Keep Planting Flowers. They are an investment with an incredible return.

I have had an amazing experience this spring planting colorful flowers. It has brought so much joy for me and those I have helped. And there is still plenty of time to plant more flowers. There has never been this kind of availability of flowers in all kinds, sizes and types. And it just gets better year after year.

Here are some testimonials: “I can’t believe how much satisfaction those 5 Rozanne geraniums have brought me. Every time I come home they greet me in front of my house. They have been in bloom since the day they were planted. They just keep getting bigger and better. And they will still be there next year and the years after.”

“Allen convinced me to spend $500 to plant flowers in beds viewed from my back windows, deck and patio. That’s as least 5 times what I have spent before. My friends have raved about their beauty. My wife smiles every morning when she looks out the kitchen window. Talk about something to create an uplifting outlook at the beginning of the day. I spend more than $500 for a weekend at the beach. That is gone in 3 days. These flowers will keep giving me pleasure for months and years.”

“I quit planting flowers in the front of my shrub beds years ago because I couldn’t keep up with the weeds. Allen showed me how to use weed preventer and mulch to eliminate 95% of the weeds. A few minutes a week is all it takes to keep them maintained. My husband has caught me talking to the flowers when I am out checking on them.”

“Allen placed 7-1 gallon flower plants in A bed near our entry. They looked so cute I just could not resist planting them. In less than an hour I have a colorful spot that my neighbors compliment me on.”

Have I convinced you yet? I am on a relentless campaign to get everyone to plant more flowers.

So now here is your homework assignment: Go find an empty spot in your yard that you see frequently that could use some color. If you don’t have an open bed, create one by removing some lawn in front of shrubs. Measure the size and note what time of day and how long the sun shines on that spot. What kind of soil do you have? What are your favorite colors? Now, tell someone at a reliable full service nursery and they will help you pick out what you need. Be sure to ask about fertilizer, weed preventer and mulch. Now, what are you waiting for? I promise you it will be some of the best money you have spent in a while.

Okay, so tell me how to use weed preventers and mulches to reduce weed problems.

Weed Preventers

The first thing I have to tell you about weed preventers is THE BEST ONES ARE CHEMICALS! Ooh that ugly word. But there is at least one natural weed preventer which is not a chemical.

There are several chemical weed preventers available to commercial landscape contractors. However, the best one available to home gardeners to use around flowersand vegetables is Trifluralin, sometimes abbreviated to Treflan. Trifluralin is the active ingredient in Preen and several other brands of weed preventers.

The best time to add weed preventer to the soil is right after transplanting. Its effectiveness lasts about 6 to 8 weeks, and then another application can be made.

Granules of weed preventer are scattered uniformly over the soil. If a few granules of weed preventer land on the leaves of desirable plants it will not damage them. Some of the chemical on the weed preventer granules dissolves and ends up on top of the soil every time it rains or is irrigated. As the weed seeds germinate, they absorb this chemical and are killed before they emerge from the soil (Weed preventers are referred to by professionals as pre-emergent weed killers).

Weed preventers work effectively only if they remain on top or in the top fraction of an inch of the soil. Do not hoe or cultivate around flowers or other plants after you apply weed preventers. Hoeing brings up new weed seeds from under the top of the soil and moves weed preventer granules away from the soil surface. “Oh, that explains why I have had less than the best success with weed preventers before.”

Corn gluten which is removed from corn in processing is an excellent weed preventer. Although it is not as effective as chemical weed preventers, it is quite effective if applied uniformly at a somewhat higher rate than chemicals. Corn gluten is seldom available at big box stores, but must be purchased from a full service nursery or garden store or by mail or on line. For more information on corn gluten, go to hort.iastate.edu/research/gluten. Remember, do not cultivate after applying corn gluten.

Corn gluten is used as a food supplement for livestock and is not toxic to children, pets or wild life. Birds will often eat some of it but will still leave plenty behind for the weeds.

Anything which shades the soil will reduce weed seed germination. Hence, bark dust and other mulches are natural weed preventers. Black and colored mulching films which are used for vegetables are natural weed preventers.

Weed Preventer for use around woody plants, including roses, raspberries and blueberries.

Casoron is one weed preventer for use around woody plants. It works just like Trifluralin but can be toxic to established green plants such as flowers and vegetables. It is deadly to grass, so do not spill it on your lawn.

Mulches

The underlying principle for mulching is “the best way to improve any soil is to add organic matter”. No matter how good or how poor your soil is, organic matter will always improve it. Organic matter adds water and nutrient holding capacity to sandy soil. It opens up clay soils so they accept and drain water more rapidly.

Earth worms and soil micro-organisms use organic matter for food. As they break it down into humus it adds nutrients for the plants. The micro-flora in the soil develop a symbiotic relationship with plant roots so that the plants make better use of the resources in the soil and grow more vigorously.Organic matter on top of the soil reduces water evaporation so that it dries out more slowly. It keeps soil from compacting so that water flows in more quickly. It shades the soil and keeps it cooler. It blocks light from reaching weed seeds on top of the soil. Removing light reduces weed seed germination by up to 90%. Hence, mulch is one of the best forms of natural weed preventer.

Bark Dust

The organic matter which we have available that is inexpensive, uniform, high quality, and without weeds or pests is bark dust. Bark dust is simply bark from trees which has be ground into smaller particles from ¼ inch to dust. Larger granules of bark can also be used including bark nuggets.

One to three inches of bark dust can be added to the soil of a flower bed and incorporated into the soil with a shovel or small tiller before planting. If an inch or more of bark dust covers the soil from last year, it can simply be mixed with the soil underneath with a hand trowel or hoe as plants are transplanted.