A new year brings for gardeners new resolutions — pull more weeds, plant annuals on time, simply garden more.

So let's tackle that one about planting annuals.

Many homeowners plant annuals only in the spring, often forgetting or ignoring winter as one of the best times to add seasonal plants to the landscape or containers.

By adding cool-season annuals to your landscape in winter, you will enhance the quality of your garden, increase curb appeal and add color and dimension to a possibly otherwise barren landscape. If you haven't planted your cool-season annuals yet, don't fret. You still have time.

Some of the most common cool-season annuals that can be planted in January include dianthus, ornamental cabbage and kale, snapdragons and viola. As we move closer to spring, local garden centers will begin to carry alyssum, bacopa, annual phlox, calendula, forget-me-nots and nasturtiums.

To prepare your planting area, first remove existing mulch and weeds. Be sure no weeds make it into your compost. Next, add 1 to 2 inches of a high-quality organic-based garden soil. For best results, incorporate the garden soil into the planting area with a trowel or a hand cultivator.

To help your cool-season annuals thrive long into spring, add fertilizer. If a granulated fertilizer is added, use 8-8-8 or 15-5-10. This will be enough to feed your cool-season bedding plants for up to eight weeks. If you choose a slow-release fertilizer, it will typically last well into spring.

After preparing your garden bed, plant your annuals at the recommended spacing. This information can usually be found on the tag that came with the plant. After planting, be sure to add to 2 to 3 inches of mulch, which will help suppress weeds and conserve soil moisture and warmth. You can reapply the old mulch you removed with fresh mulch on top or just use new mulch and compost the old material. 

Though insect pests are at a minimum this time of year, there are some, such as aphids. Be on the lookout, scouting plants and under leaves. Aphids can be eliminated with spray insecticidal soap, horticultural oil or Malathion. Be sure to follow the label directions.

Check with your local nurseries for availability and help selecting plants or contact your local Extension office. Planting your cool-season annuals now will ensure your garden beds will be full of color in March and April.

Got a question?

Email gardennews@agcenter.lsu.edu.