What is your summer garden without annuals?
Like a princess without her tiara and jewels, it is just not dressed for the part.
The non-stop blooms of annual flowers punctuate the border and rim the walk, they dangle from the porch pots
and collar the shrubs. Cheerfully and gracefully they ornament plantings in a way perennials would be hard-put
So, what shall we choose? Look over the plant lists and then shop your garden stores and seed
catalogs ( make plans to collect and save seeds for many annuals that are not listed as 'hybrids' -which won't come true to form).
Many people start their own flats, which is very worthwhile in more ways than one. I, myself, never bother growing my own petunias,
ageratums, lobelias, or marigolds (tagetes) that way. The flats available from the stores more than meet my needs,
and I always grow my marigolds from seed " in situ " with better results. If you need large amounts of other types,
or unusual varieties, then starting your own from seed is worth the experimentation. More of my opinion on the matter of economics involved.
Zinnias, bright and easy
If you are a newbie at this-
the one important thing to pay attention to is: hardening off. That is the term for gradually introducing
your little hothouse plants to the harsher elements of the real outdoors...gradually is the key word.
My clay ground is most unforgiving when worked wet, so it seems inevitable, with all the scrambling around in the spring planting,
that I don't get to plant all the seeds I wanted. Even so, certain annuals are still worth effort well into June. Zinnias,
marigolds, quick starters like candytuft and nigella, portulaca, even half-wilted petunias will revive (if you lop their heads off and give their roots soft earth and moisture). Many of the mixed annual packets have quick starting plants that can be sown at a late date.
I would say the last week of June is the cut-off point, though.
Growing annuals in containers is one of the most adaptable ways to brighten up the garden. One of the plantings I'm repeating this year is a success of the past: two raised beds planted with small bulbs followed
by tiny delicate annual flowers. Hanging baskets are favorites for porches, and they can be single profusions of just one type of flower or a combination of several chosen companions.
Traditional containers such as window boxes have often decorated apartment windows and cottage windows alike. All planted with easy care annuals.
Prepare your flower beds: add organic matter (which could be peat moss,
compost, or well-rotted manure), preferably the season before you desire to plant. If you have
established garden areas, add organic matter several weeks spring planting. Incorporate the additions with a spade or till
into the top six - eight inches of soil. Soil preparation promotes faster and better seed germination -worth the time taken.
Or to start annuals in situ (seeding directly in the soil), level the bed and rake it after tilling, removing stones and clumps of hard earth, so that you have fine tilth and smooth soil surface.
If planting a bulb bed or under shrubs, dig lightly and shallowly. You want to add a little soil amendment, but not
damage the roots of plants already there.
Growing in containers means new potting soil each year, since the intensive growth wears out the fertility of the small amount of soil. I use the soil you buy in bags at the plant store, preferably with "moisture control".
Be sure your containers are big enough. More about container planting, and photos.
One of the annuals planted "in situ" one season has been a recurring joy each year, Shirley poppies in the "Fairy Wings" selection. Every year I have beautiful,crepe paper delicate poppies nodding in the early summer breezes. They have the most charming colors of lavender gray, pink with white,whites powdered with other pastel shades, and the occasional scarlet brushed with a powdery sheen. I found a source for this same named selection:
Poppy Fairy Wings 50 Seeds
Most of the annuals I mention are sown directly into the garden.
It pays, in success, to prepare the ground: cultivating, raking, adding amendments,
and keeping consistent moisture during the germinating and early growth stages.
Once plants are given a good start, they are surprisingly adaptive.
Why is a plant called an annual? It's the life cycle description, an annual is a plant that grows, flowers, sets seed, and dies in the same season. What does this mean to you? That you must reseed the plant every year, and that the plant blooms longer in the garden when the seed setting is delayed (by dead-heading, etc)
Planting how-to ... smooth the area with a rake, make a furrow to the depth you need to plant the seeds (directions vary for types of seeds), or for scattering small seeds rake some furrows into the soil, place the seeds in furrows or scatter lightly over worked area, cover with soil, press down
(I usually use my foot to go over it lightly) .... then water. That is it! Maybe stick a marker in to remind you what is planted there.