Thompson & Morgan urges Brexit Brits to grow their own

As Britain’s formal exit from the European Union was triggered this week, various companies and a major Dutch bank, reported concerns over prices of fruit, vegetables, flowers and olive oil rising by as much as eight percent.

In its report, Weighing up Future Food Security in the UK: The Impact of the Brexit on Food & Agribusiness in Europe and Beyond, Rabobank, the second largest bank in the Netherlands, specialising in food and agriculture financing and sustainability-oriented banking, said that although details of British trade agreements are unknown, the cost of exports will undoubtedly increase.

Whether you’re for or against the UK’s exit from the EU, there’s no doubt that Brexit will have implications on our imports of fruit and vegetables and other foodstuffs. According to Rabobank, the UK is only 60 percent self-sufficient in terms of food. The report suggests that administrative border checks alone could lead to a hike in prices of between five and eight percent.

What can the British consumer do?

“We’ve said it before and we’re saying it again”, said Paul Hansord, our commercial director, “grow your own!”

“It’s a no-brainer as far as we’re concerned and we’re here to help with lots of ‘how to’ videos and advice on our website. People are so used to getting all their food from shops and supermarkets, but if prices go up as suggested, due to import costs once we’ve left the EU, we’ll need to grow a lot more of our own produce.”

“The fact is that it’s really not difficult to grow at least some of your own fruit and veg. Home-grown is always going to taste better than shop-bought and when you grow your own, there’s no need to worry about pesticides, food miles, the weeks that some shop-bought fruit and veg spend in cold storage; you just pick it or dig it up, and enjoy it – fresh and wholesome – straight from your garden or allotment.”

For help and guidance on growing your own fruit, vegetables and flowers, go to www.thompson-morgan.com/gardening-guides , www.thompson-morgan.com/gardening-for-beginners or www.thompson-morgan.com/how-to-garden

How to Plant up Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets are a really easy to way to create a stunning display in your garden without too much hard work! Simply choose your colour scheme, buy your hanging basket plants and follow the 3 main principles detailed below and you’ll be sure to have a mass of colour adorning your walls and fences…

 

1. Choosing the right hanging basket

Any type of container can be used as a makeshift hanging basket – we’ve even seen old clothes used as planters! But the easiest way is to invest in an Easy Fill Hanging Basket. These are long-lasting and easy to plant up plus thanks to the little gates around the sides when you insert your plants you won’t damage their roots .

 

2. Choosing your hanging basket plants

If you are planting up a winter hanging basket, you can’t go wrong if you choose our Winter Hanging Basket Plant Collection. Or you could visit our annual bedding pages for a wide selection of pansies, primulas, primroses and other winter bedding varieties.

For the best displays, first you need to decide on a colour scheme, then choose a mixture of trailing and upright plants. Trailing geraniums should be planted on the outside of your basket so they can trail and tumble all summer long. You can then plant an upright geranium in the centre of your basket to give your display height.

Fuchsias also make great basket plants. As with geraniums, use trailing varieties on the outside and then upright varieties in the centre.

If you prefer a mixed display then browse our selection of other hanging basket plants for some inspiration – begonias, petunias, lobelia and verbena all make wonderful hanging basket displays.

When it comes to how many plants to plant in your hanging basket we always say the more the merrier – pack them in for a full display which will look beautiful cascading and tumbling from the baskets (one little plant won’t make much of a display!). But, as a general guide we’d say 5-8 plants in a 12″ basket but if they do not have too much of a bushy habit then 10-12 plants would create a lovely full display.

 

3. Looking after your hanging basket plants

Feeding and Watering

The main thing to remember with hanging baskets is that the plant is completely dependant on you for it’s water and nutrition – a plant in the ground can send its roots out to forage through the earth for water or nutrients – a basket up in the air can’t send a long root down to the ground.

Before planting add some Incredibloom® into the compost. This will give your plants all the nutrients they need to put on a great display all season long. Tests have shown this plant food to help your plants produce up to 4 times as many flowers!

Once planted up make sure your hanging baskets are kept moist – never bone dry and never sitting in puddles. We recommend a good soaking and then leaving them to drain and dry a little until it is moist before watering again. Best to water early in the morning or in the evening to reduce water loss to evaporation.

