GROOMS GARDENING: Time to plant summer seeds

Susan Grooms | Submitted PhotoOrange cosmos, C. sulfurous, easy to grow, no pests, reseeds, needs full sun. 

We are nearing the middle of the month, today is the 11th of April. 

Tonight, we are in the dark night of the moon phase, the moon will begin to increase, wax, reaching full moon the 26th. 

Now that we are past Easter, we should not have any more frosty weather. Last weekend did dip down with a couple of nights in the low 30s, our Easter cool snap. Traditionally, we will be free of frost from now on. I'm not sure of the soil temperature at this time, with days in the 80s, it warms quickly.

Common annual summer seed, such as, zinnia, marigolds, sunflowers, periwinkle, alyssum, black-eyed Susans and cleome, can be planted now. They will start germinating when temperatures are correct for them and get off to a good start.

If you have never grown from seed before it is a very rewarding thing to do. Some seed are much easier than others to grow. If you're a novice start out with easy to grow seed. Coleus and marigolds are very easy. They can be sown in any container you have on hand.

I like using aluminum cooking pans, you can get any size at the Dollar Tree. Poke some holes in the bottom so it can drain; add good potting soil, soak the soil thoroughly, after it drips, the seed can be planted. If your potting soil is very dry, using warm water will cause absorption much faster for the first soaking.

Coleus seed are very easy to sow. Plant thinly and in two or three weeks they will be growing and a couple of weeks more, ready to be planted in a permanent site whether it's in a container or in the ground. Coleus prefer a partially shady site. They bring very colorful leaves to dark spots often thought too shady to be productive.

For top-notch coleus color and foliage growth, give your coleus enough room to grow and a steady feeding program. They can be trimmed back with scissors keeping them in whatever shape you wish. Cuttings can often be rooted and used for new plants. Nitrogen is their fertilizer of choice, they are not grown for flowers. Nitrogen stimulates foliage growth and keeps the plants fresh.

Marigold seed can be planted in a container to get them up ready to transplant or they can be planted in the soil in a protected spot where they do not have to compete with weeds and get the proper amount of sunlight.

Marigolds are very strong hardy plants, they can take temperature swings and still continue to grow. When you start to grow seed, they cannot dry out anytime during the germination or early planting process.

Some seed need to be covered up for darkness to germinate. Other seed need light upon them to stimulate them to germinate. Sprinkle coleus seed over the prepared growth medium, pressing the seed into the soil for good contact. Marigolds benefit from a light covering of soil and they may sprout within four to five days.

If your plant's stems are spindly or weak, the little seedlings need more sunlight to strengthen them. You can move their container into the sun but do not forget and leave it there for them to be cooked.

Azaleas can be pruned anytime after they have finished their bloom cycle. To prevent damaging next spring's flowers they must be pruned before July 4.

Pruning the plants into a box or circle shape is not good for them. All of the leaf growth takes place at the outside of the plant and the inside of the plant loses foliage and becomes only bare branches.

For best growth and healthy plants, they should be pruned in a natural manner. Choose two or three upright branches, removing all smaller limbs and the lowest branches, raising the foliage and the flowers a few inches above the ground. You will have less problems with scale and rain and water problems infecting your plants with water-borne diseases. Open up the center of the plant so all the plant will receive sunlight and fresh air. Cut out limbs that cross or scrub others.

Cosmos is a good plant to start from seed. They grow quickly and strongly if given adequate light. They prefer full sunlight and you'll get the best flowers and the strongest plants if they have several hours of sunlight. The yellow and orange-flowering plants seem to be the strongest at resisting ants. Sow them directly in the soil where you want them to grow.

Larkspur, Delphinium ajacis, is a strong healthy plant that grows tall and has beautiful flowers of white, blue, lavender and many other shades. Early planting allows the plants to have cool roots and later when the flowers are blooming, they are beautiful and longlasting. This is a plant that needs to be put out immediately for best results. Sow seeds as they do not like to be transplanted.

If you have a fence or trellis you would like to have something happy-looking growing on, why not give black-eyed Susan vine, Thunbergia alata, a chance? The vine is easily controllable, prefers something to climb on and will stay covered with small yellow and black flowers. The flower's seeds are often self sewing and most times you continue having the black-eyed Susan vine for a few years without having to replant.

This is the beginning of our warm-season growing period. There are so many things that can be done, all possibilities are available this early in the year. Let this be the year you try something new. Vegetables mixed in with your flowers, new varieties of flowers growing vertically, if you are running out of space. A new-to-you plant, blooming plants just for pollinators, plants that are host plants for caterpillars, plants that attract hummingbirds, this is the year to make memories.

Thomasville Garden Club is holding their annual standard flower show along with Thomasville's rose show on April 23.

The Rose Show is open to the public as soon as judging is over. The flower show at Thomasville's Garden Center will be open to the public at 1 p.m. These are just the beginning of a weekend of festivities held in Thomasville each year. All featured around roses as Thomasville is the Rose City. There will be a parade and many other activities through the three-day weekend.

Amaryllis Garden Club plans to hold its bi-annual plant swap and sale on the front lawn of The Crescent on May 1. All gardeners are invited, there are no charges to come or to bring your plants to swap or sell. More info closer to the date.

I am out of space, see you next week.

 Susan Grooms lives and gardens in Lowndes County.

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