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All About Annuals

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(ARA) - If you're planning to tackle some lawn and garden activities, more than likely, you'll be planting. If you want plants that come to flower quickly, provide a long season of blooms and require little more than sunlight and water, annuals are the way to go.

To help lawn and gardening enthusiasts get the most out of their annuals with minimal work, Ames True Temper, a leading manufacturer of non-powered garden tools, offers the following guidelines:

Choosing Between Annuals and Perennials
Perennial plants grow and spread for years, whereas annuals live for only one year. Because they're a permanent addition to a garden, the initial cost of perennials is greater than annuals. Annuals, on the other hand, serve as a one-season splash of color, bloom almost immediately and continue to do so until the first frost. So, in the long run annuals are more costly because they must be replaced each year. However, the benefit of annuals is that they provide you with the freedom of easily changing the color scheme of your landscape and garden from year-to-year.

Selecting Healthy Annuals
Once you've decided to proceed with planting annuals, it's important to select healthy plants. You can grow annuals from seed, but if you plan to buy plants that are already set to bloom (green-house raised seedlings), be certain to choose them carefully. Most garden centers offer information with each plant regarding specific soil, sunlight and wind conditions needed, as well as watering requirements.

Look for deep green plants and avoid those that are spindly and housed in cell-packs, as this usually means they've been in the packs too long. Also, check the leaves and stems for signs of disease and take the plants out of the pot to check the roots. Roots should be firm and white, without spirals or kinks.

Preparing the Soil
Improper soil nutrients and conditions can stunt or kill annual flowers. Avoid planting them in poorly drained areas where water pools after heavy rains. Most annuals also do best in soil that has a pH range of 6.0 to 7.4. So, before working in your gardening beds use a home soil test kit to check the pH levels then enrich the soil as necessary by adding lime sulfur. Once the pH levels are addressed, spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost and cultivate it at least 8 to 12 inches deep.

Planting
Before you plant your seedlings be sure that the plants have been hardened off, or gradually transitioned from their relatively sheltered life in the green house to the outside elements. This can be done by moving them outside for longer periods of time each day until they can remain safely outdoors. If you don't, your plants could die from the sudden changes in temperatures and elements.

Before you plant, be certain to weed the area, loosen the soil where you will be planting and dig a hole large enough to accommodate the root system. Here's a great planting trick that professional landscapers use to save time and effort -- rather than using a scooping motion to remove soil they typically "stab and separate" the ground in one quick motion. This technique is easier and faster than digging the traditional way by scooping out the dirt.

A new tool that's ideal for this task is the 7-in-1 Planter's Buddy from True Temper. Its large stainless steel blade offers a curved design that allows home gardeners to utilize the tool much like professional landscapers do. It's also a multi-tasking tool and features combination straight and serrated edges, so you can use it for splitting open soil or mulch bags, weeding, cutting twine or even sod without ever needing to reach for another tool. On the front and side are 12-inch measurement markings for easy measuring of distance when planting. And a poly tamper on the end makes it easy to tamp down wood stakes, markers, or even fertilizer spikes.

Maintaining Annuals
Although annuals bring unique and colorful beauty to a garden, they do require a significant amount of maintenance. To continue blooming throughout the season, they must receive careful attention. Most annuals need plenty of water so keep watch on the soil. If it dries out, thoroughly soak it when watering, don't just wet the surface. Also try to keep the foliage dry since too much moisture on the blooms or leaves can contribute to disease.

Another important task is deadheading, or removing flowers once they begin to fade. Walking through the garden on a weekly basis and removing spent blooms will help annuals flower longer.

By following these tips you'll ensure your garden will be bursting with color for the entire summer. But most importantly, once the work is complete be sure to sit back, relax and soak up the beauty of your efforts.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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