Perennial Flowers

Echinaceea Ch7

HINT FOR

Perennials like the same soil as most other plants: well drained, evenly moist, enriched with ample organic matter, and with a good balance of nutrients. Since it's not as easy to build the soil around existing plants, it Replenishing Organic Matter pays to prepare beds well before planting.

bertuizing dressing and mulching are your

Light feeders should get only compost eacn year. Average ana neavy optjons for replenishing organic feeders will benefit from a little fertilizer. Avoid too much nitrogen, matter in existing perennial beds, though; you'll get floppy plants that require staking, as well as fewer Try t0 spread an inch of compost flowers. (Light feeders growing in rich soil will also get floppy.) Scratch or aged manure over the bed, or at granules into the soil around plants, working carefully to avoid disturb- least around every plant, each year, ing roots. Covering with an inch of compost has the same effect as mix- Unless slugs, snails, and/or damping fertilizer an inch deep. Or use a liquid fertilizer. ness are major problems, keep As soon as new growth appears in spring, feed with a balanced, Plant$ mulched to maintain even lower-nitrogen fertilizer such as 2-4-2 or 5-10-5. Slow-release and organic soil moisture, keep down weeds, formulas are best — smaller amounts are released steadily over a longer and help suppiy organic matter period of time. If the label gives no specific recommendations for flow'ers, use at half the rate recommended for vegetables. Use either foliar feeding or sidedressing to give heavy feeders a midseason boost.

Perennials with an exceptionally long bloom season (over six wreeks) benefit from an additional boost. Give them a foliar feeding of compost tea, half-strength liquid seaweed, or one-quarter-strength balanced liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks through their blooming period.

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Good drainage is even more essential for bulbs than it is for perennials. It's the most important factor to ensure many years of reliable blooms.

Most bulbs respond well to annual feedings of compost and no additional fertilizer. If you want to add fertilizer, consider one of the special formulas for bulbs. The most common of these is a synthetic blend with a formula of 9-9-6. especially good for tulips, which contains nitrogen in a slow-release form. A good organic bulb fertilizer with a formula of 5-10-12 is also available. Daffodils prefer 5-10-20, but this formula is hard to find. Bonjemeal isn't the best bulb fertilizer because it may attract animals. Also, research has shown that, as for Bulbs processed today, bonemeal is relatively low in nutrients.

If you do add fertilizer when planting make s either organic or a slow-release formula to avoid bu bulb roots. Mix it into the soil below bulbs and cov at least an inch of unfertilized soil.

Fall is the best time for feeding existing p Use a slow-release or organic formula and scratch the soil (or cover with a 1 -inch lopdressing of keep it from washing away. Summer-bloom such as lilies, should instead be fertilized shoots emerge in spring.

Soil Care

Good drainage is even more essential for bulbs than it is for perennials. It's the most important factor to ensure many years of reliable blooms.

Most bulbs respond well to annual feedings of compost and no additional fertilizer. If you want to add fertilizer, consider one of the special formulas for bulbs. The most common of these is a synthetic blend with a formula of 9-9-6. especially good for tulips, which contains nitrogen in a slow-release form. A good organic bulb fertilizer with a formula of 5-10-12 is also available. Daffodils prefer 5-10-20, but this formula is hard to find. Bonjemeal isn't the best bulb fertilizer because it may attract animals. Also, research has shown that, as for Bulbs processed today, bonemeal is relatively low in nutrients.

If you do add fertilizer when planting make s either organic or a slow-release formula to avoid bu bulb roots. Mix it into the soil below bulbs and cov at least an inch of unfertilized soil.

Fall is the best time for feeding existing p Use a slow-release or organic formula and scratch the soil (or cover with a 1 -inch lopdressing of keep it from washing away. Summer-bloom such as lilies, should instead be fertilized shoots emerge in spring.

most most

iicrits to oiia1 soil

Soil Needs of Some Perennials

Heavy Feeders

Bearded iris* (his spp.) oo

Bee balm* (Monarda didyma) oooo

Cardinal flower*

  • Lobelia cardinalis) ooooo Chrysanthemums*
  • Dendranthema spp.) ooo Clematis (iClematis spp.) ooo Delphinium (Delphinium) ooo Lilies (Lilium spp.) ooo Monkshoods {Aconitum spp.) oooo Peony (Paeonia spp.) ooo Phlox* (Phlox pamculata,
  1. maculata) ooo Tree peony (Paeonia suffruii-
  2. ooo Turtleheads* (Chelone spp.) oooo

