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Action plan: Nigel Colborn's essential jobs for your garden this week

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A DEMONSTRATION OF SUPPORT

Growth is accelerating now as the days are getting longer and hopefully much warmer. It’s time to make sure all perennials have adequate support.

A few may be strong enough to stand without support. But with our increasingly turbulent climate, it’s wise to avoid risk.

For my tallest plants, I use canes and string. We have a large coppiced hazel tree so I can provide my own strong supports by taking young stems every couple of years. Bamboo is just as good and lasts longer.

For the rest, there are many useful manufactured supports, some interlocking, some not. These all work well, but should be positioned so that the foliage of the plants hides the support as much as possible.

Nigel Colborn says it's time to make sure all perennials have the right support.  A UK-based gardening expert advises using canes and ropes for taller plants

Nigel Colborn says it’s time to make sure all perennials have the right support. A UK-based gardening expert advises using canes and ropes for taller plants

For plants such as Oriental Poppies that tend to crumble, there are two-legged hoop supports. They can look awful when you place them, especially if the plant has already started to crumble. But within a day or two the stems recover and the hoop quickly disappears into the grass.

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If you like the idea of ​​growing your own hazel wands, it could hardly be easier. But it takes time – years rather than months.

If you are growing sweet peas, long bamboo canes work well. Begin tying off young plants as soon as they are large enough to handle.

PLANTING DAHLIAS

Dahlias (pictured) should be placed in crumbly, easily worked soil deep enough to bury the bottom few inches of new, developing stems.

Dahlias (pictured) should be placed in crumbly, easily worked soil deep enough to bury the bottom few inches of new, developing stems.

Potted dahlias overwintered still in a greenhouse will grow faster than is good for them. Plant them now, but remember that the top growth is vulnerable to frost. Set it in loose, easy-to-work soil deep enough to bury the bottom few inches of new, developing stems.

SAFETY FOR SOWING COURGETTES OUTDOORS

If you don’t have a greenhouse and want to grow zucchini from seed, this is a great weekend to start. Frost is unlikely by the time seedlings emerge. Work your seedbed into a fine, crumbly layer. Then dig small holes spaced at least 50 cm apart. If you have well-rotted compost, place a double handful in each hole. Cover the composted holes with small mounds of soil – no bigger than molehills. Plant a single seed in each pile. You can sow two seeds in a few mounds to grow additional plants. If you don’t have compost, use a small handful of bone meal. Water gently and keep the soil moist.

PLANT OF THE WEEK: AUBRIETA X CULTORUM ‘PURPLE CASCADE’

Nigel describes Aubrieta (pictured) as one of Britain's prettiest and most versatile plants.  From spring until early summer, the leaves are almost completely hidden by massive, intensely colored four-petalled flowers.

Nigel describes Aubrieta (pictured) as one of Britain’s prettiest and most versatile plants. From spring until early summer, the leaves are almost completely hidden by massive, intensely colored four-petalled flowers.

Probably Britain’s most widely grown rock garden plant, Aubrieta is also one of the prettiest and most versatile. From spring until early summer, the leaves are almost completely hidden by massive, intensely colored four-petalled flowers. Wild aubrietas have attractive blue-violet flowers, but in garden varieties the colors are puffed up to blushing pink-mauve, blue-violet, or bright pink-purple. They are fully perennial, easy to grow, and long-lasting attractive. Plant in full sun on fast-draining, low-fertility soil.

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QUESTION

I know we should grow flowering plants for pollinators like bees. But apart from buddleja, what should be grown for butterflies?

Mrs. G. Holmes, Gloucs by e-mail

Nectariferous plants appreciated by bees are also used by most adult butterflies. Both have longer proboscis than bees. With these they can also reach the nectaries of tubular flowers such as nicotianas and honeysuckles.

What also matters for butterflies are the plants that feed the larvae. Grasses feed the caterpillars, so patchy rough grass, messy nettle corners or hollies help support these insects.

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