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Those awful annuals. May 23, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben was astounded to receive an e-mail this morning from Horticulture magazine with the attention-grabbing headline, “Are annuals evil?” What on earth, I wondered, could cause the venerable garden magazine to condemn an entire class of plants in such a sweeping manner? They might as well have asked, “Are pets evil?,” and for the same reason.

Needless to say, neither plants nor pets are evil. Even ticks and poison ivy are just trying to fulfill their Darwinian destiny. The point Horticulture’s provocative headline was trying to raise was that some people condemn annuals as eco-unfriendly in terms of their production, and as water and fertilizer hogs in the garden. The e-mail asked for readers’ opinions as to whether they agreed or disagreed. The goal was to generate an open discussion of the issues.

Our friend Ben would weigh in on the “Think this through, please” side on this one. Silence Dogood and I buy our annuals each spring from local Mennonite farmers, who raise them from seed or starts, just as we and most gardeners sow seeds and take cuttings every spring, just as gardeners have done from the very beginning. Where’s the evil in that?

As for wasting huge amounts of water and fertilizer, it’s simply not so. We water our annuals if it’s dry, as we do all our plants, using water from our rain barrels. We fertilize them with compost tea, earthworm castings from our earthworm compost bin, and finished compost from our three-bin system, just as we do every plant in our gardens. We pot them up in premium organic potting soil, but then, we don’t coddle them. They grow and thrive without a drop of chemical fertilizer.

Admittedly, we tend to focus on “annuals” that are, in fact, tender perennials, since we hate to see any plant die. Yes, we grow marigolds, nasturtiums, and morning glories, which will bid us adieu at season’s end. But we also have a rich assortment of “annuals” that either self-sow, so they appear to be perennial, or that are in fact tender perennials that can be held over in our greenhouse. (You’d be amazed by how many “annuals,” including coleus, begonias, and pelargoniums, the so-called zonal and scented geraniums, fall into this category.)

We love perennials. But we also love annuals, or at least, annuals that are selected with care and nurtured organically. We’d hate to see the plant police outlaw them.

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Comments»

1. narf77 - June 3, 2012

Lol…I just think that I am forraying off into the road less travelled and there is Mr Soulsby Farm right in front of me! Oh well…ONE day I will find a blog that you haven’t plundered previous to my falling over it ;)

Annuals are a vital part of horticulture. They are incredibly fast growing because they have to be…1 year is all she wrote! So they tend to be powerhouses for nitrogen and nutrients processing them like water. Most of them reproduce exponentially by seed and so their groundcovering ability allows large spaces to be mulched with living mulch over the hotter seasons thus actually reducing the water needed. You just need to make sure that you get a nice dense cover of the little darlings :). Most of our food crops come from annuals so the person that said this must have been an anorexic if you ask me!

Love this blog! ;)

Thanks, narf!!! And you’re so right about annuals, both as groundcover and food. People who make didactic statements seldom take the time to think things through!


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