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Garden Guru: Summer plant maintenance

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Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- Garden Guru Emilio "Elmo" Telles

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- Garden Guru Emilio "Elmo" Telles

Spring is the most popular time for gardeners to flock to their favourite nursery to shop for their gardens, raised bed, and hanging basket gardening. Here comes the summer heat and those spring annuals are getting a little “tired” looking and need a boost of care.

Wait, just to clarify. Annual bedding plants(for instance petunias, marigolds, cosmos,pansies,  and snapdragons ), start from seed and last for a year. As opposed to perennials like (geraniums, dusty miller, agapanthus,daylilies, etc. will last three years or more).

Spring planted annuals have finished their spring blooming glory and have taken a break the past couple weeks. Now is the time to “freshen” them up. Petunias especially get a little “rangy” looking, lose their blooms, and get a light green leaf color. Some people will just remove them and throw them out and get new ones.
But, the trick is pinch off the old blooms and you can even get some garden scissors and give the longer/tall stems a small haircut about 2-3 inches down. Out of all the bedding plants, petunias  like to be fed either a granular type of fertilizer(for large beds)–WATER right after application!

Or if a smaller ares or containers, a water-soluble Miracle-Gro or Super Bloom fertilizer type that you mix with water is easier and faster acting. Don’t get too “heavy-handed” with those fertilizers because you will burn the plants and then you really will be buying new plants instead of rejuvenating them!

Plants like marigolds(my favourite!) are easy, too. Just pinch off the spent blooms and they will send out side blooms after a little cleanup. Just get rid of the icky blooms, no need to trim like the petunias.

Lobelia and vinca are also popular annuals in the garden and those will thrive after a “haircut” straight across the plant, just about a third from the top. Do not prune down to the ground, unless you have another $3.00 for a new 6-pack of plants!

With the hot summer days lately, I’m walking my Golden Retriever, Danica, and  I see alot of my neighbors watering way to much! I have recommended that some of them use a mulch like shredded bark or bark nuggets and they’re yards are doing better than ones having exposed soil between plants.

Here’s the deal, if you are watering like I recommend, deep watering so you can tell that the water is going down to the roots, there is a method you can use to determine if you need to water. Just check the soil surface every day and if the top of the soil looks moist, check later in the day when you get home from work! If it is still wet you don’t have to water — if its dry, then sprinkle away.

Container plants might need a bit more water than bedding flowers. The easiest way to check is by the weight. The pot feels heavier after watering. As the soil dries out, the potted plant gets lighter.

We’ll talk about summer bugs and pests next!


Emilio “Elmo” Telles is a garden expert at Armstrong Garden Centers 5816 San Fernando Road, Glendale  91202.

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