Seasonal color beds provide vibrant color to your landscape on a year round basis. An annual is defined as any plant that completes its natural life cycle, from germinated seed through growth, flower, seed production, and death, in a single growing season. Due to climatic conditions, a perennial in South Georgia may be an annual in Atlanta, as a perennial here may be an annual in Ohio. In North Metro Atlanta, annuals are planted semi-annually. Summer annuals are planted in Late April and winter annuals in October.
Most annuals achieve their most spectacular color when grown in specially prepared raised soil beds, and are fertilized and watered frequently. Raised annual beds have a 6-8″ depth of organic planting soil or flower mix soil. The more organic matter the soil contains, the better it is for the plants. The organic matter soaks up water like a sponge but is separated by air spaces which allow plenty of oxygen to get to the roots and excess water to drain away. Aeration is especially important because most plant roots, and most annuals, need both oxygen and water, in order to absorb nutrients to help them grow and bloom. In soils that are too dry or drain too quickly, there’s not enough moisture for nutrients to be absorbed. When the soil is too wet, plant roots, except water adaptable plants, suffocate from lack of oxygen, then rot.
Georgia’s typical red clay soil is dense because it is made up of tiny particles that stick together like glue. Clay soil drains slowly, feels sticky to the touch, and easily becomes waterlogged. Its dense texture makes it more difficult to dig than lighter soils. To correct clay soil you must lighten its texture by adding plenty of organic matter. We bring in our own flower mix soil as opposed to amending the clay soil.
Our experience has shown great success with a 70% topsoil, 30% sandy mushroom compost mix. These components can be found at such stores as Stone forest or Buck Jones in Woodstock.
Watering is essential to a good flower garden. The traditional rule of thumb is that gardens need 1 inch of water per week. This must be adjusted for soil drainage, temperature, and sunlight exposure. For example, containers or flower pots, especially small ones, dry out quickly. In very hot weather they may need watering twice a day. The best way to tell when the garden needs water is to stick your finger into the soil. If it feels dry a couple of inches below the surface, it’s time to water. Our award winning seasonal color is watered with a sprinkler system using mist spray heads on a predetermined schedule using a rain sensor to avoid over watering and wasting water. Because annuals live for just one year, they do not have time to grow extensive root systems. This means that many annuals do poorly when not given adequate water. In order to get roots to grow as far down as they can, be sure to water deeply. If you forget to water and some of your plants wilt, don’t give up to quickly. Many annuals will recover from water deprivation and go on to bloom profusely. When you water, do so thoroughly, letting the moisture soak into the ground where the roots need it, don’t merely wet the surface.
Most annuals will benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season. Annuals need nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, along with smaller amounts of secondary nutrients, such as magnesium, calcium, and minute quantities of trace elements, including boron and iron. For flowering annuals, we use Osmocote 14-14-14 all purpose plant food. It is well balanced and time released. For a quick start, use miracle grow fertilizer applied with a hose. Flowering plants have a special need of phosphorous and potassium to realize their blooming potential.
Pinching and deadheading are also very useful. Young plants can be pinched back to encourage them to redirect their energy into sending out more side shoots instead of growing taller. Many plants can double in width after they have been pinched back. Deadheading is very important for longer lasting flowers. Deadheading is removing spent blossoms before they can begin to produce seeds, or remove developing seed heads before they mature.