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God's Warrior

Let's Establish a Garden.

Let's Establish a Garden.....

Getting Established

Ever wonder what makes a "well-established plant"? While many gardening terms are self-explanatory, such as "days to germination" or "hardy in Zones 3 through 9," some expressions are a bit more elusive. Perhaps the least understood is the phrase 'once established.' This term refers to the critical period that begins when a plant seed has been sown and continues until that plant is reasonably well-equipped to grow on its own. That period may be as short as a few days or as long as several years.

For many plants sown by seed--in particular, annuals that are planted in the ground--the critical period is relatively short, often no more than a week to 10 days. Because annuals complete an entire life cycle within a year or less, they are able to establish a vigorous root system during a fairly short time.

All annuals sown from seed in the garden--whether vegetable, herb or flower--demand specific maintenance requirements such as regular watering and occasional weeding. You need to maintain a moist soil surface until the seeds germinate. Then, once the plants develop their first set of true leaves, apply mulch around the plants and soak the plants every few days or weekly.

Perennials sown from seed in the garden need a little more attention because they take three years to become truly established. To establish perennials correctly, provide water at least once a week during the growing season, apply nutrients (ideally in the form of compost) once or twice a year, and mulch to conserve moisture and help guard against weeds.

You may need to take additional precautions to protect your plants from damaging pests and diseases. Plants sown from seed directly in the garden fare far better in virtually every respect,including their ability to withstand attack from pests and diseases, than plants that are stuck in the ground as transplants. And again, the reason is simple--no transplant shock.

Because transplants provide gardeners with instant gratification and garden beauty, most people prefer to buy transplants rather than patiently wait for seeds to mature. If you decide on transplants, choose plants in the smallest containers available because smaller plants are far less likely to suffer from transplant shock. Avoid any plants in containers larger than one gallon. Keep in mind, smaller plants are also a lot easier to plant.

Naturally, there are times when you want to purchase plants in larger containers such as 3- to 20-gallon pots of trees and shrubs. However, remember that larger transplants need at least a year to become established, and during that time they need more care. Also try to select transplants that are well-rooted, but not root-bound. Transplants that are root-bound take far longer to become established because the roots continue to grow in a circle. However, you can score and tease the roots of root-bound plants so that they will grow out rather than around.

Do not purchase plants whose top growth has outgrown the container because that indicates that the grower over-fertilized and the plant may not have enough of a root system to support the top growth. Most importantly, you need to plant at the right time, which in most parts of the country is spring or fall or both. These seasons provide the best conditions for establishing healthy plants.

Wow.Thanks, Elena. Most of these things I did not know. May I print this out to keep as a reference in my gardening notebook? I'd sure appreciate it. Also, I'm very new at collecting seed from different plants. How do I know which ones need a "cold spell" to germinate properly? I'd like to learn as much as I can about seed collecting, for I have many beautiful plants which produce seeds, and I'd love to be able to share them with friends. Maybe an idea for a new forum? I could help.

I have a long article SOMEWHERE about that very thing. I believe it is stored on a CD and I might be able to find it an a few days. I don't have the patience to look right now however. Yes, please print that article. I took much of it from someone else's article anyway. I am not quite energetic enough to start from scratch with the articles I post. It would be like writing a theme for school every day and I don't have that much spare time, I am afraid.

That's a very good list of the do's and don'ts. Most of us have had the experience of buying a beautiful looking plant and then getting it home to see that the whole pot is full of roots and there is almost no soil left. That's a good indication that the plant is living on liquid fertilizer. I try to remember to look at the roots before I buy the plants, but in some places the retailer frowns on such inspection and one has to be sneaky, er, ah, discreet about looking. Easy enough to do with a 4 pack of petunias, but more difficult with a large shrub.
God's Warrior

"and one has to be sneaky, er, ah, discreet about looking." I love that! The second choice surely does sound a lot better!

No telling what my poor potted plants would look like if I pulled them out of their pots! Bless their little ole plant hearts, I have meant to re-pot most of them simply forever but can't ever seem to get that job accomplished. "So much to do and so little time!" Whoever said that originally "wasn't just whistling 'Dixie'".

Preparing the planting spot is just as important because in hard soil (like we find in most subdivisions) the soil can be as limiting as the pot, and the roots just find themselves going round and round in a larger space.

Recently I bought some Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) that were very potbound. I had been looking for some all season so I took a chance and bought them anyhow. About 1/3 of the pot was just roots. That came off, the remaining roots were spread out and pruned a bit and the plants went into the ground. So far, so good, but next spring and summer will tell the whole story. I planted them in a group in front of shasta daiseys that grow next to a split rail fence. Johnson's Blue geraniums grow in front of them, it should be a nice combination if they all bloom at once.

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