We visit Tom Rapp, the city horticulturist
in Aiken, South Carolina.
Tom and Dr. Rick show us step by step how to change, design
and install an annual bed. By following these steps you'll
be able to have color in your garden most all of the year.
Most seasonal color is attributed to annuals. There are
annuals and warm season annuals. As we move from spring
to summer we need to get rid of the cool season annuals,
even though they may be looking great. As warmer weather
hits they will fade. Pansies are a
good example. These pansies were chosen because they have
a face, they are bicolor, there are two different colors
to the petal. They have
strong, pure hues. They put on a show up close and they
have good appeal from a distance. They are related to vining
type plants so it is natural for them to get lanky in late
This bed is raised. It allows for good drainage and better
Tom has plenty of organic matter in the bed so it won't
hold a lot of
water and it allows for air to be present.
When removing the pansies or other plants remove as much
of the root
system as possible, yet leave as much soil as possible.
Pull them out,
bump them against the ground, shake them to remove the soil.
It's best not to till the top part of the plant back into
the soil particularly
if you suspect the presence of disease or pests. If mulch
is present from last season, just till it in the mix, it
will decompose and add
organic matter to the bed. Tom likes Pine Bark Nuggets because
they decompose rapidly. One sign that your soil is healthy
is the presence of
Earthworms. You can't add worms to make healthy soil. Earthworms
indicate the soil is very humus, a lot of organic matter
and the right
amount of moisture and air. Tom and Rick like to use a polyethylene
tarp, approximately 8 x 8, to more easily move landscape
around. Tom uses an organic matter that has ground bark,
and sand to make it loose. It will crumble in your hand.
If you can crush
the material and it breaks into several large pieces, it
is good, it's
loamy, completely composted. Tom has planted in 8-10 inches
material, put on top of the soil, and been successful. It
is better if
you work this organic matter into the soil however. A mini-tiller
an essential tool for gardening. The one Tom uses is lightweight,
be carried in one hand, it gets into small areas, you don't
need a large
space for storage, it's two cycle and has a lot of power.
of this tiller are like knives, they slice through the ground
and do a
great job on small roots. When tilling go as deep as possible.
the bed has been prepared before, all we're doing is breaking
up existing soil and evenly distributing the new organic
matter. Make sure the old mulch, that was on the top, is
thoroughly tilled and blended. Once tilled, the bed needs
sculpted, this requires some artistry. Tom uses a rake or
trowel and uniformly shapes the bed. He pulls the soil mix
away from the edge and smoothes the top of the raised bed
keeping it as level as possible. Around the edge he uses
a trowel and scoops out the soil, making a trench. This
trench will keep the mulch from falling onto the sidewalk.
After sculpting Tom fertilizes the bed with a slow release
fertilizer, a 14-14-14. 14% Nitrogen, 14% Phosphorus, 14%
Potassium, it's a balanced fertilizer and slow release.
This fertilizer will last for a season, about 3 or 4 months.
He puts it on the bed like pepper on eggs, then plants.
By putting on top of the soil the roots grow down into the
soil and the fertilizer moves down as well.
Persian Shield, Strobalanthis Dierianis, is a wonderful
full sun to light shade plant. It will grow to 3-4 feet
tall, doesn't mind pinching, actually gets a flower, although
insignificant. It's florescent foliage, purple, vibrant
colors are a great addition to your garden or your container.
Tom uses 6 inch plants. This means a 6 inch standard pot
that is 6 inches deep and 6 inches across. For this location
Tom has chosen Lantana, New Gold which is similar to Gold
Mound. Lantana typically
doesn't have disease problems. This area gets the hot, baking
afternoon sun. On the other side of the building he used
Green Leaf Begonias. They get morning sun which isn't as
hot. When planting annuals pay attention to sun exposure.
Spacing is next addressed. Since these are 6 inch plants
they can be spaced further apart. Factors such as a full
look or cost are are considered in spacing. Lantana will
sprawl and within several weeks will fill in empty spaces.
These will grow to about 2 feet tall. Tom wouldn't put a
6 inch plant any more than 2 feet apart. In this case he
places them about 14-16 inches apart. When selecting plants,
Tom looks for new white root growth at the bottom of the
plant. If the roots are spinning around at the bottom, the
plant could be overgrown and probably won't do well or will
take a long time to establish itself. If the plant is a
good one and the roots aren't spinning around, the roots
shouldn't need to be broken up at the
bottom. When looking at the top of the plant, he looks for
insects on the plant. Also check to see if the plant is
in full bloom or if buds are
present. If not in full bloom the plant hasn't stressed
itself putting energy into blooms. Low branching will make
for a fuller plant. When placing the plants, if by a sidewalk,
he starts at an outer edge, then
staggers the second row if a square or rectangular bed.
This gives a uniform border. Tom leaves the plants in the
container and places them where he thinks they'll look good.
By leaving in the pot if he wants to change location, move
them around, he can easily do so. When planting he doesn't
want the top of the plant to be covered and leaves a little
bit exposed. He will come back with mulch and that will
cover more of the plant. When planting you may see Rollie
Pollie bugs, Saprophyte, they don't do any harm, just leave
them alone. Next Tom adds the mulch. He feels this is one
of the most important steps. He likes a fine ground mulch
for this situation, it goes further, decomposes faster for
organic buildup, it doesn't float and adheres to the soil
better than bigger, mini nuggets. Rick says research shows
that any mulch with different sizes and shapes works best.
When applying, just throw the mulch at the area, try to
cover the soil. For a consistent look make sure you apply
it at least 1 inch thick. This will keep weeds to a minimum
and holds moisture, saving water. In extended periods of
drought Lantana will stop blooming. Tom doesn't pinch the
plants after planting, he feels like the more foliage the
better. If over the season the Lantana gets rangy or lanky
or gets on a sidewalk or in the way Tom would trim it using
a weed eater or sheers. To clean up he sweeps the mulch
and soil back into the bed. Once all this is done the plants
need watering. During the summer they may need water every
other day, if it's very hot and dry possibly every day.
Tom has done a beautiful job.
When the sun is at it's peak, during noon time or the mid
part of the
day a good choice for colors are pure hues. This means no
black, just strong colors. The Purple Wave Petunia is a
It has a strong hue, it wouldn't be good in low light. For
full sun use
Seasonal color means plants that do well during one particular
season. Typically we change out at least twice a year. In
are several things to consider. Importantly consider is
the plant in
sun or shade. For sun consider Star Flower or Pentas, they're
heat tolerant, a sun loving plant. Coleus and Salvia are
other good choices for the sun. Salvia comes in different
colors and is an upright form.
Impatiens are a good choice for shade, they come in many
colors and work well with other plants, such as Caladiums.
In the fall pansies are a standby. Violas come in a lot
of different colors and they don't need to be deadheaded.
Snapdragons work in warmer parts of the country. Flowering
Cabbage, Kale and Parsley add a bold look. Fall plants that
do well in the shade are difficult to find.
If you're looking for color and spice in your garden, don't
a seasonal color. The maintenance requirements and the time
are greater but for the beauty, it's worth it.
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