Ted Howard is a man with flower power.
His limitless energy appears to be derived from the flowers that surround him. The focus of his life is planting flowers, and he is the only person in the Valley whose livelihood depends exclusively on this pursuit.
I first wrote about Howard more than 10 years ago and he has now been in business for 33 years. You may have seen his Flower’d by Howard signs in Valley flower beds from North Hollywood to Tarzana.
Howard’s flowers grow as if they were given some rare vitamins accessible to him alone. Yet his formula for growing incredible flowers is not a mystery at all. Soil preparation and fertilization are the simple constituents of his success.
If you are planting a flower bed for the first time, you will want to incorporate
8 cubic feet of amendments per 100 square feet of planting area. You can use any well-aged compost, whether it is homemade or purchased by the bag. Howard prefers using bagged potting soil because it does not have the accompanying, often unpleasant, odors of certain popular amendments.
The amendment should be worked into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil with a spading fork.
Occasionally, soil that resists wetting is encountered. Either drainage is poor or hydrophobic amendments such as peat moss have been overused and it is impossible for water to penetrate. In such cases, Water-In or a similar product should be applied to improve drainage. Gypsum application is also recommended in such cases. It may be applied every few months.
After preparing your bed, apply slow-release fertilizer so that your flowers will be fed for many months without having to make several fertilizer applications. Howard uses Gro-Power slow release pellets. He prefers Gro-Power products because they all contain humus.
Humus is the end-product of biological decomposition in the soil. Technically, humus consists of skeletons of bacteria, actinomycetes and other decomposing micro-organisms. Humus particles have been compared to snowflakes since no two are alike.
Humus contributes to plant health in several ways. It encourages growth of aerobic bacteria, which break down minerals into component elements that may then be absorbed by plant roots. It also builds a plant’s immune system so that disease organisms, many of which enter a plant through its roots, are deterred.
Insect pests are also loath to visit Howard’s flowers and, if they do, are consumed by beneficial insects that are attracted by his diversity of flower species.
Once bed preparation and pre-plant fertilization are complete, there is a finishing touch that can make a big difference in getting your flowers off to a fast and healthy start.
Soon after planting, water your plants with seaweed extract or any other liquid micronutrient product. If you follow this regimen, your flowers may well bloom for six months or longer. The bottom line with growing fantastic annuals is getting them off to a fast start. Once they have found their groove, nothing will stop them from keeping up their display for half a year.
The best months for planting are April and October, but if you pay extra attention to water needs, you could plant your annual bed any time during the summer as well.
After the imposition of a Los Angeles watering ordinance several years ago, when sprinkler irrigation was restricted to three days a week, Howard quickly realized that he would have to innovate. Annual flowers, especially when newly planted or during a heat wave, could require irrigation more than three times a week.
Howard noticed that the water ordinance did not apply to drip irrigation so he became expert in installation of drip systems. Howard has since installed drip systems for many of his customers.
Drip systems not only save water – up to 30 percent according to Howard – but also result in healthier plants. Water spray from conventional sprinklers knocks over long-stemmed flowers such as Iceland poppies and zinnias and flatten mounding flowers such as alyssum and lobelia.
Howard can be reached at 818-504-2506 or visit his website, http://floweredby
Tip of the week
Ted Howard has expanded use of drip irrigation to lawns as well as flower beds. In both situations, Howard uses 1/2-inch tubing for his main lines and 1/4-inch tubing, available through Internet vendors, for his laterals.
The 1/4-inch tubing has in-line emitters spaced 6 inches apart. Spacing between laterals depends on soil type. Fast-draining sandy soil demands 6-inch spacing between laterals while 12-inch spacing between laterals is appropriate for slow-draining clay soil; intermediate spacing is appropriate for soil of intermediate drainage capacity.
In a lawn, make slits in the soil with a gas-powered edger, the machine professional gardeners use for edging lawns. Your 1/4-inch tubing can then be pinned onto your lawn with jute staples, just above the slits made by the edger, every 2 feet. Smush your lawn grass around the tubing.
As long as you mow your lawn at a height of 2 to 3 inches, there is no danger of cutting into the drip tubing and, soon, your turf (lawn) will completely cover the tubing.
In the Valley, lawns require watering six or seven days a week during the summer to look their best, and the only way this can be achieved, without violating the watering ordinance, is through drip irrigation. Howard has never experienced blowout or clogging of his drip systems and attributes this to use of a pressure regulator and a fine filter – ideally 200 mesh – at the head of each main line.
Ted Howard is a man with flower power.