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Growing Together: How to keep flowers flowering all summer

Annual flowers continue to bloom all summer if kept well fertilized and groomed. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor1 / 5
Remove withered geranium blossoms by snapping off the flower stalk where it attaches to the plant's stem.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 5
Trailing plants in planters such as these petunias can be pruned back midsummer if they become overgrown.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor3 / 5
Don Kinzler, gardening columnist 4 / 5
When deadheading roses, cut just above a five-leaflet leaf.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor5 / 5

Has your mid-summer water bill skyrocketed from keeping flowerbeds and gardens well-moistened? Gardeners easily rationalize the expense. We don't buy caviar, and we don't winter on the French Riviera, so we're actually saving money while racking up a sky-high utility bill. Besides, the growing season is short so we may as well garden with gusto.

Flower gardens, pots and planters are at a summer highpoint. Follow these guidelines to keep plants colorful for the season's second half.

Annuals in containers

• Continue timely watering. Frequent wilting means less flower bud production.

• Feed regularly, at least every two weeks, with water-soluble fertilizer even if fertile potting mix was used. If plants run out of nutrition, future bloom diminishes.

• "Deadhead" by removing withered flowers before strength-sapping seed pods form.

• Sprawling types benefit from selectively pruning several shoots to encourage a regeneration of healthy new growth.

• If you're planning a vacation, prune back annuals in containers. When you return in a week or two, the plants will have fresh growth and renewed blooms.

Geraniums

• If used in combination planters, other plants often overshadow geraniums. Prune others to give geraniums space and light.

• Geraniums appreciate shelter from hot, intense afternoon sun.

• Don't overwater. Geranium roots rot easily.

• They're heavy feeders. Fertilize every two weeks to keep flowers forming.

• Remove spent flowers by snapping away blossom and its stalk from the point of attachment on stem.

Perennials

• Fertilize types that repeat bloom.

• Deadheading withered flowers is especially important to prevent out-of-control self-seeding of types like achillea (yarrow) and columbine.

• Apply fungicide to prevent grayish-white powdery mildew on susceptible types like monarda, phlox and peony.

Roses

• Water generously, deeply and often.

• Fertilize every two weeks through August. If granular, soil-applied fertilizer is used, supplement with water soluble types.

• Rock mulch compacts soil and stores heat. Both can diminish rose bushes' size, vigor and flowering ability. Roses would be happiest in a natural, more organic mulch instead of rock, especially in hot, sunny exposures.

• Overhead sprinkling promotes foliage diseases. Water only the soil, avoiding the foliage.

• Deadheading is important to encourage continued bud production, and the location of the pruning cut is important. Roses have compound leaves composed of three, five or seven leaflets. Directly beneath the flower is usually a three-leaflet leaf. When deadheading, make the pruning cut one-fourth inch above a five-leaflet leaf, which results in stronger bud regrowth.

Hanging baskets

• By mid-season, baskets sometimes start going downhill, especially if they were in full beauty when purchased in spring.

• Pruning back partway stimulates fresh new shoot growth and increased flowering. Some trailing petunia varieties especially benefit from cutting back by one-half or more.

• Keeping baskets well-fed increases their chances of remaining beautiful throughout the season. Many municipalities and public grounds fertilize the hanging baskets lining streets every time they water. The half- or one-third strength fertilizer can be seen in the blue-tinted tanks as crews water baskets.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at forumgrowingtogether@hotmail.com.

He also blogs at " target="_blank">growingtogether.areavoices.com.

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