Give Your "Annual" Tradition a Smart Start!

Summer is when homeowners in Wisconsin brighten up their yards.

The temporary residents of planting beds burst forth in all flowering manner of colors, shapes and sizes. We call them “annuals,” although they don’t last even close to a year.

Perhaps “annuals” is just easier than a name that reflects their realistic growing season, which is about June through October. “Five-monthers” is awkward on any level.

Your goal is to extend the time of these short-lived plants as much as possible. You hope to reap the maximum amount of color, beauty and enjoyment. Just like perennials, the key is getting them off to a smart, healthy start.

Timing is critical, especially this year. Annuals could and should have been planted in mid-May, but weather conditions weren’t exactly cooperative. Don't worry - early to mid-June is still prime time to purchase and plant annuals. The quality and variety of plants will diminish as sellers work through their stock, though.

Choosing annuals is again similar to perennials. Measuring your planting area is a logical first step; knowing the available space allows prudent planning.

People tend to plant annuals too close together. Many come in small pots, which might give a wrong impression. Remember, these plants will grow. Most need at least 6 inches between them and their neighbor. Go much closer, and your plants will likely grow taller but bear fewer flowers.

Yet again (just like perennials), paying attention to plant labels is vital. Sun tolerance, soil preference and moisture needs all factor in to which plants you should choose.

Annuals are demanding of nutrients, too. Prepare your planting beds with potting soil or compost mixed with fertilizer. The more nutrition, the bigger and brighter their flowers will be. Isn’t that the goal, after all?

Once in the ground, annuals should be watered right away, and then at least twice weekly afterward. Add some fertilizer once a month to stimulate the plants. Removing dead flower buds will encourage new blossoms.

The “tricks” to bright, cheerful annuals aren’t really tricks at all. Planting and maintaining annuals is about thinking ahead, preparing well and staying on top of their needs, especially watering.

Who knows? Do it all right, and maybe you’ll end up with some “six-monthers” in your beds.

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