Deb Babcock: Fill empty garden spaces

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Deb Babcock

Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.

Find more gardening columns here.

Plant ideas

Many different varieties of annuals grow well in our climate. Tall annuals include cosmos, snapdragons, cornflowers and geraniums. Medium-height annuals include stocks, salvias, zinnias, dusty miller, begonias, coleus, statices, verbenas and marigolds. Short-growing annuals include petunias, impatiens, alyssum and lobelias.

— Annual plants last for only one growing season. During this time, they grow, flower and produce seed, which completes their life cycle.

Many local gardeners find that annuals add a wonderful splash of constant color, while the perennials come and go throughout summer.

Annuals are relatively inexpensive compared to perennials. They grow well in the ground and in containers. Annuals also allow for instant color in the garden —color we long to see after a long, white winter such as this year’s.

Those empty spots in the garden from spent, spring-flowering bulbs easily can become a mass of color with annual plantings. For the young garden, annuals will fill space between newly placed plants.

It requires a bit of work to maintain the beauty of annuals, since they must be planted every year. Also, removing old flowers, or deadheading, is necessary to encourage new blooms.

Some plants will self-seed, producing more plants. This might be a good thing, or then again, you might not want more of this plant growing in your bed.

Flower arrangers and dried-flower enthusiasts demand annuals in their gardens, as they make excellent cut flowers. Some annuals attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Annuals prefer well-drained, healthy soil with adequate sunlight. Prepare the soil by adding organic material such as compost, peat moss or seasoned manure. In our short growing season, transplants are preferred instead of planting seeds.

Place the plants out in the elements during the day, bringing them in at night for a few days. This will acclimate them to your garden’s environment. Make sure you keep them watered, as they will dry out when not in the ground. Our biggest challenge is trying to plant after the last frost, as annuals are not frost-tolerant.

To plant the annual, dig a hole the size of the plant. Remove the plant from the container and place it in the hole, filling in around the root mass with earth.

Water the plant well. In our dry climate, you will need to continue to give water to your flowerbeds throughout the season. Water the bed to moisten the earth, but don’t let it become boggy.

Mulch the flowerbed to prevent dreaded weeds and to retain moisture. Fertilize the plants with a liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks.

Annuals work diligently all summer to give us dependable color in our flowerbeds, in our flower vases on the dining room table and in dried arrangements we enjoy on cold winter days. Annuals deserve a place in the flower garden.

Editor’s Note: Babcock wished to express “many thanks to former Routt County resident Camille Fisher for this information on annuals.”

Deb Babcock is a master gardener with the Routt County Cooperative Extension Office. Call 970-879-0825 with questions.

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