Flower Pots and Annuals

I got a packet of seeds in the mail the other day, Parisian Pink French Larkspur from Renee’s Garden. It reminded me that a February thaw is a good time to sow early spring annuals seeds. For years I’ve had annual poppies, larkspur and nigella seedlings appear on their own each spring from sowings I made long ago. They are prolific reseeders that do best in cool weather.

I sowed them originally in the fall, as they do best when they’ve had cold weather to hasten germination in early spring. I’ve also sowed them in February, in a clean seedbed with no mulch over it. Packet directions say to cover seed ½ inch deep and firm the soil, but I’ve had luck with just sprinkling the seeds on top of the soil and letting them take care of themselves.

Cleome seeds also germinate well with a fall or late winter sowing. The plants take longer to come up than the others mentioned and prefer blooming in the heat of summer. So hit the seed racks at your local garden center now or order catalog seeds if you have a good spot for sowing these. All prefer full sun, but will bloom with five to six hours of afternoon sun each day.

Most people know the annual golden-orange Black-Eyed Susan vine, a great trellis climber in a sunny spot. Last year, we tried a lemon yellow Black-Eyed Susan vine appropriately called ‘Lemon A-Peel’, and it was a very strong grower. Proven Winners says it will grow 5 to 8 feet in a season, and it certainly more than covered a small trellis quickly.

I’ll be starting to plant early spring flower pots at the end of March, as soon as frost tolerant plants, like pansies, become available. First, I’ll haul out my flower pots on a fairly warm day and give them a scrub down with a mild cleanser, like Soft Scrub, with bleach in it. This will kill any lingering bacteria on the pots and my plants will start the year with clean pots and potting mix. I clean the pots and change the mix once a year, though I’ll replace the early spring annuals with summer and then fall flowering ones and cut greens for the winter.

You can also make your own bleach solution, using 1 part bleach to 32 parts water and use a scrub brush to apply it. Whichever you use, be sure to rinse the pots thoroughly before adding potting mix.

For those of you with terracotta pots that have white crusts on the outside, you can soak your pots for a few hours in a vinegar solution to remove the crusts. Use one part vinegar to 16 parts water and then use a scrub brush on them.

The white crust may reflect the fact that you have hard water, but is often a sign that you are overfertilizing your plants. It’s better to administer liquid fertilizers in weaker doses more often than full strength at longer intervals. Plants will be able to use the fertilizer you’re applying more efficiently and will grow more evenly.

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