Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

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When can I plant my annuals?

Before planting annuals, make sure you have selected annuals that are suitable for your chosen location. Remember, many annuals need full sun to grow and flower well. You may also want to have a soil test.

Once you find suitable plants, prepare the soil well. Add 2-4 inches of organic matter to the soil. Organic matter can be peat moss, aged manure, leaf mold or compost. Also, add fertilizer at the rate recommended in your soil test or at a rate of 2 lbs of 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 square feet of flower bed. Work the organic matter and fertilizer into the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches. After preparing the soil, let it settle for a week before planting.

If you have started plants indoors, harden them off before planting outdoors. This process prepares tender seedlings and transplants for the harsh outdoor environment. It takes about 2 weeks.

To harden plants, place them in a somewhat shaded area outdoors and gradually expose them to longer durations of light over a two week period. Reduce watering and do not fertilize again until planting time.

To plant, dig a small hole with a trowel or shovel. Remove the plants from the containers and slit or gently spread the root system. This loosens the root ball and promotes faster rooting. For plants in peat pots, remove the upper lip of the container. This lip, if above the soil line, will act as a wick and dry out the root system. Slitting the sides of peat pots is also beneficial. Cover the roots with soil but do not plant too deep. Covering the root ball with up to 1/2 inch of soil is adequate. Gently firm the soil around the plants and water. Use a starter or transplant solution, or a diluted mixture of water and fertilizer. Follow label directions.

Planting is best done late in the afternoon or early evening when temperatures are cooler. The plants will not dry out as quickly and initial transplanting shock will be reduced. Water the plants frequently for 10 days to 2 weeks until they are established. Then, gradually lengthen the time between waterings to once or twice a week.