By Wendy Aycoth
Glory be, it is finally warm enough to move the houseplants outside and get the annuals in the ground without worry!
If you are buying your plants, now you can go to town with the marigolds, zinnias, coleus, ageratum, begonias and any other annuals putting them directly into the flowerbeds or in tubs. You can even put out your tomatoes, melons, cucumbers and squash. It is a good idea to plant some seeds directly into the ground for tomatoes, marigolds and zinnias so that you will have a continuation of flowers and fruit, when the first plants you put in begin to fade.
Put cages or stakes in the same time you plant your tomatoes, you will prevent damage to the root at a later time. Do the same for your dahlias, delphiniums and any other tall growing plants. If instead you started your seeds in the house or greenhouse, protect your little plants when you first take them outside from the direct sun. Keep them in a shady place to allow them to harden off for a couple of days, and don’t forget to water on a regular basis because all plants need more water when outside, whether in the sun or not. Plastic or glazed potted plants don’t evaporate as quickly as those in terracotta pots, but they do feel the heat more intensely. This year I am using the clay pellets that are used for hydroponic grown plants, on the top of my tubs, so that when it rains or I water, the soil doesn’t splash out. The clay also looks very attractive.
I have seen many people already putting out the mulch. A word of warning, it is best to mulch for the summer after the soil has warmed, and never, never stack the mulch up the bark of trees. Hollow the mulch out around the trunk, where the rain will be able to pool, but more importantly you won’t rot the bark and kill the tree. Also if you plan to plant seeds directly into the ground, don’t mulch in that spot.
The chrysanthemums are now actively growing, they need a lot of water and fertilizer, and you can cut them down at least once a week to 6″ until 4th July! Then stop cutting back, but continue feeding and watering, this will give the plants eight weeks to set blossoms for the fall. You will be rewarded by the most perfectly full round plants that are loaded with flowers. If you have sweet potato vines in hanging baskets or tubs, you can trim them back to encourage fuller growth, and the pieces you cut off can be rooted in water very easily, thus increasing your number of plants. Remember in the fall to dig up the sweet potato and dry in the sun, pack it in dry peat moss and keep it frost free for the winter.
Just about anything can be grown from a cutting. The Spring is the time to take softwood cuttings. Take off all leaves but one, remove any flowers, dip the stem in Rootone powder, make a hole in the soil, and put the cutting in the hole and press the soil around it. Place under a bush outside and leave it until the end of the summer. Prepare to be amazed. Take time this summer to enjoy the fruits of your labours, a comfortable chair, shady spot, a book and an iced drink, what could be finer. ‘Til next time.