Gardening Basics For Dummies, 3rd Edition
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Taking proper care of garden annuals isn't difficult. For the most part, annuals are easygoing because they're bred to be quite tough and durable. Grooming your flower garden on a regular basis will reward you with a lush, colorful display. Develop a routine — walk around your garden in the morning or early evening to see what needs your attention, do some light maintenance, or just cut a few blossoms to enjoy indoors.

Here are some tips for caring for your annuals:

  • Water is an annual's number one need: All that lusty growth and continuous flowering requires fuel. A thirsty plant can't sustain the show for long. Regular, deep soakings are best because they reliably supply water to the roots, which leads to a stress-free life of consistent growth and bud and bloom production.

  • Regular doses of plant food significantly boost your annuals. The leaves become healthier and greener, and you end up with more buds and flowers.

  • Deadhead your annuals regularly: Your annuals look nicer when you do this, of course, but removing the flowers also thwarts the plant from the energy-intensive process of producing seeds, and the plant responds by diverting its energy back into making more flowers.

  • Pinch back top growth to encourage bushy growth: To keep annuals from getting too leggy, you may want to pinch or shear them a couple of times early in the season. This process is called pinching because you can actually pinch off the top of each stem between your thumb and forefinger — but using scissors or pruning shears can be quicker and easier.

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Steven A. Frowine is a noted professional horticulturist and a longtime avid gardener and communicator. The National Gardening Association is the leading garden-based educational nonprofit organization in the United States, providing resources at garden.org and kidsgardening.org.

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