Here's a quick guide on how to plant and care for annuals in your garden this year. Use your green thumb to brighten up your yard this spring.
The sweet smell of a petunia; splashes of purple, crimson and yellow zinnias; broad leafy stems and a climbing snapdragon or morning glory creeping up the garden trellis.
What do the flowers in this garden bed have in common?
They’re all annuals.
As opposed to perennials, annuals only last for one growing season. They take root in the spring, blossom and bloom through the summer and in late fall, with the first freeze, die. Many prefer perennials because each year they reappear, bringing a familiar spectrum of colors to your garden. No doubt there is a degree of convenience to this, but one of the more attractive features of annuals is that they allow you to change things up. A garden of annuals is never the same. You can add new flowers and arrangements, experimenting and creating a new garden each year.
However, to do this properly, you need to know a bit about how to plan and plant annuals. And that’s just what we’ll show you in this guide.
Be careful not to plant too early
Because you only have one season with your annuals, you want to make sure you get them off to a good start so their colors blaze in their full glory, all season long.
First, you need to know what conditions your annuals will thrive in. Some do fine in the colder conditions of early spring, others need to be planted in warm soil and bathed in warm air to thrive. This is particularly important to know in the early days of spring. You don’t want to bring home a potted plant that has grown in a warm nursery and plant it, only to have it stop growing because it’s not warm enough. April and May are typical planting times for most annuals.
Make sure to use the proper soil
Before your spade hits the ground, make sure you’ve properly cultivated your soil. This will ensure you have the best possible conditions for your annuals to grow and thrive in.
At the beginning of every year, you should incorporate organic matter into your dirt or garden bed. This could be anything from lawn clippings to commercially available compost. Mix this in with your dirt to have a healthy, nutrient-rich soil bed for your plants.
If starting from a seed
Purchasing potted annuals is a convenient way to get your garden blooming. However, there is an undeniable satisfaction to planting a flower as a seed, and watching it sprout, grow and blossom.
There is usually a wider variety of seeds to choose from than there are potted flowers. So, for those who want fewer common varieties, planting from a seed is often the best choice.
If you are going to start from the seed, you need to do a little more planning. Some can be planted directly into the soil, while others need to be planted indoors under lights until they sprout and can be transferred to your garden. To be sure, consult a seed catalog and proceed accordingly.
Plant at the right time of day
Transferring an annual from a pot of soil to a garden bed, whether in the ground or in a planter, “stresses” the plant. They need to get used to the new soil and their new environment.
The best way to do this is to plant them either in the evening or on a cloudy day. The reason for this is that sunlight can increase the stress on the plant while it is adjusting to its new soil bed.
Arrange ahead of time
On the overcast day or evening that you decide to plant your annuals, first arrange the plants while they’re still in their pots. It’s easy to want to plant too many flowers. To avoid crowding them together and not giving them enough space to thrive, arrange the pots ahead of time to give yourself a realistic picture of what should go where.
Dig, transfer, plant, and care
With a gardening trowel, dig a hole that’s just large enough to hold the root system.
Before transferring your annuals, make sure they were well-watered beforehand. And don’t, no matter what you do, pull them from the plastic cells they’re in. That’s an easy way to snap a stem! Instead, cradle the plant just under the stem, turn it over and squeeze the plastic cell so it pops out into your hand.
Next, simply place the root ball into the hole, cover it with soil and gently pat down the soil around it so that it is firm, but not tight.
Once all your flowers are in their garden bed, thoroughly water them and add a thin layer of mulch to protect against weeds and reduce evaporation.
Enjoy your garden’s bloom
After a few weeks of growing, the foliage on your annuals will have started to fill out, creating a lush and vibrant garden.
One of the nice things about annuals is that they are, in general, relatively easy to care for. All you need to do is water them every day (in general, they like about 2-3 inches of water) and maintain a layer of mulch and they should do just fine.
Finally, to keep your garden full of beautiful blossoms, be sure to go through and remove dead flower heads at least once a week. This will encourage new blossoms and keep your garden in top shape.