 

Shaping your plants

Once the plants start growing they will take on their own shape – if you think a plant looks a bit straggly then prune a bit off to tidy the shape. Some like wild baskets and some like neat so it’s to your own preference. Just make sure that you don’t get carried away though as too much pruning can also remove some of the flower buds!

To prune your hanging basket plants cut at the stem just above a leaf joint – the plant will heal over at that point. To stop your plants getting taller nip out the growing tip at a leaf joint. Sometimes we are a little fearful of cutting and trimming our plants in case we cause any damage, but there’s not much that can go wrong. I always think of it as trimming your own hair when it’s got a bit untidy – a little trim up is better than a mad chop that leaves you with a wonky fringe! Mind you, if I ever do trim my own hair, my hairdresser tells me off!

Geranium pests, diseases and other problems

Geraniums are extremely tolerant plants and known for being reliable, sturdy growers that perform well with very little care needed … which is ideal! However, from time to time problems can crop up and we have put together the following ‘troubleshooting’ section to help you get the very best from your plants. Thankfully there aren’t many pests that are attracted to geraniums and most problems are easily treatable so don’t panic if you encounter any problems – you don’t have to throw your lovely plants away!

Click on the heading below which best describes the problem:

  1. Holes in the leaves
  2. Small white flies on the plants
  3. Small green flies on the plants
  4. Small black flies on the soil
  5. Brown patches on the leaves of zonal geraniums
  6. Brown marks on the backs Ivy Leaved geraniums
  7. Grey mould on the leaves and/or stems
  8. Plants not flowering
  9. Plants not thriving
  10. Rotted stem
  11. Lower leaves turning yellow
  12. Cauliflower-like growth on the stem
  13. Plant collapses and dies

Holes in the leaves

This is usually caused by caterpillars – there is a moth that can appear about August or September that will chew the leaves of the zonals which needs catching in the evenings or eradicating with a systemic insecticide. Geraniums are rarely affected by slugs and snails.

 

Whitefly

Whitefly can be a problem with the regal and sometimes the scented pelargoniums, though they do not actually damage the plant. Garden Centres are loaded with insecticides to combat this pest, but it is a case of persevering during the warm weather, as they breed very rapidly. We spend a huge amount of money to keep this pest under control – and it still pops up again! Try using “Provado”, it could help here!

 

Greenfly

Greenfly are more of a problem than Whitefly, as these DO damage the plant as they can distort the leaves and spread quickly. Obtain a ‘systemic spray’ from the hardware shop (systemic just means the spray gets into the plant system and the fly eat the leaves and get the insecticide into them). Spray the whole plant, particularly under the leaves and the compost too. Best to isolate the plant if possible to stop them spreading or spray all plants so they are all protected.

 

Sciarid flies

These are small black flies which you will see on the surface of the compost, and their larvae can damage the roots. They can thrive in peat composts, but are not normally so active that they kill the plants. Once their life cycle moves on, they disappear, so are only a nuisance for about two months in the year. Drenching with a weak solution of Jeyes Fluid will usually put an end to them. Correct watering – keeping the soil moist but never wet – will help to keep them away.

 

Pelargonium rust

Pelargonium rust can affect the zonal varieties, and it is getting everywhere nowadays – it first came into the country in 1964 and has gradually spread from Eastbourne, where it was first detected. It only affects the zonal types, and particularly thrives during a damp summer or autumn. However, it is not “life threatening” to the plants, and luckily it does not seem to infect the plants very rapidly, so simply removing the affected leaves will be a good control. We would also advise spraying with a suitable fungicide usually availlable at Garden Centres. Make sure you spray the underside of the leaves and the compost too so that all spores are treated. Within a day or two take off the affected leaves and either burn or put into the dustbin – do not put them on the compost heap. We do not recommend destroying your plants, as pelargonium rust is only a fungus, much like grey mould or botrytis, and is now endemic in this country, so any new plants you get will most likely suffer from it sooner or later. Ivy leaf geraniums never have rust, only zonals are ever infected.

