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  1. Seed-selection-310 Growing lettuce

    Spring is just around the corner, an important time for the sowing of seeds and the growing of new crops of vegetables. Produce like broad beans, beetroot, garlic and shallots are planted, ready for the conditions brought by the warmer months. But what is becoming more of a worry is the rise of temperatures due to climate change and the damage this can bring. The unbearable heat can wilt the leaves of plants and they can literally be scorched and burnt in the sun. Here we give you some tips to help combat this:

    Preparation is Key…

    You’re likely to know when a heatwave is nigh as it will no doubt be warned of on the news. If you grow your own produce, it’s important to keep a closer eye out on the weather forecast, allowing you to help prevent the occurrence of any damage.

    Keep Healthy Plants

    Ensuring your plants are given the best chance at survival can be achieved through providing them with the healthiest conditions to grow in where you can. Having rich, quality soil in raised beds and using organic fertiliser will promote access to important nutrients. Planting in thoughtfully spaced triangles will prevent over crowing and actually save you time – as the vegetables will successfully compete against any weeds growing between. Keeping an eye on your garden as often as you can, will allow you to quickly notice and fix anything that doesn’t seem quite right.

    Creating Shade

    When the sun does arrive, and it is at its hottest – it is advisable to cover your plants and vegetables with any material which can block out and reduce exposure. This can be done using plants stakes and a dark cloth, by stretching it to cover the vegetables but leaving openings at each end to allow air circulation - you could also cover the plants directly using a lightweight muslin cloth. Alternatively, portable structures like Garden & Camping gazebos can be placed in various positions to protect the crops. You could even look at planting larger greenery like sunflowers, to give a natural source of shade to your plot.

    Controlled Watering

    During a heatwave, it is best to water plants either by hand using a watering can or with a soaker hose or drip line. This is to ensure that the water is reaching the soil beneath and should be done early in the morning, giving the vegetables the moisture they need to bear the heat. By using sprinklers, the water is likely only reaching the top leaves and not the root, even evaporating in its transit or settling and consequently causing scorching and burn. It is also important to remember to still water shaded areas as they too require hydration.

    Using Mulch

    A great way of cooling the soil is by using varieties of mulch. Biodegradable mulches include garden compost, leaf mould, spent mushroom compost, processed conifer bark or wood chippings. These help to improve the fertility and the structure of the soil. You could alternatively opt for non-biodegradable mulch, which still helps to limit weed growth and would usually come in the form of black plastic when used on a vegetable plot.

    We shall have to see what more extreme weathers 2020 has to bring, but hopefully these tips should allow your garden to remain healthy and thriving, even in the warmest of temperatures.




  2. clematis montana elizabeth Clematis alpina  and ilex

    Group 1 Clematis montana  

    Do not prune

    Group 1 Clematis alpina  

    Do not prune

    Are you putting off pruning Clematis ? then read on........

    Late February and March is the right time to prune Clematis, except for any early flowering Clematis. The rule is if it flowers before June, don't prune. The first images are of Clematis montana and C. alpina which are the early flowering type of Clematis (called Group 1) and it is most important not to prune these. If you think about it, if a plant is to produce flowers in April and May cutting it back in March is going to remove all the buds.

    The Clematis which are pruned now are those which flower later so they have time to put on growth and make buds.

    This is the time to prune Clematis in Groups 2 & 3. The next two images are of Clematis Crystal fountain Group 2 and Clematis tangutica 'Bill MacKenzie' Group 3. These are Clematis which flower from midsummer onwards, group 2 in June onwards, Group 3 late summer around Late August and September.

    There is help on the website about how to prune Clematis and how to work out which type of Clematis you have and videos at The SundayGardener YouTube where there is a Clematis playlist…

    It can be disconcerting when pruning Clematis to see the new shoots, and then cut them off in the spring prune.
    The last image shows a Clematis with many shoots, and those above the pruning line will be sacrificed. Not to worry as this is normal when pruning Groups 2 & 3 Clematis.

    How many are removed depends on whether the Clematis is a Group 3 (hard prune,) or Group 2 (lighter prune).

    Pruning shoots from Clematis

    How many are removed depends on whether the Clematis is a Group 3 (hard prune,) or Group 2 (lighter prune).

    If you don't know what type of Clematis you have, check out Clematis pruning Groups 1,2 and 3 explained both on the website and video so that you can prune successfully and be rewarded with even more flowers in the summer.

    If you cannot remember when it flowered, unless you are confident it was after June, leave it alone. If it flowered "sometime in the summer" treat it as group 2. For next year take a photo of the Clematis in flower and note the month, this should enable you to identify it. If you get stuck drop the Sunday Gardener an email with the photo.


    Group 2  Clematis Cystal Fountain

    Lighter Prune

    Group 3 Clematis tangutica 'Bill MacKenzie'

    Hard Prune

    Clematis-Crystal-Fountain Clematis Tangutica Bill Mackenzie 2





  3. sweet-pea-pinch-out-tips-310x240 Sweet-pea-close-up-growth-points-nipped-out

    Sweet Peas naturally want to grow tall, leggy and keep on growing. As gardeners we want them to grow tall but also to produce lots of flowers. Whether you have germinated your own sweet peas, or purchased small plants and are growing them on, you will see a single shoot growing. If left to its own devices that shoot will grow taller and taller.

    By pinching out the top growth, you will make the seeding through out side shoots so that there is more than one single shoot. This means later in the year, more flowering stems per plant. 

    If you look at the images above, the first image all the top growth is in place, the second image the plant has been cut back. This will make the sweet pea throw out extra growing shoots which will mean instead of one single long stem there are several branches all of which will, later in the season, carry flowers. By nipping back the stem you will have strong flowers with more shoots. 

    The best time to cut back is when the seedling has a pair or two of leaves, then cut it back the leaf and within a week/10 days you will see the extra stems appearing.  More about growing sweet peas.  You will have stronger and more floriferous plants. 

    Updated 16.02.2020



  4. potting on cucumber

    Gardeners and garden magazines often refer to the need to 're pot a plant' but how do you know when to do this?

    Re pot too soon and you risk a small plant loosing itself in an overly large pot, too late and the roots are a tangled mess and the plant is pot bound.

    The first thing is to look at the underneath of the pot, carefully holding the plant in place. Can you see roots and plenty of them?

    If so slide the plant out of the pot and look. Illustrated left is a cucumber plant and you can see that there are lots of roots, filling the space and most of the compost, but not jammed in. This plant has filled up its pot, it is ready for potting on, just at the right stage before it becomes too congested.

    Given that I want to make sure the cucumber has lots of growing space I potted it on into a pot around 10cms (in total) larger than the existing pot so it has about 5cms depth and on each side to grow into. This is a bit generous, but cucumber are vigorous and growing strongly at this time of year. It will expand nicely into the space and hopefully soon some juicy home grown cucumbers to enjoy.

    Take care not to pot a plant into too large a pot, especially in the early stages when the plant is small. Often in a too large pot the plant will sulk, it can die back. Compost is differently constructed to soil and the compost and be too wet for the small plant, it takes longer to dry out than soil causing the plant to become stressed and fail to thrive. It is essential to plant health in containers to pot up size by size, just a few centimeters up each time not a leap into a large pot. 

    If you think the pot is a little too large hold back on the watering until the plant gets further establised.