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Container “Refresher” Course

“Taken its toll” is a phrase that pops up in my mind around this time of year, and summer has done just that to some of my flower filled containers! They’re looking a little frazzled, due to either the summer heat or the soaking rains during the season. They could barely take a breath and drain quick enough before the next storm! With some, the soil was so soggy I had to drag the containers under the eaves of the house to help them dry out a bit. But, through it all, those hard working annuals have now…just about exhausted themselves! So, in order for them to remain that “focal point” I talked about in my last article, My View from Here, now is the time to give those flowers a little sprucing up!

Begin by following these steps:

  1. First and foremost, continue to fertilize them. Nutrients in the soil are always being washed out, by either watering or rain, and they need to be replenished…so feed them well!
  2. Prune or cut back the stems of leggy flowering plants, such as Petunias, by one third to one half. This will encourage them to branch out more by sending out new shoots for flowers to bloom on. This can also be done, as needed, right through the summer season.
  3. Now, deadhead and pinch back the old flowers, stems, and leaves on the plants. Don’t forget to clean up those that have fallen on the soil at the base of the plants. When pinching off the old flowers, for example on the Petunias, make sure to also pinch back the small stem the flower was seated in. Don’t leave it on the plant or it will set seed, since that is a sign for the plant to stop flowering.
  4. Some plants will lose their vigor and will need to be pulled out completely. Replace them with the “plant du jour”, meaning the *late summer plants that are available at the garden market at this time, that will take you through the rest of the season. When replacing plants, try not to disturb the roots of the others too much and remember to give the new plants a drink of water. *Note: Spring plants are not available anymore and it’s too early to replace them with cooler season plants, although autumn is creeping up on us fast! That being said, there are a few late summer plants that get rave reviews from me. These can be found at garden centers to plant now, or online for spring or fall planting. An annual, Zinnia, is planted in the spring. These seeds will provide blooms from midsummer on. Two perennials, Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan) and Phlox, can be planted in the fall to enjoy the following year.
  5. And, last but not least, sometimes there will be a plant that never quite got up to speed with the rest of them and has become smothered by the overgrowth of the others. Give it a second chance and move it to where it has more room to grow.

Okay, so it takes a little work to complete these steps and, after all is done, it will take your plants a week or two to start to come around. After that, they’ll be refreshed and “stay the course” for the rest of the season!

The best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow. ~author unknown~