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Gardening with Laurie: Time to prepare for hot weather plants

May 5, 2010 at 12:05 a.m.

By Laurie Garretson

Here we are in May, the time we transition from cooler temperatures to the really hot days of summer.

By now, those cool season annuals that you might still have in some of your flowerbeds are probably beginning to look a bit worn out. Temperatures are getting too warm for these cool season plants.

It's time to get hot weather annuals planted. While the temperatures are still bearable, take advantage of it and get to planting.

After cleaning out all the annuals from a bed, it's worth the trouble to then properly prepare the bed for the warm weather plants. Proper prep work leads to successful gardening.

The first thing you need to do is to clean out all weeds and any unwanted vegetation from the bed. Spread 3 to 4 inches of compost and some granular organic fertilizer over the cleaned out bed and lightly till it in.

You don't want to do much tilling because tilling could bring up all kinds of dormant seeds that were in the soil. Once any seed is brought up to the surface, you know what happens next, they sprout. Unfortunately, what sprouts is usually some form of unwanted weeds.

After the compost and fertilizer has been added and worked in, take a stiff rake and smooth out the soil. Now you're ready to plant.

Make your plant selections according to the location of your planting area. Know how much sun the area will receive and how well the soil will drain.

You would not want to plant shade-loving plants in an area that gets full sun all afternoon. And if the area tends to hold moisture for a while after watering, your plant selection needs to be based on this condition.

Knowing the answer to these issues will help with your plant selections. If you are unsure of which plants do well in the conditions that you have always ask someone who knows.

When planting from transplants first check out the root systems of each little plant. If there seems to be a solid mass of roots, slightly loosen the root mass. This will encourage the roots to spread out in all directions. Never plant any of the transplants any deeper than they where in the containers they came in.

Check the spacing requirements on the plant tag and place accordingly, keeping in mind that in our area, annuals tend to grow larger than the tags says.

After planting, water the new bed well and apply a layer of mulch. Spread the mulch all around each plant and the soil surface.

Do not leave any soil bare. Bare soil is only an invitation for weeds. As your young transplants grow and mature, be sure to increase the mulch depth to 3 or 4 inches. This amount will help to keep moisture in the soil and to keep the roots cooler.

Thoroughly water the newly-planted area. New plants will require daily watering for a couple of weeks to get established and then water as needed.

As the temperatures rise, the soil will dry out faster. Try to water deeply when you do water, instead of watering lightly for a few minutes.

Water in the early morning hours when possible. If you are unsure when to water, use your handy "finger-gauge." Stick your index finger into the soil and if the soil is dry down to your first knuckle get out the garden hose.

Once a month, feed the bed and enjoy the beauty it provides you all season.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.


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