The Sunday Gardener's Blog

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  1. 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



  2. 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. 


  3. sweet-pea-close-up-dark-pink-310x240 lilium-citronella-310-x-240



      February is  not too early to begin planning summer colour.

    Sweet Peas are a colourful, highly scented annual climber which can be started off in February.  At this stage sow underglass and keep warm until they have successfully germinated. Sweet peas can then be hardened off ready for planting out usually around April. Sweet peas are half hardy annuals so will take a fair degree of cold once established. Pinch out the top growth to have multiple stems per plant and more summer flowers. For details tips and sowing advice check out How to Grow Sweet Peas.

    There are also summer flowering bulbs which can be started off  later  February such as Dahlia and Lily. Plant only during a mild spell and bear in mind they are not frost hardy. It should take around 6 weeks or more for the top growth to emerge which should be around mid to late April. If there is a frost protect the top growth with a cloche. Planting early, with the right winter protection, will get the bulbs off to an early start. If you garden in an exposed area prone to late frosts, or with a lot of winter wet delay planting until later in March.

    For more tips on growing Dahlia and Lily.


  4. Owl-in-winter-310-x-240

    In winter Tawny Owls are busy calling and looking for a  mate, which means they are more vocal. I am always amazed and delighted to hear Owls. I often hear them but rarely see them. Tawny Owls are the most common of our native Owls and as shown in the image, very beautiful.

    Tawny Owls tend to live and stay in the same territory which means the pair which live within audio distance of our house can be heard quite regularly.  

     I have placed on You tube the haunting sound of Owls on a frosty night and is only audio. The reason there is no video footage of the Owls is, (apart from the fact they are hard to spot,) it was pitch dark and nothing to be seen, just the sound of Owls hooting alongside a stream. Have a nature moment and relax to the lovely sounds of Owls.

    Tawny Owls looking for a mate or to re establish contact with their mate, (they pair for life,) will call out and the familiar sound of to-wit, kewit followed by to-woo, hooo is in fact two Owls, the female first followed by the male response. Only the male makes the familar 'towoooo' sound responding to the female call. If you hear just a single call it is like a male Tawny Owl in search of his mate.