this summer for more natural watering.

The application of mulch has multiple benefits. It helps the soil retain moisture for healthy root growth, but it helps prevent soils, especially red clay soils, from crusting and cracking, which exposes and causes the roots to dry out. Mulching also prevents or reduces weed growth, lessens erosion or wash problems, and keeps the soil temperature cooler. Use fine-textured organic mulch such as pine straw, pine bark, or cypress mulch. Apply one to three inches.

Apply a general-purpose fertilizer, such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10, lightly and frequently. Use a teaspoon per square foot of flowerbed area every month during the active growing season. Be sure to brush away any fertilizer granules that have fallen onto flowers or leaves with a broom or rinse the granules off with water.

Plants that tend to be spindly and have very few stems must be pruned or pinched occasionally. Remove the long growth with a sharp knife or with garden scissors to encourage branching at lower levels on the stems for a fuller look. Doing so will not only increase branching, but it will also improve flowering. An example of a flowering annual that responds well to this treatment is snapdragons.

To keep your flowers blooming throughout the summer, remove any mature blossoms beyond their prime, which will keep your annual plants thriving and stimulate even more flowering. When flowers mature, the plants begin to form seedpods, and they will produce fewer flowers. Several examples of annual plants that respond well to deadheading include marigolds, zinnias, and pansies.

Why do plants fail to produce any flowers or as many flowers as you had hoped? Many reasons exist why flowering plants fail to thrive, and some you have no control over. Sometimes, continuously cloudy and wet days will result in poor flower development.

Many flowering annuals and perennials require full sun to flower well. Too much fertilizer can result in much foliage and stem growth, but few flowers. Poor soil conditions, such as an overly acid soil or poorly drained soils, can also affect flower performance. Having your soil sampled through UGA Extension Gwinnett will provide you with the necessary information on soil pH and fertility.

Yes, you can have attractive flowering annuals throughout the growing season. Implementing some basic maintenance tactics will improve the quality and quantity of flowers that will last throughout the season.

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Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with UGA Extension Gwinnett. He can be contacted at 678-377-4011 or tdaly@uga.edu.

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DALY: Keep your garden flowers thriving throughout the summer - Gwinnettdailypost.com

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