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How-to : Fertilization for Annuals and Perennials
Annuals and perennials may be fertilized using: 1.water-soluble, quick release fertilizers; 2. temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; or 3. organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Water soluble fertilizers are generally used every two weeks during the growing season or per label instructions. Controlled, slow-release fertilizers are worked into the soil ususally only once during the growing season or per label directions. For organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, follow label directions as they may vary per product.
Conditions : Light Conditions
Unless a site is completely exposed, light conditions will change during the day and even during the year. The northern and eastern sides of a house receive the least amount of light, with the northern exposure being the shadiest. The western and southern sides of a house receive the most light and are considered the hottest exposures due to intense afternoon sun.
You will notice that sun and shade patterns change during the day. The western side of a house may even be shady due to shadows cast by large trees or a structure from an adjacent property. If you have just bought a new home or just beginning to garden in your older home, take time to map sun and shade throughout the day. You will get a more accurate feel for your site's true light conditions.
Conditions : Light and Plant Selection
For best plant performance, it is desirable to match the correct plant with the available light conditions. Right plant, right place! Plants which do not receive sufficient light may become pale in color, have fewer leaves and a "leggy" stretched-out appearance. Also expect plants to grow slower and have fewer blooms when light is less than desirable. It is possible to provide supplemental lighting for indoor plants with lamps. Plants can also receive too much light. If a shade loving plant is exposed to direct sun, it may wilt and/or cause leaves to be sunburned or otherwise damaged.
Conditions : Full Sun
Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.
Problems : Waterlogged Soil and Solutions
Waterlogged soil occurs when more water is added to soil than can drain out in a reasonable amount of time. This can be a severe problem where water tables are high or soils are compacted. Lack of air space in waterlogged soil makes it almost impossible for soil to drain. Few plants, except for bog plants, can tolerate these conditions. Drainage must be improved if you are not satisfied with bog gardening. Over-watered plants
have the same wilted leaves as under-watered plants. Fungi such as Phytophthora and Pythium affect vascular systems, which cause wilt.
If the problem is only on the surface, it maybe diverted to a drainage ditch. If drainage is poor where water table is high, install an underground drainage system. You should contact a contractor for this. If underground drains already exist, check to see if they are blocked.
French drains are another option. French drains are ditches that have been filled with gravel. It is okay to plant sod on top of them. More obtrusive, but a good solution where looks aren't as important, think of the French drain as a ditch filled with gravel. Ditches should be 3 to 4 feet deep and have sloping sides.
A soakway is a gravel filled pit where water is diverted to via underground pipes. This works well on sites that have compacted soil. Your soakway should be about 6'wide and deep and filled with gravel or crushed stone, topped with sand and sodded or seeded.
Keep in mind that it is illegal to divert water onto other people's property. If you do not feel that you can implement a workable solution on your own, call a contractor.
Tools : Watering Aides
No gardener depends 100% on natural rainfall. Even the most water conscious
garden appreciates the proper hose, watering can or wand.
Watering Cans: Whether you choose plastic of galvanized makes no difference,
but do look for generous capacity and a design that is balanced when filled
with water. A 2 gallon can (which holds 18 lbs. of water) is preferred by
most gardeners and is best suited for outdoor use. Indoor cans should be
relatively smaller with narrower spouts and roses (the filter head).
Watering Hose: When purchasing a hose, look for one that is double-walled, as it will resist
kinking. Quick coupler links are nice to have on ends of hoses to make
altering length fast. To extend the life of your hose, keep it wound around
a reel and stored in a shady area. Prior to winter freezes, drain hose.
Sprayers: Are commonly thought of as devices for applying chemicals, but
can really be a step saver for watering houseplants or small pots of annuals
rather that dragging out a hose or making numerous trips with a watering can.
The backpack sprayer is best suited for this. Take care not to use any kind
of chemical in tanks used for watering!
