June 27, 2014 at 1:00 am

Gardening

Tips to keep your plants blooming all summer

The petunias that looked so healthy when you planted them may need some mid-summer TLC. (Istock)

If youve jumped on the container gardening bandwagon, your flowers are probably lush and lovely right now. But as summer wears on, they may begin to look a bit the worse for wear. Petunias, especially, suffer summer fatigue. Stems get leggy, leaves take on a yellowish cast, and fewer flowers overflow the pot.

Though you water them maybe even daily and you douse them with fertilizer TV ads say makes miracles, pots of petunias go into a summer funk.

Kathy Miller, retail manager and grower at Foglers Greenhouse in Rochester (foglersgreenhouse.com), passed on her secret to keeping all the annual flowering plants in her containers and landscape looking fabulous throughout the growing season. Its the new Jacks Classic Petunia FeED, specially formulated for annual flowering plants that suffer iron starvation.

Many annuals, especially petunias and million bells (Calibracoa), are heavy feeders that need iron to keep them flourishing throughout the summer. Other iron lovers are bacopa, verbena, vinca, salvia, pansies and snapdragons. These and other summer annuals really struggle when watered with hard water that has a high pH. Iron, magnesium and other micronutrients get tied up in alkaline water, but this special petunia formula contains chelated nutrients that dissolve and are quickly taken up by the plants. You can get Jacks Classic Petunia FeED at Foglers or go online at jrpeters.com to find a dealer near you.

More timely tips on fertilizing annual plants:

■Dont fertilize when the soil in the garden or containers is dry. If plants are wilted, water and allow them to recover before fertilizing.

■The best time to fertilize is in the morning or evening. To avoid burning, do not spray chemicals on plants between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is shining.

■Dont fertilize when daytime temperatures rise above 85 degrees. Many plants suffer heat stress in hot weather and close their stoma, the small openings in the leaves that allow them to take up the fertilizer in a liquid form, when the temperatures rise to avoid loss of moisture. If the liquid dries before the plants can take it up, it becomes unavailable to them.

■Read and follow the directions. Measure carefully. I have a set of measuring cups and spoons dedicated for use in the garden. I painted the handles with nail polish so they dont get mixed up with kitchen equipment.

I store them in a clear container with liquid measurement on the side used to make up small batches of fertilizer for indoor plants.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. Email her at Szerlag @earthlink.net. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle.