Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is it Ever Too Late?

Images: My annuals (white pot just planted - green pot with large tomato plant - pepper plant in garden - blue pots and the copper boiler with both flowers and herbs planted 3 wks. ago. ) and a picture of annuals from "White Flower Farm" web site.

It reminded me that it's still not too late to plant annuals, either decorative or vegetable.

There is a "Garden Rule" that states you can't plant annuals or seeds after Memorial Day.

Maybe that is ideally, but in the reality of our gardening world, we may have had to wait to plant. As the farmers know better than us, this wet spring gave no choice but to delay preparation and planting.

Some of this information about planting annuals in June:

First, many nurseries and small retail plant stores have their annuals on sale. If they aren't offering a deal right now, I'd look other places unless it's just something you HAVE to have.

If you do buy annuals right now, most will have signs of being root bound (the container will be full of roots; many times going in circles.) If you find your new purchases root bound, with your finger, cut through each side once and pull the bottom roots until they are free of the circle. The cut roots will then make new shoots from the cuts.

Pinch off all flowers on decorative plants. Petunias that are "leggy" can take a pinch of about half the plant - making sure to leave some leaves on each stem. This will encourage them to get bushy again. Alright, I can only pinch about half the flowers because I need the instant gratification, but it's good advice to encourage the plant to use it's energy to make roots first. Do not pinch off flowers on food producing plants.

If it's tomatoes, bury the plant deeper than what it had been in the pot. Most other annuals need to be planted to the same depth as when you bought them.

Either use potting soil that contains a slow release fertilizer or add some at the time of planting. I do this even in the holes I dig in my garden for vegetable sets. It doesn't take much and it insures they will have a good start. You want them healthy right at the get go when you are planting late.

Don't be tempted to cram the entire pot full of plants. The picture of the nursery container above is an example of six (probably more) very hardy large plants in a single container. It looks lush and perfect. I guarantee this pot will have to have some serious pruning in July and it will need watering twice a day for the root mass it has acquired. Realize the pictures you see in catalogs and the full pots you see in nurseries are for those of us who either want the instant gratification or do not realize annuals that have already reached their best in May/June are going to take a lot of work come fall (or need replacement).

The tips for buying annual vegetable plants in June is to check the number of days until it will fruit. You want the shortest time. Not that you won't have vegetables before frost, you just won't have them as long on longer dates. Most seeds will not germinate in time to produce much fruit before frost.

Buying large plant sets vs. small: The tomato plant in the green pot was pretty big when it was potted. The little pepper plant and other small tomato plants in the garden (planted at the same time) may not be as big but they are the same on maturity. It seems large vegetable plants take longer to adjust to potting and the two end up being about the same on production times.

Annuals add a pop of color especially later in the fall. I was especially taken with the beautiful pink coleus that I paired with several kinds and shades of pink impatiens. The clay pots sit in full sun and have a tall annual grass, a red lettuce, snapdragons, and petunias. Also, in full sun, the copper boiler has both flowers and herbs.

Take note from the farmers of our area who are still planting - the fat lady has not sung!

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