 

Oedema

If you see brown marks on the backs of the leaves of your ivy leaved geraniums, what you have got is not a disease at all, but a physiological disorder called Oedema. This often affects the older leaves of the ivy or hybrid ivy types and is caused by erratic watering. If the plants have got rather dry and are then watered the stomata on the back of the leaves cannot always cope, and they burst. Afterwards they callous over, so what you see is like a scar. We would suggest removing any leaves that look unsightly – the new leaves that grow will not have it. Be careful to keep the roots of the plants moist at all times, especially at the times of the year when they are growing rapidly and are transpiring a great deal. Moist, but never waterlogged, is the golden rule.

 

Grey Mould

Grey mould, or botrytis, to give it it’s proper name, is a nuisance once autumn arrives. Damaged leaves or dying flowers will begin to rot once the cold, damp days arrive, and petals falling on to leaves can cause damage. The answer is threefold, one is to make sure there are no damaged leaves or flowers on the plants, the second is to supply adequate ventilation so that there is movement of air, and the third is to visit the Garden Centre to buy a fungicide designed to combat grey mould. Smokes are preferable in a greenhouse, because they do not increase the humidity, but are not practical in a porch or conservatory.

 

Plants not flowering

If plants are not flowering, check the following:

  1. What type of geranium is it? Regal and Angels naturally flower for a shorter period than other types.
  2. Is the plant growing well – bushy, healthy and happy looking?
  3. What feed is it getting? The best feed to boost flowering is high potash – tomato feed is good for encouraging flowering.
  4. Light – the better the light, the more geraniums will flower.
  5. Watering – is the plant getting enough to drink? The soil should moist at all times but never leave the plant sitting in puddles of water!
  6. What size pot is it in? – if the plant is in a huge pot it will be filling the pot with roots and not be concentrating on flowering. Try reducing the pot size – this restricts the roots so plant put its effort into flowering.

 

Plants not thriving

If plants are not thriving, check the following:

  1. Have a look at the roots – Take the plant out of the pot and have a look at the roots. If white then healthy and fine. If browning then the roots are dying.
  2. What compost is it growing in? It needs to be in general purpose compost – not bark based or coir as that will hold too much moisture.
  3. Is the compost stale and compacted? Try replanting into fresh compost.
  4. What feed is it getting? The best feed for foliage growth is a balanced fertiliser – our geranium fertiliser is good for foliage and flowering.
  5. Light – the better the light, the more geraniums will thrive.
  6. Watering – is the plant getting too much water? If the plant is too wet it will ‘drown’ as the roots need to have air around them for the oxygen.
  7. Look for sciarid fly – if there small black flies on the surface of the compost, their larvae may be damaging the roots. They can thrive in peat composts, but are not normally so active that they kill the plants. Once their life cycle moves on, they disappear, so are only a nuisance for about two months in the year. Drenching with a weak solution of Jeyes Fluid will usually put an end to them. Correct watering – keeping the soil moist but never wet – will help to keep them away.

 

Stem rot

Alas, this is something that geraniums are prone to, and we find that it is more likely to happen in very hot weather. It is caused by a soil-borne fungus, and if the pot gets hot it seems to give rise to the trouble. From our experience, it also seems to occur if the plant has dried out too much, and is then copiously watered.

 

Yellowing

If you spot yellowing of the bottom leaves of your geranium plants this can occur for any of several reasons:

  1. Insufficient light is reaching the lower part of the plant. This is probably the cause of the problem if the plants are too close together, or are too far from a good source of light. If you use a photographer’s light meter, you will discover that three feet in from a window will reduce the light level by 50%!
  2. The plants are receiving insufficient water at the roots. Although all of the pelargonium family will rot in a humid atmosphere, it is a mistake to think that they need to be kept dry at the roots. They are never dormant, so require moisture all the year round to transpire, but less, of course, in winter and in dull weather. When bone dry the stems go hard and woody, and the plant never grows as well – it is always best to renew the plant with fresh cuttings when this has occurred.
  3. The plants are drowning! Too much water will exclude the oxygen from the roots, causing them to die. It is said that 90% of house plants are killed from over watering. Never be afraid of taking a plant out of it’s pot to see what is happening to the roots. Sometimes it is possible to take a cutting off the top of a plant if it is only rotting at the bottom.
  4. The plants have been moved recently and are adjusting to their new environment.

