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Phlox: Hints for Beginners

I am an ordinary, backyard variety of gardener, who acquired a small store of knowledge from magazines. But my main source of wisdom has simply been practical experience. The pride and joy of my garden, my giant (5 to 6 foot), orchid-hued phlox, have profited most from this system. For other everyday gardeners, who might share my enthusiasm for phlox, here are some practical, helpful hints.

It is common sense that anything will grow better if fed regularly, Using a commercially prepared plant food mixed in water, I pour approximately a gallon of the solution over the roots of each clump of plants once or twice a month. Early in the spring I spread chicken manure along the front edge of the bed and then water it in thoroughly.

Hand in glove with feeding, of course, goes watering. After a disastrous first attempt, I learned the proper technique. It is a mistake to water phlox in such a way that the leaves get vet. It makes them rust, turn yellow-spotted, and eventually drop off. If this does occur, a hasty application of dusting sulfur should save them – but it must be done in time. I managed to save a few of my plants this way, but lost the others because I was too late.

The correct way to water is to flood the bed with a hose. My bed is about 2 inches lower than the surrounding lawn, and every three clays I fill it with as much water as it will hold. This seems to be exactly the right dose for Texas’ dry climate. During the winter the bed receives water from the drain spout at the edge of the house, and I use the hose no more than once a month.

In my first year of planting I made a mistake which led to valuable knowledge. I let the heads flower and fade on the plants. The results were awful. Not only did the phlox cease to bloom that season, but I also had innumerable seedlings to destroy the next spring. These seedlings have a faded color not desirable to keep.

I have since learned gradually to break off the fading heads. New buds appear almost as soon as the old head is removed. Thus, there are always flowers in bloom to give me pleasure.

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