Sprinklers: Attached to the
ends of garden hoses, these act as an economical irrigation system. Standing
Spike Sprinklers are usually intended for lawns and deliver water in a circular pattern. Rotating Sprinklers deliver a circle of water and are perfect for lawns, shrubs and flower beds. Pulse-jet sprinklers cover large
areas of ground in a pulsating, circular pattern. The head usually sits up on a
tall stem, except for when watering lawns. Oscillating sprinklers are best for watering at ground level in a rectangular pattern.
Conditions : Regular Moisture for Outdoor Plants
Water when normal rainfall does not provide the preferred 1 inch of moisture most plants prefer. Average water is needed during the growing season, but take care not
to overwater. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering
is important. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week
and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.
Conditions : Moist and Well Drained
Moist and well drained means exactly what it sounds like. Soil is moist without being soggy because the texture of the soil allows excess moisture to drain away. Most plants like about 1 inch of water per week. Amending your soil with compost will help improve texture and water holding or draining capacity. A 3 inch layer of mulch will help to maintain soil moisture and studies have shown that mulched plants grow faster than non-mulched plants.
Conditions : Outdoor Watering
Plants are almost completely made up of water so it is important to supply them
with adequate water to maintain good plant health. Not enough water and roots
will wither and the plant will wilt and die. Too much water applied too
frequently deprives roots of oxygen leading to plant diseases such as root and
stem rots. The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container
size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to
ensure successful watering:
* The key to watering is water deeply and less frequently. When watering, water
well, i.e. provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With
in-ground plants, this means thoroughly soaking the soil until water has
penetrated to a depth of 6 to 7 inches (1' being better). With container grown plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.
* Try to water plants early in the day or later in the afternoon to conserve
water and cut down on plant stress. Do water early enough so that water has
had a chance to dry from plant leaves prior to night fall. This is paramount
if you have had fungus problems.
* Don't wait to water until plants wilt. Although some plants will recover from this,
all plants will die if they wilt too much (when they reach the permanent
* Consider water conservation methods such as drip irrigation, mulching, and
xeriscaping. Drip systems which slowly drip moisture directly on the root
system can be purchased at your local home and garden center. Mulches can significantly cool the root zone
and conserve moisture.
* Consider adding water-saving gels to the root zone which will hold a reserve
of water for the plant. These can make a world of difference especially under
stressful conditions. Be certain to follow label directions for their use.
Conditions : Normal Watering for Outdoor Plants
Normal watering means that soil should be kept evenly moist and watered regularly, as conditions require. Most plants like 1 inch of water a week during the growing season, but take care not to over water. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important for establishment. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.
How-to : Reduce Watering
This plant requires less watering during winter months, so reduce watering from late November through early March.
How-to : Preparing Garden Beds
Use a soil testing kit to determine the acidity or alkalinity of the soil before beginning any garden bed preparation. This will help you determine which plants are best suited for your site. Check soil drainage and correct drainage where standing water remains. Clear weeds and debris from planting areas and continue to remove weeds as soon as they come up.
A week to 10 days before planting, add 2 to 4 inches of aged manure or compost and work into the planting site to improve fertility and increase water retention and drainage. If soil composition is weak, a layer of topsoil should be considered as well. No matter if your soil is sand or clay, it can be improved by adding the same thing: organic matter. The more, the better; work deep into the soil. Prepare beds to an 18 inch deep for perennials. This will seem like a tremendous amount of work now, but will greatly pay off later. Besides, this is not something that is easily done later, once plants have been established.
How-to : Planting and Removing Annuals
When planting annuals, begin by preparing the soil. Rototill rotted compost, soil conditioner, pulverized bark, or even builders sand into the existing soil and rake it smooth. Annuals grow quickly, so space them as recommended on plant tags. Remove plants from their containers or packs gently, being sure to keep as much soil as you can around the root ball. If the rootball is tight, loosen it a bit by gently separating white, matted roots with your fingers or a pocket knife. Plant at the same depth they were in the containers. Gently fill in around the plants, providing support but not cutting off air to the roots. Water the plants well.