* Plants that don 't require another feeding but respond well to one

Average Feeders

Alliums {Allium spp.) ooo Asters {Aster spp.) oooo Baby's breaths (Gypsophila spp.) ooo Balloon (lower (Platycodon grandiflorus) ooo Baptisias (Baptisia spp.) ooo Bellflowers (Campanula spp.) ooo Bergenias (Bergenia spp.) oooo Butterfly weed (Asckpias tuberosa) o Catmints (Nepeta spp.) oo Columbines (Aquilegia spp.) oo Coral bell (Heuchera sanguínea) ooo Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.) oo Cranesbills (Geranium spp.) ooo Daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.) oo Ferns (many species) oooo Fleabane (Erigeron speciosus) ooo Foxgloves (Digitalis spp.) ooo Gayfeathers (Liatris spp.) oo Helenium (Helenium autumnale) oooo Hostas (Hosta spp.) oo Japanese anemone (Anemone japónica) oooo Lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) ooo Lamium (¡.Minium maculatum)oo Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) oooo Lungworts (Pulmonaria spp.) oooo Lupines (Lupinus spp.) ooo Mallows (Malva spp.) ooo Pincushion flowers (Scabiosa spp.) oo Pinks (Dianthus spp.) oo Poppies (Papaver spp.) ooo Red-hot-poker (Kniphofia uvarium) ooo

Solomon's seals

(Polygonalinn spp.) oooo Spiderwort (Tradescanlia x andersoniana) ooo Stokes aster (Stokesia lacvis) oo Sunflowers (Hetianthas spp.) ooo Veronicas {Veronica spp.) oo light Feeders

Artemisias (Artemisia spp.) oo Basket-of-gold (Aurinia saxatilh) o Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida) ooo Blanket flowers (Gaillardia spp.) o Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) ooo Cinquefoils (Potentilla spp.) oo Kpimediums (Epimedium spp.) ooo Evening primroses (Oenothera spp.) oo Golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria) o Jupiter's beard (Centranthus ruber) oo Lamb's-ear (Stachys lanata) ooo Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) oooo Prickly pear (Opuntia hianifusa) oo Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) oo Rock cresses (Aubretia, Arabis spp.) oo Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) oo Salvias (Salvia spp.) ooo Sea hollies (Eryngium spp.) o Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum) oo Soapworts (Saponaria spp.) oo Stonecrops (Sedion spp.) ooo Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) oo Thrifts (Armeria spp.) o Verbenas (Verbena spp.) o Yarrows (Achillea spp.) oo Yuccas (Yucca spp.) o S

o « very well-drained (dries quickly) oo = moderate to well-drained ooo «= moderately well-drained oooo ~ moist to well-drained ooooo «= constantly moist (not wet)

Unhealthy Yucca Plant

Since most lawn grasses are under constant stress from less-than-ideal soils, lawns respond well to soil-building efforts. Grass in compacted soil that's low in organic matter will build up thatch, because there are few earthworms and other organisms to break down the thatch. Once it gets over % inch thick, thatch blocks air circulation to the soil and keeps water from soaking in. further reducing populations of soil organisms. Eventually, water may puddle on lawns, causing disease problems.

Lawns with compacted soil are more prone to pests. Treating these symptoms rather than the underlying cause —• unhealthy soil - may just intensify the problem. Pesticides kill soil organisms as well as pests, but killing soil organisms impairs soil health and therefore makes grass even more susceptible to insects and diseases.

Restoring Soil Life and Organic Matter

The first steps to a lush, low-maintenance lawn are hard to separate — restore soil life and restore organic matter levels. To restore soil life, create the same conditions that promote good grass growth: soil that's slightly acidic (pH 6.5) with good drainage, good aeration, and a good nutrient balance. Test your soil to see which nutrients are out of balance and add only those nutrients that are lacking. Fix drainage problems (see chapter 7). Rent an aerator (power lawn corer) to increase aeration for the short term; adding organic matter and restoring soil life will help in the long term.

When to Start Over

If your grass is really thin or weeds are really thick, it may be faster to start all over again. Two plantings of buckwheat (or buckwheat and rye) will get rid of weeds while adding lots of organic matter. If you don't want to go the green manure route, turn a 1- to 2-inch layer of organic matter into the top 4 or 5 inches of soil before reseeding. Check for underlying hardpan and use a broadfork if you find any.

DID YOU KNOW

How to Mistreat a Lawn

The soil around houses is mistreated long before the homeowner arrives. Topsoil is usually removed during house construction, to be sold for a good price with just a little remaining pushed to one side. Building codes may require compaction of soil around the foundation to reduce settling of the finished house. Bulldozers and trucks contribute more compaction. No wonder grass has a hard time growing in the thin topsoil spread after construction!

Ordinary- wear and tear also compact soils. Kids cut across the lawn or play ball on it, and people drive over it. Even mowing can compact wet, clay soils. Top-dressing with organic matter, once standard practice, went out of fashion as special lawn fertilizers became popular. Removing grass clippings combined with lack of topdressing causes gradual depletion of organic matter, which just makes soils more susceptible to compaction. To avoid mistreating your lawn, follow the suggestions at right.

Including white clover in your lawn can reduce nitrogen needs by up to one-third. (Remember to use the right inoculant.)

Organic Gardeners Composting

Organic Gardeners Composting

Have you always wanted to grow your own vegetables but didn't know what to do? Here are the best tips on how to become a true and envied organic gardner.

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