Sunday, April 14, 2013

How to Grow Asters

Photo by: Shirley

Asters are old-fashioned heirloom flowers that have graced gardens for generations. They're a favorite flower of many gardeners for several reasons. They have withstood centuries of drought, and wet weather. Bugs don't bother them, they are disease resistant, and asters are very easy to grow. 

When you look at the flowers, the blooms look like a daisy, but instead of having a space between the petals, they grow close together. The red, pink, purple, or white blooms not only bring color to the garden, they add fragrance as well. Asters start blooming in the late summer, and they will continue through the autumn when most other flowers have finished.

Asters grow various heights from 8 inches to 8 feet, depending on the variety you choose. You can plant asters in borders, rock gardens, wildflower gardens, or anywhere in the landscape where you want a splash of color. Asters attract bees, butterflies, and birds to your garden area. 

Although you can buy the aster seed to grow your own, they are often sporadic in germination. If you want hassle free problems, it is best to buy the plants from a reputable greenhouse. 

Location and Soil Preparation
Asters prefer to grow in a spot that has the full sun exposure, but they can grow equally well in a place that has partial sun exposure. Once you find the right location, prepare the garden site by pulling the weeds or grass in the area. Once you have that done, you can work up the soil with a garden fork or tiller. Make sure you choose a location where the soil is well-draining with a pH level of 5.6 to 7.5. If your soil is poor, amend it with 2 to 4 inches of organic compost. 

I always allow the soil to settle for at least three days, but a week is better. This gives the air pockets time to collapse for better planting results. When you dig the planting hole, make it twice as wide as the rootball, but keep the depth the same. Remove the plant from the container and insert the root section into the planting hole. The top of the root section should be level with the ground. You don't want it higher or the roots will dry out. However, if you plant the root section too low in the soil, the plant may rot off at the stem. Push the soil back into the hole and firm it around the rootball with your hands.
Space the asters 1 to 3 feet apart depending on the variety. The planting label will give you that information.

Water the aster plants thoroughly and keep the area evenly moist through the growing season. For proper growth and better flowering, provide your aster garden with 1 inch of water per week, unless your area is receiving adequate moisture. Sometime asters lose their lower leaves, or they don't flower. This is usually due to too much moisture or too little moisture. You may want to adjust your watering, and that should clear up the problem.

Add a 2 to 3 inch layer of organic mulch over the soil around the plants. As the mulch breaks down, it adds nutrients to the soil. Keep replenishing the mulch as it disappears during the growing season. Mulch is a necessary part of gardening because it helps maintain soil moisture, and it acts as a weed barrier. If any weeds do manage to pop through the mulch, simply pull them out. Don't wait until the weeds are tall, because their root system will be larger and pulling them can damage the root section of the growing asters.

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