Bountiful Color All Summer

APR 13
No other group of plants provides such brilliant show of all-summer color as flowering annuals do.  All that bright color requires a lot of energy though, so regular fertilization throughout the season is a must.  With so many choices of fertilizer, how do you know what will give you the most bang for your buck?
While there are many brands of fertilizer on the market, they really can be divided into just two groups - the granular slow-release types and the liquid feed types.  Both have their pluses and minuses.
The granular slow-release types include products like Osmocote.  Osmocote is an encapsulated fertilizer, meaning that the fertilizer is contained in a small round pellet coated with a biodegradable resin.  Osmocote is applied at the beginning of the season and the resin slowly dissolves over time, releasing fertilizer over several weeks or months, depending on the formulation.  The big advantage to this type of fertilizer is it only needs to be applied once or twice each season and will provide continuous fertilization throughout the season.  One disadvantage is that, since it is a slow-release fertilizer, it will not provide an immediate result for a plant that needs a quick burst of energy to thrive.
For this reason, quick-release liquid feed fertilizers such as Miracle Gro can be used in conjunction with slow-release fertilizers.  While it may seem that using two types of fertilizers on the same plant would lead to over-feeding, this isn't the case.  Liquid fertilizers are partially absorbed through the leaves and are available immediately for the plant's use.  This action complements the slower root feeding properties of the slow-release fertilizer. Using a liquid fertilizer on its own is also effective, but careful attention must be paid to a regular biweekly schedule.  Because liquid fertilizers are used up by the plant very quickly, repeated applications are necessary to keep your annuals flowering well.
Whether you decide to use a slow-release granular fertilizer or a quick-release liquid fertilizer or a combination of both, your flowering annuals will reward you with five to six months of continuous bloom.  Small price to pay for such a big return!