Make Your Garden Colorful This Winter
This article describes some tips to brighten up your garden this winter.This is the time to tame the nature and paint your garden red, yellow, white and blue. As winter's seasonal splash of color spreads across the gardens, the innumerable annuals like dianthus, fox, zinnia, celosia and others border the otherwise drab green patches of lawns and shrubberies. A few of these annuals grow wildly in the fields and can be noticed along highways and railway tracks. Such is the splendor, the winter brings.
Amongst the seasonal plants grown at this time of the year, the favorite amongst people are dianthus, celosia, marigold, zinnia, cosmos and others, most of which can be grown either as potted annuals or as outdoor plants, directly in the ground.
Annuals are those plants which manifest themselves in a matter of two or three months from sowing to flowering, and soon wither after setting seeds. However, the most challenging aspect of growing these plants is to obtain their seedlings, which in turn is possible if our sowing is correct.
Steps to make your garden colorful
Following are a few basic steps of growing colorful winter plants:
Always buy seeds from reliable sources, preferably buy Fl or F2 seeds which are hybrid and more vigorous. Check the expiry date printed on the packet and choose only those seeds, which are well within this date. This would ensure the seed quality and viability. Hybrid seeds are true to type and possess even growth and flower characteristics.
Do not save seeds for next season. Use the seeds once you open the packet
You can start your seasonals by even purchasing ready seedlings. Buy those seedlings which are developed at least one pair of leaves and which are ready to be pricked. Often seedlings are available in small wedges or compost based seed trays, which can be readily transplanted into desired containers.
Choose seedlings with fresh, moist roots and leaves and reject those with pale green leaves or those that are overcrowded.
Do not use very rich seed compost, as this would encourage leaf growth at the expense of flower production.
You may sow the seeds in raised beds or in containers. In case of direct sowing in the ground, mark the areas where you would like to have flowers later and directly sow seeds these areas.
Container sowing may be done either in flat dishes or bamboo baskets or earthen pots.
Fill the containers with seed compost consisting of sand, vermicompost and fine soil. Press it lightly around the edges of the container to remove any air pockets. Gently tap the container from all sides so that the soil settles down firmly, at least one inch below the rim.
Water with a fine rose can and allow to drain. One may also dip the entire container in a bucket of water up to its rim. The water will slowly rise through the drainage holes and when it wets the entire soil, remove the container and allow to drain.
Sow the seeds evenly on the soil surface gently tapping them against the seed packet. Very thin seeds should be mixed with sand and then sown for even distribution.
Cover the seeds with sieved compost up to their depth. Thin seeds may be left uncovered. To maintain the humidity, cover the seed pans with glass or transparent plastic bags. You may expose the soil surface at intervals to allow excess water to evaporate. Remember too much moisture would allow the fungi spores to germinate and hence induce fungal attacks. Also seeds might rot due to excess water logging in the soil.
Place the container in indirect sunlight or shade as per the plant species. As soon as the seedlings emerge, remove the cover and expose the seedlings to light. Once you have obtained the seedlings, the most important step is pricking out or thinning.
If the seedlings are allowed to grow without separating them, they soon become overcrowded and die for want of space and light. Hence, separating them into different containers till they are good enough for transplanting in the ground is called pricking out.
Thinning is a term generally used when seedlings are sown directly in the ground and are separated such that sturdier ones are maintained and others gently lifted and planted at areas where germination is poor or elsewhere.
Following are a few steps to help you with this operation.
Gently tap the container with the crowded seed against a hard base. This would loosen the soil around the seedlings. Now hold the seedlings with one hand and use a fork at their base to lift them above the soil with the other.
Ensure that each seedling has enough soil around its roots: Do not injure the roots while lifting the seedlings.
Now transplant them individually in already filled small pots or seed trays by gently affixing them in the soil. Make holes before inserting the seedlings in the new compost.
Dip the newly transplanted seedling container into a bucket containing water for watering as discussed before.
You may once again cover the trays as described earlier or leave them open for hardening.