How to grow Aster
As March winds howl outside, you’ll want to get busy planting some of your garden indoors so that when April showers come along the young plants will be ready to set out. The aster is one flower that benefits by an early start indoors. Its reward to you—an earlier and longer blooming period.
The name aster refers to two distinct genera of plants, both members of the Composite of Daisy family. It is the botanic name of the hardy asters which are perennials, and it is also the popular name of the tender China Asters which are annuals. The China Aster has been developed until is now one of our most popular garden annuals. I will refer to the China Aster or annual aster in the rest of this column.
For early bloom, the seeds should be sown in March in the flats or pots. Use a soil mixture of one-third sand, one-third garden soil and one-third compost. Sow the seed in shallow drills about three inches apart and cover with a light layer of soil. Keep evenly moist, but not soaked, until the seedlings are up and growing well. When they have their first true leaves or are crowding, transplant them into paper cups or flats with at least four inches between plants. Do not delay the transplanting so long that the plants become spindly.
As the weather becomes warmer, gradually harden of the plants by setting them outside during the pleasant part of the day. When all the danger of frost is over, the seedlings are ready to be transplanted to their permanent location. Set the plants about 10 to 12 inches apart in rows about one and one-half to two feet apart or in groups, as you prefer. If you have wood ashes, add some to the soil in early spring or at least two weeks before planting the seedlings; otherwise add well-rotted manure or compost. A light sprinkling of lime on an acid or neutral soil surface a few weeks before planting is beneficial, as they like a sweet or alkaline soil. Aster seeds can also be planted directly in the garden after the soil has warmed up if you are unable to start seedlings indoor.
Cultivate regularly throughout the growing season to keep down weeds. A good mulch can, of course, help control these and lighten the chore considerably. The roots of the aster are fine and close to the surface of the soil, so shallow cultivation is essential. During dry weather, water thoroughly about once a week.
There are several features which make the China Aster one of the most desirable of the annual flowers. They are excellent cut flowers. They have good lasting quality, have long stems, are not easily damaged, and they have a wide color range. Bloom may be had from July until frost in October. They also make a wonderful display in the garden, as you may use them as a border plant, mass in groups in an informal fashion, or intermix them with your chrysanthemums.
Tips for growing vegetables:
Tips for growing herbs:
Tips for growing flowers:
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