Planting annuals is a time-honored rite of spring. It might be the final transition from winter into the growing season.
Before embarking on this annual tradition, be sure winter has actually taken its leave. Check long range weather forecasts to be sure no frosts or freezes are expected in May. There’s a reason why Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of the planting season in the Rochester, NY area.
Once satisfied that we’re done with freezing temperatures, it’s time for a trip to your garden center. Before you go, make a planting plan so you don’t over buy or under buy. With a plan, you can begin planting as soon as you get home, and you can involve the whole family with everyone following a single plan.
Prepare the planting beds by tilling or turning the soil and raking it smooth. Then mix in compost or fertilizer. This can be done before you go to buy the plants.
When you bring the plants home, lay them out in the bed according to your plan. This will allow you to move them around if you want to make changes after seeing them in place. When satisfied, dig holes twice as big around as the root ball but only as deep as the root ball. Remove the plants from the pots or six packs and stand them up in the holes, backfill, mulch and water. Since these plants are small, you will probably not need more than two inches of mulch.
If we have a dry summer, you’ll have to water your annuals. They should receive at least an inch of water a week. You will also want to deadhead as needed. Deadheading is removing dead flowers before they go to seed. That way, energy will be directed to growing new flowers instead of dropping seeds. When your annuals have stopped growing flowers, it’s time to change them out. Hopefully, the flowers will keep coming until the end of summer. Then you can change them out for fall flowers like mums.
All annuals don’t have to be planted in the ground. Some can be planted in decorative containers. The containerized plants can be placed around your deck or patio to supplement the colorful flowers that you planted in the ground. If you have physical limitations that keep you from kneeling, you can place containerized annuals in your planting beds instead of planting annuals in the ground.
You can buy the plants in nursery pots, rather than little six packs, and slip the nursery pot into your decorative container. If you want to reduce the amount of weight you have to carry, you can first place the decorative container where you want to display the flowers and then slip the nursery pot into it. You can also plant annuals from a six pack into repurposed nursery pots and place them into decorative containers. When planting annuals in containers, be sure to use potting mix, not native soil from your garden.
The benefits of containerized annuals include not having to kneel, easy handling and the ability to move your annuals around during the growing season. The biggest downside is that they may have to be watered more often and they are more vulnerable to the elements because the roots are more exposed than those planted in the ground.
If you’d like to enjoy the color and fragrance that beds of flowering annuals provide but don’t want to select and plant them, we have landscape professionals who would be happy to perform those tasks.
We already planted our warm season annuals. In autumn, we will plant our cool season annuals. . . . So what happens to annuals where winters are cold and snowy, like in New York? Are there cool season annuals after the chrysanthemums? When you plant your warm season annuals, must you first remove the cool season annuals?