Planting annuals for the best results

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Annuals are among the most popular varieties of flowers for both beginning and experienced gardeners.  Annuals are known for their hardiness, their ease of growing and of course their bright and vibrant colors.

In addition, annuals are easy to start directly from seed, keeping planting costs to a minimum.  Most types of annuals can be started right from seed by using seed boxes.  The seeds should be started inside, and it is important to provide them with plenty of light and well drained soil as the seedlings are establishing themselves.  After the seedlings have gotten a good start indoors, they are then replanted outside in the garden. 

For those who do not want to grow their annuals from seed, seedlings can be bought directly and transplanted immediately.  This approach is generally more expensive, but it provides a quicker time between planting your flowers and enjoying them.

Whether you start your annuals from seed or buy read made transplants, annuals should be planted to a depth at which the tops of the roots are just below the surface of the soil.  If buying seedlings, it is important to be sure that all fiber, paper, plastic pots and other packing material are removed before the seedlings are planted.  If peat pots are used for transplantation, the top edge of the pots should be removed before they are planted.  This wail help prevent the pot from pulling precious water away from the roots.

If the seedlings have any buds or flowers on them, they should be pinched off when the seedlings are planted.  This will promote greater branching and help the plant grow stronger.  After the seedlings have been transplanted, the plants should be given a good watering.  It is particularly important to provide lots of water in the first few weeks, since the plants are still developing their root structure during this time.  It is essential to provide adequate moisture to get the plants off to a good start.  Even after planting, most annuals require from 1 to 1½ inches of water every week to thrive.  Even more water may be needed in very hot climates or during heat waves in cooler climates.

Sufficient watering is a good way to encourage the deep root system that annuals need in order to thrive.  By watering deeply and thoroughly the gardener can encourage this deep root growth.  The best methods for achieving this deep and thorough watering are soaker hoses and drip irrigation.  In addition, these methods of watering avoid water splashes on the foliage, which can serve as pathways to fungal infections.

Proper mulching is important for annuals to grow properly as well.  Prior to planting, the flower bed should be mulched with a two to three inch layer of pine straw or pine bark.  Mulching serves to conserve the moisture contained in the soil and to reduce the growth of weeds.  A good layer of mulch will shade the seeds of weeds and prevent them from sprouting.  Mulch provides a natural form of weed control and thereby eliminates the need for hand weeding or harsh chemicals to control the growth of weeds.

Fertilization needs vary between varieties of annuals, so it is important to determine the needs of the varieties you purchase.  Some varieties of annuals require more fertilization during their growing season, while others do not. 

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