Through the season, be sure to fertilize for optimal performance. Take special care to cut back or completely remove any diseased plants, as soon as you see there is a problem. At the end of the season, be sure to remove all plants and their root balls. Rake the bed well to prepare it for the next season's planting.
Conditions : Slope Tolerant
Slope tolerant plants are those that have a fibrous root system and are often plants that prefer good soil drainage. These plants assist in erosion control by stabilizing/holding the soil on slopes intact.
Glossary : Border Plant
A border plant is one which looks especially nice when used next to
other plants in a border. Borders are different from hedges in that they are
not clipped. Borders are loose and billowy, often dotted with deciduous flowering shrubs. For best effect, mass smaller plants in groups of 3, 5, 7, or 9. Larger plants may stand alone, or if room permits, group several layers of plants for a dramatic impact. Borders are nice because they define property lines and can screen out bad views and offer seasonal color. Many gardeners use the border to add year round color and interest to the garden.
Glossary : Southwest
Southwest refers to plants native to parts of, or all of, the southwestern regions of Arizona, New Mexico, southwestern Colorado, southern Utah, Nevada, western Texas, southeastern California.
Glossary : Annual
An annual is any plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season.
Glossary : pH
pH, means the potential of Hydrogen, is the measure of alkalinity or acidity. In horticulture, pH refers to the pH of soil. The scale measures from 0, most acid, to 14, most alkaline. Seven is neutral. Most plants prefer a range between 5.5 and about 6.7, an acid range, but there are plenty of other plants that like soil more alkaline, or above 7. A pH of 7 is where the plant can most easily absorb the most nutrients in the soil. Some plants prefer more or less of certain nutrients, and therefore do better at a certain pH.
Glossary : U. S. Natives
Native plants require lower maintenance and usually have less pest problems. They are key components in the xeriphytic landscape and backyard wildlife habitat. Select your region and the search will look for all plants in the database that are native to your area.
Glossary : Soil Types
A soil type is defined by granule size, drainage, and amount of organic material
in the soil. The three main soil types are sand, loam and clay. Sand has the
largest particle size, no organic matter, little to no fertility, and drains
rapidly. Clay, at the opposite end of the spectrum, has the smallest particle
size, can be rich in organic matter, fertility and moisture, but is often
unworkable because particles are held together too tightly, resulting in poor
drainage when wet, or is brick-like when dry. The optimum soil type is loam,
which is the happy median between sand and clay: It is high in organic matter,
nutrient-rich, and has the perfect water holding capacity.
You will often
hear loam referred to as a sandy loam (having more sand, yet still plenty of
organic matter) or a clay loam (heavier on the clay, yet workable with good
drainage.) The addition of organic matter to either sand or clay will result
in a loamy soil. Still not sure if your soil is a sand, clay, or loam? Try
this simple test. Squeeze a handfull of slightly moist, not wet, soil in your
hand. If it forms a tight ball and does not fall apart when gently tapped
with a finger, your soil is more than likely clay. If soil does not form a
ball or crumbles before it is tapped, it is sand to very sandy loam. If soil forms a
ball, then crumbles readily when lightly tapped, it's a loam. Several quick, light
taps could mean a clay loam.
Glossary : Tolerant
Tolerant refers to a plant's ability to tolerate exposure to an external condition(s). It does not mean that the plant thrives or prefers this situation, but is able to adapt and continue its life cycle.
Glossary : Drought Tolerant
Very few plants, except for those naturally found in desert situations, can tolerate arid soils, but there are plants that seem to be more drought tolerant than others. Plants that are drought tolerant still require moisture, so don't think that they can go for extended period without any water. Drought tolerant plants are often deep rooted, have waxy or thick leaves that conserve water, or leaf structures that close to minimize transpiration. All plants in droughty situations benefit from an occasional deep watering and a 2-3 inch thick layer of mulch. Drought tolerant plants are the backbone of xeriphytic landscaping.