Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
February, 2009
Regional Report

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Remarkably long-flowering annuals deliver the colorful goods, like these pansies in Mobile, Alabama.

Annual Delights

Annual flowers seem to be taking a back seat to perennials in some gardens. But you, the smart gardener, can reap abundant flowers for months with annuals. It's all in the way you plan and plant the annual flower bed.

The Sunny Side
Choose a sunny site with access to water, scrape off all the weeds and grass, and turn over a shovel's depth of the soil. If your soil is typical for our region, it's apt to be compacted clay and sand, often saturated and not always easy to work. Since annuals must grow lots of roots rapidly, the soil must have spaces between the particles for the roots to move through to take up water and nutrients. To create an environment where the roots can work, most all our soils need organic matter.

Top the turned soil with 3 to 4 inches of compost, old leaves, ground bark, manure, or any combination. Sprinkle garden lime all across the bed, then sprinkle a similar amount of granular garden fertilizer.

Turn or till the whole mix together, then shape it with a shovel and rake so you have a bed that looks like a loaf of brown bread. A width of 2-1/2 to 3 feet is a good size, since you can reach across from either side to tend the plants. A bed 5 feet long will be nice, 10 feet is more than twice the show, no matter which easy-care annual flowers you choose.

Care and Feeding
From cleomes to petunias, annuals are deceptively heavy feeders. Pansies and snapdragons grown over the winter need monthly additions of a flowering formula. In spring and summer, you can increase that to twice a month if you're using solubles.

As an alternative, use a granular flowering formula two weeks after planting, then every four to six weeks throughout the rest of the season. Keep the bed mulched, and clip off the old flowers as they fade. Unlike perennials, which may or may not rebloom, annuals have a florific reputation to keep up.

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