How to Grow Healthy Plants

Here are 10 essential plant-rearing tips for parenting a successful flower garden.
Early Stages

Much like raising children,
plant rearing takes patience.

Growing flowers may be easier than raising kids, but the two pursuits have their similarities. Building a good home environment for strong roots, weeding out bad company, giving extra protection at the toddler stage, providing support but more independence as they mature, and making the important link between proper nutrition and strong growth will lead to the pride and satisfaction of guiding your young upstarts to blooming maturity.

1. Take the time to prepare the proper environment before new plants arrive. Good soil preparation is the single most important thing you can do for your flowers. Loosen soil to at least 6 inches, add organic matter (such as peat moss, compost, or manure), and mix well. Rake to level. Soil preparation can be a fun job, one that increases the anticipation of new life, much like preparing the nursery for a new baby.

2. Don't smother new plants with too thick a soil blanket. Most flower seeds should be barely covered; make the soil layer just 1/4 inch thick. Planting flower seeds too deep is a common mistake -- just like new parents who have a tendency to cover a newborn with too many blankets. Seed depth and planting time, critical to emerging new life, are cases where you should refer to expert advice. Read the seed packet; then read it again. The information on the seed packet is like words of advice from a pediatrician or the pages of Dr. Spock.

Remember not to bury seeds too deep.
Check the recommended depth
on the seed packet.

3. Use fast foods or health foods, but nourish young plants well during growth spurts. You can feed fast foods to your actively growing plants by adding water-soluble fertilizers to the watering can or a hose-end sprayer. If these fertilizers, heavy with chemical additives, aren't the way you want to nourish youngsters, you may choose to go organic and side-dress with slower acting but healthier compost, fish fertilizer, or manure fertilizer. Serving a home-brewed batch of manure tea is another health food option. Slower acting organic foods may not seem to fit the fast and active life of your adolescent plants, but in the long run you'll build a healthier soil environment for future flower generations.

4. Weed out bad influences when plants are young. The kind of friends your flowers hang around with at this stage of rapid growth will influence how straight and sturdy they are as adults. Weeds rob your seedlings of nutrients and water and make them look bad. When a good flower garden goes bad, you can often blame the influence of the flowers' weedy companions. Take an authoritative stand and stay in control; set limits, and spend some quality time pulling weeds.

Continued on page 2:  Middle Stages



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