Pacific Northwest

February, 2006
Regional Report

Books

Companion Planting with Flowers
If you've ever wondered about companion planting, here's a fun book that explores the topic in detail. Roses Love Garlic: Secrets of Companion Planting with Flowers, by Louise Riotte (Garden Way Publishing, 1998; $15), describes how flowers help or hinder vegetables and other flowers. The book suggests companions for many commonly grown annuals and perennials, plus it discusses the medicinal uses, history, and folklore of many plants.

Clever Gardening Technique

Buying the Best Bedding Plants
With our short growing season, many flowers are best started in the garden as transplants rather than grown from seed. If you're as anxious as I am for spring color in the garden, you can get a head start on the season by purchasing bedding transplants.

To get your garden off to a healthy start, choose bedding plants that are well proportioned with stocky stems. Avoid plants that are leggy or limp. The leaves should have a rich, green color. If the foliage appears mottled or the edges of the leaves are curled, the plants may be suffering from pests or diseases.

Yellowed lower leaves are often an indication of inadequate watering. If the soil mixture has been allowed to dry out completely, the plant's root system can be permanently damaged, and the plant may never flourish.

If you want your flower beds to show immediate color, choose bedding plants grown in 4-inch and 6-inch pots rather than in smaller packs. These larger pots offer a greater plant mass and a more established root system, which helps plants adapt faster to transplanting.

Try to do your transplanting on an overcast day or late in the afternoon to minimize stress. Before transplanting, check the soil in the packs or pots. If it's dry, thoroughly drench the soil, and then wait a few minutes for it to become saturated. Plants should pop out easily when the pack or pot is turned on its side. If they don't, gently squeeze the bottom of the cell or pot to loosen the roots.

Before transplanting, use a trowel to loosen the soil to a depth of 6 or 8 inches. Dig a hole in the ground to match the size of the rootball. Add about 2 inches of compost or composted manure and mix in well. Then pick up the plant by its rootball (not the leaves or stem), and set it in the hole at the same depth it was growing.

Gently tamp the soil around the plant, making sure the ground level and soil line of the plant are at the same height. Thoroughly drench the bed immediately after transplanting, applying water slowly, evenly, and deeply.

During the few weeks it will take for the new plants to become established, give them daily attention. Water whenever the soil surface begins to feel dry. You can use a 2- to 3-inch layer of bark, compost, or other organic matter as a mulch material to help soil retain moisture and keep weeds from sprouting and competing with your new plants.

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