Past Articles Library | How to Grow and Care for Nasturtiums
Looking for a plant that is very versatile in its use along with having colorful flowers? If the answer is yes then you need the nasturtium. This annual flower can be found as a bush plant, a trailer or a climber. The flower colors range from orange, red, and yellow along with shades in between. The best part is that they do best when they are ignored.
To begin the process of growing nasturtiums starts off with planting the seed. While you can purchase nasturtium plants, it is just as easy to grow your own from seed. This process can occur late in the spring in the garden space or 10 to 12 weeks prior to your local frost free date indoors. If you choose to directly seed into your garden space, only begin the process after your local frost free date. Once that date has passed, pick out a proper garden location. Nasturtiums will grow in the shade but they will not flower. In doing so, you will need a sunny location. As far as the soil goes, nasturtiums do well in poor soil but it needs to be well draining.
After the location has been selected, remove any unwanted plant material from the garden space and turn over the soil to loosen it. At this point, you will need to pull out the ruler. You will want to plant the nasturtium seeds 12 inches apart and ½ inch deep. Once all the seeds are planted, water the seeds in. In 7 to 10 days, you will begin to see little green dots. This is an indication that your seeds have germinated.
If you want to get a jump on the gardening season, consider starting your seeds indoors. As stated before, you will need to plan before you plant. To be able to get your plants in the ground at the right time, you will need to count back 10 to 12 weeks from your local frost free date. This is the time by which you should start your seed. To begin this process, one will need to clean their container with bleach water. Once it has been cleaned, rinse in clear water and allow to dry. If you do not want to go through this step, consider using peat pots or pots made from cow manure.
After you have your container cleaned or selected, the next step is to fill it with a well draining potting soil. Since the seed is large, you will not need to premoisten the soil. Once the pots have been filled, you can begin to plant. Place one seed ½ inch deep in each container and water in. Place the pots in a sunny location and monitor the soil moisture. Water when the soil feels dry.
Continue to care for the seeds and in about 10 days, you will see evidence of seed germination. Keep the seedlings inside until the outdoor temperatures are above 50 degrees during the day. At this point, you will need to harden off the seedlings by gradually exposing them to the outdoor environment. This should take about a week. Once they have been outside all day and night, they are ready to plant in the garden.
While this annual looks wonderful in the garden, another use for nasturtiums is in container gardens. They look wonderful filling the entire space but if you want to create a designer looking container garden, consider mixing the nasturtium with petunias, French marigolds, and cosmos.
To keep the nasturtiums blooming, make sure to deadhead the plant often.
As easy to grow as the nasturtiums are, they do have a few problems, which include flea beetles, aphids, slugs, and whiteflies. Flea beetles can be black or tan, solid or spotted but regardless of what they look like, they do leave a telltale sign and that is small shot-like holes in the leaves. While the damage is unsightly, the real danger comes from the plant disease that they carry. This includes wilts and blight. While there are several different ways of dealing with this pest, the easiest approach is to deal planting in the spring. This will cut off the food supply of the emerging flea beetles and they will eventually die.
Aphids are another pest that seems to visit nasturtiums. While you may not see the pest, you will see the evidence that they have been there. The evidence I refer to is honeydew. This is a substance that is produced by the aphids, which is a sugary substance that is their waste. This waste will attract ants and sooty mold.
The first way to get rid of the pest is to invite beneficial insects to the environment. Two that love aphids include parasitic wasps and lady beetles. The second way to get rid of them is by dislodging them with a blast of water. While this latter approach will take a couple of times, both techniques will work to get rid of aphids.
Slugs will eat anything. There are a couple of hints by which you can follow to see if you have a slug problem. First, if you see slime around your plants then you have slugs. If you also see holes in the leaves and ragged edges on the leaves then you have slugs. There are a couple of techniques you can follow to deal with this pest. One, you can simply pick them off yourself. You can also set out traps for the slugs, which includes saucers of beer. Or, you can keep them away from your plants by just circling the plant material with crushed eggshells or wood ashes.
Whiteflies are another pest that literally sucks the life out of the nasturtium. As the pest sucks, it produces honeydew that attracts sooty mold. While the whiteflies continue to feast, the plant become weak and can eventually die. Since nasturtiums are annuals, this may not be a big deal but since whiteflies can overwinter in the soil, they can quickly become a big issue.
The first technique to try is to invite beneficial insects just as you would for aphids. Another approach is to utilize a whitefly trap that many nurseries and hardware store sell. Once these traps are set out, they will collect whiteflies and keep them away from your plant material.