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Why this one simple item is essential for gardens to keep your plants hydrated

1. Miracle-Gro Singles are a wonderful innovation, especially where fertilization of container plants is concerned. Each packet contains a 24-8-16 (nitrogen-potassium-phosphorus) formula of granulated fertilizer meant to be dissolved in water for application by watering can. For outdoor use, whether watering in the garden or in containers, you dissolve one packet per gallon of water. If you are watering a patch of vegetables or a flower bed, each gallon of fertilizer solution will cover ten square feet. For indoor plants, a more diluted solution of one packet per two gallons of water is recommended. In addition to the three macronutrients cited above, this fertilizer contains some essential micronutrients: iron, zinc, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and boron. Last but not least, EDTA, a chelating agent, is also present. A chelating agent (chelate comes from the Greek word for “crab’s claw”) assists in making iron already present in the soil — but tied up by alkaline components in our water that accumulate and latch onto the iron — available to plants. The crab-like chelate grabs hold of the iron and frees it from its alkaline prison, allowing it to be taken up by plant roots.

2. A watering can is essential when it comes to keeping newly planted seeds moist and container plants hydrated. A watering can gives you pinpoint control over water application that not even a hose-end attachment provides. The watering can “rose” assures that water is applied in a soft, steady stream which, when necessary, can immediately be interrupted by bringing the watering can back to the vertical.

3. Prune and deadhead perennials that have stopped blooming. Cut back Penstemon stems to two green leaves and they may flower again later in the summer. Prune back beeblossom (Gaura/Oenothera lindheimeri) to a height of 12-15 inches for rebloom a month from now. Deadhead star clusters (Pentas lanceolatea) flowers for a continuous bloom which will be assisted by a shot of fertilizer (see tip #1 above) and a consistent watering regime.

4. Fertilize azaleas and camellias with a product recommended for acid-loving plants. If plants are mulched, move mulch out of the way before fertilizer application. Ideally, you will use a product that dissolves readily in water and fertilizes through the leaves and the roots so you can freely drench both the plant and the soil around it.

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