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  1. deadheading-310-x-240

    Dead heading is important to get the maximum number of flowers and flowering time from a plant.

    Why?

    The purpose of most plants, perennials and annuals, is to reproduce. Plants reproduce by producing flowers which become seeds which are shed and dispersed at which point the cycle is complete. To encourage a plant to keep flowering, or to produce a second flush of  flowers, remove the spent flower so no seed is produced and the plant will strive to produce another flower. 

    Plants varying in how sensitive they are to dead heading, in terms of producing more flowers. Some plants, such as Clematis Crystal fountain, if deadheaded, may produce a second flush of flowers. For other plants, such as Sweet Peas, hardy Geraniums, and Roses, dead heading is vital to keep the plant flowering all summer long. Having explained this to a friend recently, she replied, "I did wonder why my sweet peas stopped flowering!" 

    Head heading is also very important for bedding plants to keep them flowering. If they are not deadheaded, the flowers will become less and less, and the plant leggy and will soon go over. With a little care most bedding plants should flower for weeks if not months. 

    Plant such as hardy geraniums, common name, Cranesbill, can be very time consuming to dead head. The image is of the dead flower heads removed from a hardy Geranium in one session. If it become too much, an alternative  with Cranesbill, Achillea mollis is to sheer the plant close to ground level and if done early enough in the growing season, it may produce a second flush of flowers. Doing this will certainly produce fresh green foliage if the plant is looking tired. If you don't like the look of plants cut back you can always sheer them before a holiday and they will have produced new growth by the time you are back. Late June and July is a suitable time to cut back hardy geraniums.

    If you are looking to dead head flowers with a single flower spike such as Delphinium, Digitalis (Foxglove) Salvia, just remove the spent  spike and sometimes the plant will reward with a smaller second flush alongside.

     

  2. snowdrops naturalised in a  lawn

    Snowdrops look lovely naturalised in the lawn but there comes a point when the flowers have faded and the lawn wants its first mow of the season. 

    Can you mow the lawn and Snowdrops? 

    Not unsurprisingly,  Snowdrops are the same as Daffodils and other spring bulbs, they need the leaves to remain in place for a number of weeks to feed to bulbs for next year. Unfortunately, for now it is necessary to mow around the fading leaves. Once the leaves are finished and yellow you can mow over them.

     

     

  3. tomato-seedlings-310-x-240 Toms in hanging basket 310

    March is the ideal time to start sowing tomatoes if you intend to grow from seed, or  for buying plug plants for growing on. Tomatoes are not hardy and will need to be kept under glass in a warm place until later in the year for planting out late May.

    If you are new to growing tomatoes, or just need a bit of advice, the sunday gardener has a step by step guide starting with How to grow tomatoes covering all the tomato growing steps, including potting on, pinching out side shoots and the all important watering and feeding regime.

    Which are the easiest tomatoes to grow? 

    Check out The Sunday Gardener's easy paperback guide " Success with Tomatoes"

    Lots of video advice about growing tomatoes on the Sunday Gardener You Tube channel .

     

     

  4. Leggy seedlings are a common problem when germinating from seed, especially early on in the year. The problem is caused by uneven light. Perfect plants purchased from garden centres are germinated and grown in ideal conditions, just the right amount of heat and humidity, and  critically, all round light, that is 360°. As the plant grows it gets all round light and develops a straight study stem.

    Most gardeners have less than perfect conditions and germinate seeds on window sills and warm spots in the house where the light is predominately from one side which causes the seedling to pull to the light. Combined with poor light levels, as is often the case early in the year, or during poor weather, and the seedling stretches to the light and looks "leggy", or weedy. The image below left are my tomato seedlings with just that problem.

    You can reduce the changes of the seedling becoming leggy by ensuring you germinate it in the lightest possible conditions. Also turn the container every couple of days so the light is not constantly drawing on one side of the seedling.

    But what if you have done this and still got a weedy seedling. The solution lies  in how you pot on the seedling.  To pot on, ease the plug out of the pot from the base, and pull the seedlings apart gently (as in image two.) Avoid touching the stems which are very delicate and if damaged the plant may not recover; handle carefully and hold by the leaves.

    Select a suitable pot, not to large. It's tempting, especially with plants like tomatoes which will need to be potted on several times before eventually making it into the veg plot or grow bags, to put into a larger pot to save time. When potting on it is important to pot up only a slightly larger container. If  you put a small seedling (or any small plant ) into a large pot it will not thrive.

    When you put the seedling into the pot sink it well below soil level, you are in effect burying part of the leggy stem under the soil. Instead of potting on at soil level, reduce the amount of leggy seedling above soil, and you will find it grows on as a much better seedling it's leggy past forgotten. Images  centre and right show the same tomato seedling  after it  has been potted on with several cms of (leggy) stem below soil level. As you can see from the image the seedling looks good and this  tip works well to compensate for the problem with all types of leggy seedlings.

    More tips about growing Tomatoes

     

    leggy tomato seedlings leggy seedling potted up by the sunday gardener side view of leggy seedling potted up by the sunday gardener