There’s no better way to enliven a landscape than with colorful flower beds. Flowering plants are especially effective when planted alongside a foundation wall, fence line, patio, front porch, retaining wall, or pathway.
Flower beds typically contain three types of plants: perennials, which bloom each year for several years; annuals, which bloom, seed, and die all in a single season; and biennials, which bloom after two years and then die. You don’t have to be a botanist to realize that perennials require less tending than annuals, which must be dug up and replaced every year. Annuals are often rotated throughout the growing season. For example, many gardeners plant early-blooming annuals in the spring, which fade and die around Labor Day, and then replace them with other annuals that will last until the first frost. In warmer regions, you can often plant a third time for producing flowers late into winter.
There isn’t a single approach to flower-bed maintenance—there are simply too many different varieties of flowering plants. But here are some general rules that can be applied to nearly any flower bed.
Serious gardeners use different fertilizers to feed various plants, though you can get excellent results using an all-purpose plant food. As a general rule, apply fertilizer before periods of rapid growth or flowering. Granular fertilizers are best used when preparing the flower bed in the spring and fall. Liquid fertilizers are best when applied after planting.
Many experienced flower gardeners recommend using a balanced fertilizer: one containing equal percentages of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, such as a 10-10-10 blend. If you apply a fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen, a common mistake, the plants will have great-looking leaves but produce fewer flowers.
Mulch comes in many forms, including shredded bark, wood chips, pebbles, and cocoa-bean husks. Spread fine mulch, such as pebbles or husks, to a depth of 2 or 3 inches. Coarser mulch, such as bark or wood chips, should be spread at least 3 or 4 inches deep. After application, pull the mulch a couple of inches away from each plant to allow fresh air to reach the base of the plant.
Note, too, that recycled mulch is now available in many communities. Made from partially composted green waste, recycled mulch keeps valuable organic matter out of landfills, and it’s cheaper than commercial mulch.
Mulch is commonly available in 2- and 3-cubic-foot bags or in bulk from garden shops. To determine how many bags of mulch you need for your garden, consider this: A 2-cubic-foot bag covers approximately 6 square feet when spread 4 inches deep. A 3-cubic-foot bag of mulch covers 9 square
An effective solution to overcrowding is to use dwarf species, which can be placed closer together than taller versions of the same plant. For example, the popular and colorful annual snapdragon must be planted 14 to 16 inches apart. However, dwarf variety snapdragons can be spaced as close together as 8 inches.Next we will show you how to combine flowers with aquaponics, a very useful way to grow plants and veggies