Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Importance of Deadheading

When touring around this summer i bet you can't help but take notice of all the beautiful flower containers in your community. Have you ever wondered how they get them to grow so big with multitudes of blooms and lush foliage? The bigger question is...how to they keep them like this all season? Some people have had struggles to prevent their plants from fading in mid summer to the point where they just don't bother potting them up anymore. Well, I want to help you with providing a few tricks on how to have your very own annual planters look just as gorgeous as these ones.

Petunia Shockwave Buzz Mix
If you have already planted or bought your planter ready made from a local garden center, which I'm sure most of you have by now, then the plants in the pots should be starting to become well established.  The planters that I'm referring to that are so big and well established were potted up early in the season and kept indoors during cool temperatures for a head start. If you want your planters to look just like these ones, it is encouraged to start  growing them early and indoors.

If you have purchased your own planter that was already designed or bought it at a garden center because you fell in love with the beauty of it, then there is a way that you can keep it like that.  I can honestly say that I have had a number of people ask how they can keep their planters looking just like they bought it early in the season.  It is true that these plants will eventually fade since they are annuals. Annuals of all types get tired putting energy into old stems.


The above you tube video that is linked to our own Vesey's Seeds youtube channel, shows how you can rejuvenate your containers with key tips before you begin so that you will have a beautiful display all season long without the guess work of sheering your plants back.

When you set out to either plant or purchase your containers, be sure that you have a pot that will best suit the amount and types of plants you want. Size of pots is so important to allow for proper growing conditions. You will need to consider practical components such as good air circulation which lessons build of moldy stems and allows ample space for healthy root establishment and growth.  Plants that grow in height are better suited in containers that will be set on your deck. Annuals that have a creeping, pendulum, or hanging habit are best suited in a hanging basket or mounted in window boxes.

Upon purchasing your container or buying a planter that was ready grown, be sure there are holes in the bottom. You may ask why should there be holes, won't soil and roots come out of the bottom? This would be true if the holes were too big, but when I suggest holes I am referring to holes that are just the right size to allow enough water to drain so that when you water your plants they aren't sitting in standing water. Proper drainage equals healthy plants which leads to the next key component in a successful and beautiful container and that is...SOIL.

Choose soil that is well-drained. There's that term again that gets used so much here, well-drained. I can't stress enough that proper drainage is so important no matter where you have plants. Investing in good quality soil is so important because when you think of it, these plants will remain in that medium for the whole season.  Over the course of the season you may also find soil levels retreat or become compact. You can choose to change the soil or even top it up taking care not to disturb the roots too much. Follow the same practices for outdoor plants as you would for indoor house plants. They both benefit from well-drained pots and good quality soil, and with this brings me to my next suggestion of addition of fertilizer.

Whether you have flowers or veggies in containers they will need to be fed as this also ties in with dead-heading. If you find your blooms or tips of your plants are dying back sooner then you think, or have somewhat of a yellow cast to their foliage, then maybe it's time to give them some food. Just like us, plants get hungry too, they work so hard at putting on a good display and use up loads of energy. Addition of fertilizer at this time is beneficial and will help your plants reach their full potential that they are capable of. In the beginning stages applications should be made each week to ten days.

If you are growing vegetables in containers, then you can use fertilizers such as a natural fish emulsion or seaweed types. These fertilizers are very natural and can be safely used on any type of vegetable as shown above. For pots such as flowers or small potted shrubs, it is recommended to use a balanced fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 or even a 20-20-20. When I refer to balanced it simply means that all three of the main macro-nutrients are the same. If you are wondering what the Macro-nurtients are and the order they are arranged on each label they read Nitrogen, followed by Phosphorus and Potassium. Nitrogen releases nutrients into the soil that provides your plants with that nice green, lush foliage.  Nitrogen also is essential for the health of your plants as they develop and are nutritious and delicious. If you notice that especially the new leaves as well as the mature ones of your plants have a  yellowish cast to them, this is likely the beginning stages of low nitrogen.

Next on the list of fertilizer calibrations is Phosphorus. What phosphorus provides our plants with is the ability to use and store energy.  I'm sure you have all heard of the big fancy word photosynthesis, especially back in high school biology. Well with the availability and uptake of phosphorus, it allows this process to naturally occur.  Photosynthesis is also critical in the growth and success of a healthy plant. Signs and symptoms of low Phosphorus is shown generally on the edges of the leaves. They will turn purple and may even curl as Phosphorus becomes less readily available.

Beginning stages of low Phosphorus
Leaf edges will eventually start to turn brown and take on a dried up look
Next and last on the list of building your plants fertility is Potassium.  What Potassium does for your plants is that it provides it with the ability to resist diseases as well as promotion of successful blooms that later result in successful yields of vegetables and fruit. The plants that you have seen on display and loaded with multitudes of blooms obviously have a great reserve of Potassium in their soil. Another great characteristic of Potassium is that it protects the plant when unfavorable weather conditions arise or persist, which can happen almost every summer. Whether the weather is cold,damp or dry, which happens a lot, especially here in the Maritime's, Potassium strengthens the root system and will help increase its resilience under stressful growing conditions.
Lack of Potassium
Some of you may have either heard of deadheading or even pinching back your plants. There actually is a difference between the two. Pinching back is generally done when the plants are young as well as for the purpose of keeping the plants from becoming too tall and leggy while growing indoors. Pinching back removes the growing tips off the small and developing leaves on the stems of each individual plant. This will force more lateral growth and as a result your plants will become well branched and lush. When we use the term deadheading we are referring to the actual removal of the spent bloom along with the short growing stem each individual bloom comes from. When you pick the bloom off you will notice there is a seed head just beneath it.  If this seed head is left, your plants will put all the energy into the seed and stop blooming.  These seed heads and a part of the stem will need to be pinched off as soon as each bloom wilts or fades.  You can see as shown in the picture below as well as demonstrated on our Vesey's Seeds youtube video

When it comes to deadheading your plants, it really is very simple. As you go into your garden for day to day maintenance or relaxation, pulling off a few of these old blooms each day will result with a more healthy and longer lasting display. Some people may even think of this task as therapy. If you happen to go away during the summer and come back to your plants in need of care, then you can try shearing them back as also demonstrated in the Vesey's Seeds Youtube video.
If you would rather not have plants that require this type of maintenance then you can choose plants such as begonias as an example. These plants are "self cleaning", kind of comparable to a self cleaning oven, it looks after itself. In all seriousness these plants drop their blooms and won't need any type of pinching back or deadheading. These plants come in all different types and will still give you that stunning display that you are looking for.

Once your plants, whether its flowers or vegetables, mature and you have kept up maintenance, they will provide you with great results to last the whole season and you will be able to have piece of mind in knowing in the following years you will continue with successful gardens.


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