Fine weather for the bedding season

By Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

Surfinia Petunia.
Surfinia Petunia.

Prune shrubs that HAVE finished flowering if requireD

Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'

What a wonderful week of weather we have just had and It has landed in perfect timing for us all to launch into the bedding plant season. Now in general I am hesitant about going too early with planting out bedding plants, often we may have a nice spell of weather in mid or late April and people are tempted to plant up pots and baskets hoping for a long hot summer to come.

This is way too soon though, no matter how warm it may be at the time, what must be appreciated is that these little plants are all grown under cover in a controlled environment and crucially protected from the wind. A warm April/ early May day can become a quite chilly even frosty night. But now the temptation can finally be given in to because although we may have a few inclement days ahead I think we are in the safety zone.

It's at this time of year more than any other that the non gardener gardens. Garden centres are thronged with eager customers all goggle eyed at the swathes of colour on display. And the great thing about bedding plants is that in general if you keep them watered during summer you will find that you can be a sucessful gardener no matter how limited your ability.

Annuals want to flower, thats how they reproduce, so try as hard as you want to neglect them they will defy you and flower seemingly in spite of you. Assuming you do actually want to get as much out of these plants as possible following a few simple rules will help you achieve even greater results.

Firstly ensure that the planting medium that you are planting into is of good quality. If planting in pots, baskets or any container always use fresh compost.

I prefer some with a little topsoil added. If planting into the earth ensure that the soil is well dug over and soft and open in structure adding some compost and a little fertiliser while digging. Always water in after planting and beware of the dreaded slug and snail invasion as this is their most successful time of year as well with a ready supply of soft plant growth to feed on. After this its down to a little dead heading to encourage your bedding plants to continue flowering instead of running up to seed and regular feeding.

A liquid feed is the best way to keep your bedding plants healthy and there are many products available that do this. A liquid feed is fast acting meaning its nutrients are available to the plant immediately.

People often ask if they can use tomato feed on their flowering plants. Liquid tomato feed is high in nutrients to produce flowers but especially fruit but there isn't really that crucial a difference compared to flower liquid feeds additional benefits.

So I would say if you have it use it but I have heard said to use half the recommended dose for flowering plants. How often to feed is a little hard to tell you but as a rule of thumb through May into mid June once a fortnight should be sufficient after this once a week to ten days. This is more important for small pots and hanging baskets where the growing medium quantity is small, these may also need daily watering by mid June.

What will I be growing this year? Well I actually like white flowers in containers but that is just a personal choice, the other thing about bedding is that more than at any other time of year you can get away with being as riotous as you like with your colours. And never let anyone tell you otherwise.

On my plant list this year will be Million bells (Calibrachoa); Surfinia Petunia; Marguerite Daisies (Argyranthemum); Cosmos; Bacopa; Ageratum; Tobacco plant (Nicotiana); Diascia and Lobelia all in white for me but are just as beautiful in what ever colours you are having yourself. Have fun this is the best gardening time of the year.

Wexford People

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