So you got all your summer containers and gardens done, now what? The job of maintaining your garden can seem like an overwhelming one, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow a few simple steps to keep your plants healthy and growing all season long:
When you plant your gardens and containers, you should have already enriched the soil to keep the plants happy, whether you added peat, manure or mushroom compost, but this isn’t necessarily enough. There is a wide variety of plant food and fertilizers out there that help promote healthy plants, no matter what type they are. The best way to figure out which type of fertilizer you need is to look at the type of plant you have and the three magic numbers on any fertilizer’s label.
When you buy fertilizer, it will have a set of numbers that look something like this: '10-5-15' or '10-10-10'. These numbers represent the levels of the three major nutrients contained in the fertilizer represented as 'N-P-K' or 'Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium'.
The first number listed is Nitrogen. This is nutrient makes the plant grow and keeps them green. Phosphorus (P) percentage is the middle number. This is primary nutrient encourages rooting, blooming and fruit production. The last number is Potassium, which helps plants to resist disease and aids in hardiness.
So depending on the type of plant you have, picking a fertilizer with a higher number in that area can help the plant thrive all season long. If you don’t necessarily have one area you want to focus on, there are great general fertilizers, such as Osmocote or Schultz’s All Purpose Plant Food that will treat your plants in all three areas.
Other plants like vegetables, shrubs or trees, need more specific care. Lucky for you, we carry a wide variety of specific fertilizers by Espoma, to add to the soil of these plants that will encourage their growth and help you get the most out of them each season.
2. Dead-Heading & Cutting Back
Do not be afraid of your clippers! Many plants, like alyssum, impatiens, dianthus, violas, pansies, coleus and lobelia get leggy and just don’t look great. This is where your pair of scissors become your best friend. Simply cut these plants back, and while they will be green for a week or two, they will come back thicker, fuller and much happier for you.
While some plants have low-maintenance on their tags, others need some attention. Petunias and verbena are two examples of popular annuals that need to be cleaned on a regular basis to get the most from them during the season. With petunias, many people think that pulling the dead flower head off is enough, but you need to clip off the entire green portion that has the flower. Verbena you simply cut back to the first leaf when it is done blooming.
3. Check for Bugs
Nothing will make a plant more unhappy then slugs, gnats, aphids or other critters chewing on them. The easiest way to diagnose an issue like this is to bring in a leaf of the plant to speak with one of our growers here at the greenhouse. By seeing all sides of the leaf and whether it’s a tear or a bite, they will be able to figure out what you’ve got and what you can get to solve it.
4. Water, Water, Water
The most basic need a plant has, just like humans, is water. Especially during the hot summer months, watering is key to keeping your plants happy and healthy. Plants that are in containers or hanging baskets will need to be watered more frequently than plants in the ground. On hot days here at the greenhouse, we often have to water our baskets twice in one day.
Many times people will not water because they think the rain got it, or that it might rain, but this can be a mistake. Unless it is a heavy or steady rain, Mother Nature won’t do much to help you. But, to avoid the possibility of over-watering, be sure you know what the types of plants you have need. For example, impatiens do not like too much water, in fact they will rot if they get too much. So don’t be too eager to get them with the hose if the soil is still moist. Other plants are more drought-tolerant and don’t need as much water, such as geraniums and lantana.
Also know that any time you plant a perennial, it will need a lot of water to help itself get established during that first year. This will help your new perennials survive the winter and come back healthier next season.
Hopefully these plant maintenance tips will help you have a successful growing season this year, and many to come.