Q: I have really become interested in raising flowering annuals. When should I start growing them inside for this spring?
F. L. of O’Fallon
A: Usually the seed packet gives the information on the back of the packet with a map of the United States and then lets you figure out where you live on the map and some information on the length of germination time to the beginning of flowers starting to flower. Keep in mind in our area you do not want to plant them outside before April 15 as this is the date of the average last killing frost of spring. The later you can wait and raise these plants, the better the chance that a frost will not kill them. You will have to grow your wanted annuals inside until the danger of frost is over and then have to use artificial fluorescent light to keep them from becoming ‘leggy’ meaning that stem does not grow with a thin stem which cannot support the top of the plant and falls over. If you first notice this condition starting to show up it will indicate that the air temperature should be dropped about 10 degrees cooler to help the stems grow thicker and slower.
There are a number of books available on bedding plants giving a calendar of usual bloom periods of bloom and the colors that are available.
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Don’t be rushed to get started right now as this is way too early to start. Some gardeners wait even until May to plant flowering annuals from seed mixes. They just remove the unwanted weeds and then rake it over, and then scatter the seeds thinly in drifts and water regularly like once a week and remove any other plants that you do not recognize as they are probably weeds anyhow.
Q: Is the Sweet William plant annual, biennial, or perennial type of plant?
D. L. of Belleville
A: Most Sweet Williams, which are also referred to as garden pinks, are perennials and have smaller flowers and can have wide range of heights and flower colors. The True Sweet William is a biennial which starts to grow in one year and flowers in the next. There is also a Sweet William known as ‘New Era’ which will flower both years if planted early enough.
Q: Do the thorns on roses prevent deer from eating them?
K. F. of Collinsville
A: Deer love roses, especially the modern hybrids with thorns. One of the best controls is using a heavy mesh fence anchored to posts which have been driven into the soil on a 45-degree angle and using electricity at top. After they have been shocked a few times they usually avoid it. But with a heavy snow they learn new ways to get around as they are starving.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Department, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things to do this week
Plan your vegetable garden to know how much seed to order and varieties to try.