Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.
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Now that we’re nearing our official planting date for Routt County gardens, many of us are searching for annuals to add instant color and interest to bare spots in the garden as well as on the porch, patio and deck.
When you plant annual flowers in the ground or in a container — or in a container in the ground — you enjoy the beauty all summer. Once the cold weather comes, these plants are discarded or brought indoors to extend their life. Annuals are plants that can live outdoors in our mountain climate just one season.
One benefit to planting your annual in its pot right into your garden soil is that if you decide to keep it going into the fall and winter, it is easy to dig up and drop into a decorative container for indoor enjoyment.
But whether you decide to put annuals into the ground or go the container-gardening route, be sure to choose the proper container in which to plant your annuals.
Planters made of bisqued or terra cotta unglazed clay offer texture and color on your patio. These pots are somewhat porous, so they will require more frequent watering.
Glazed ceramic, metal, plastic and glass planters are nonporous, so they will need less frequent watering. But remember that all potted plants will need to be watered more often than those planted into the soil of your garden. That’s because all sides of the plant constantly will be exposed to wind and heat of the sun since it sits above ground. This tends to dry out the soil more quickly.
If you think you’ll be bringing your annual plants indoors once the frosts are predicted in the fall, be sure to avoid pots that will be too heavy to move inside.
Whatever type of container you choose for your annuals, make sure it has a drainage hole so that the roots of your plants won’t become waterlogged should too much rain or watering settle to the bottom of the planter. If you are recycling something without a hole in it to use as a planter, line the bottom with pebbles or other material that will allow water to drain away from the roots of your plants.
As you begin to plant your new annuals in a pot, be sure to clean the containers well so no diseases from previous plantings affect the new annuals. Then use new sterile potting soil, not garden soil, for planting. Garden soil will become hard and make it difficult for your annuals to grow, plus you’ll be introducing potential diseases and insects from the garden to your container plants.
Most potting soils have fertilizer in them, which should be enough food for our growing season.
As the flowers on your annuals become spent, deadhead or pinch off the old flowers to encourage the plant to produce new ones.
There is a bit of an art to placing annuals in a planter, and you can get ideas from books at the library and online or by looking at how the garden centers in town make their displays. Use your imagination and creative abilities to design your own containers with lovely annuals to enjoy all summer.
Deb Babcock is a volunteer master gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. Contact 970-879-0825 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.