 

Leafy gall

This is a strange, cauliflower-like growth that occurs where the stem enters the soil, and can occur on any of the pelargonium family. This problem is a complete mystery, as nobody has yet found the cause, so therefore there is no cure. It occurs completely indiscriminately – the first time we found it, in our early days of growing pelargoniums, we rushed off to a nurseryman and said “Look what we’ve found!” “Oh yes,” he said, “I just break that off and throw it away.” And this is still the only thing one can do. The plants continue to grow quite normally once it is removed, and cuttings taken from those plants do not necessarily have it – it just occurs as and when it feels like it!

 

Plant collapse

Sometimes geranium plants suddenly collapse and die. This is know an ‘Plant collapse’ and has two main causes:

  1. Vine weevil. This is a pest which seems to be on the increase and is difficult to eradicate. We know that fuchsia growers are very concerned about it. A garden centre is the place to go to for advice on suitable chemicals to combat the pest. We think they will probably recommend a product from PBI called “Provado”, but they might have other suggestions. We know of one nurseryman who recommends letting bantam chickens loose in the greenhouse! Levingtons do now produce a compost that will kill vine weevil, but that would entail washing the roots and repotting everything. We are sorry there is no magic remedy to this problem.
  2. Mice! We once had a letter from a frantic customer who said her plants in the conservatory were keeling over from above the soil level. In fear and trepidation, in case we upset her, we phoned and suggested she might have mice in the conservatory. “Do you know! I think you might be right!” she said. Phew!

How to Overwinter Geraniums

If you’re planning to over-winter your geraniums & pelargoniums please “take with a pinch of salt” anything you hear from well meaning “experts” – often they know an awful lot about a wide range of plants and limited specific knowledge of each species.

If the plants are warm and in good light, they are very likely to continue to grow, and some will even flower, in the winter. So fill all those sunny windows and conservatories with all your members of the pelargonium family!

 

Over-wintering geranium plants:

    1. The first thing to consider is if the particular variety is a favourite and is worth spending time and trouble on. If not, let it “take it’s chance” and buy something more agreeable next year!
    2. You also need to think about whether you have enough space for your quantity of plants. Very few of us have enough frost-free room to keep every plant, especially if they have grown very large. There are three choices:
      • Keep the plants as they are, but put into pots.
      • Cut back the plants so that they spend the winter re-growing and bushing out.
      • Root some new cuttings and leave the old plants to get on as best they can.
  1. Before bringing your geranium plants inside for the winter make sure you examine them well first. Clean off any dead leaves or dying flowers and look for signs of pelargonium rust. This only affects the zonal pelargoniums but it is getting everywhere nowadays. It first came into the country in 1968 and particularly thrives during a damp summer or autumn. Luckily, this does not seem to infect the plants very rapidly and is easily treatable, so simply removing the affected leaves will be a good control. You could also try spraying with a fungicide called Dithane945, which is obtainable at most Garden Centres.
  2. Light is very important, which is why if indoors they must be right on the window-sill – if they are only three feet from the window they will get 50% less light!
  3. During the winter try to keep the atmosphere dry, but not the roots. Because the plants do not go into dormancy they continue to grow and therefore transpire and so need some moisture. Geraniums will often survive a drought, but will not grow and thrive – people growing show plants are careful to ensure their plants roots are moist, but never wet, in the winter. To keep the atmosphere dry it is important to ventilate as often as possible. If you do not allow the air to move, your plants will end up a mouldy, rotting heap. Electric fan heaters are best as they move the air around every time they come on as well, and need little work on your part, thank goodness for a thermostat!
  4. Geraniums are very economical when overwintered in the greenhouse as they only need to be kept frost free. However, we do recommend if your heating has a thermostat you set it at 5ºdeg;C or 41ºdeg;F. If the stems get the frost then the plant will die and not recover! A porch, sunroom or conservatory are excellent places for the pelargonium family in the winter, and sunny windowsills are suitable.

Taking Geranium & Pelargonium Cuttings

There is no particular time of the year for taking cuttings of many of the members of the pelargonium family, because they have no dormancy and grow for twelve months of the year. However, success will depend on being able to supply good light and warm compost. A propagator is a worthwhile investment for any enthusiastic gardener. It is a good idea to get going on the regal varieties first if you need more of these, as they take longer to root and longer to come into bloom than the zonal types.

Whilst I’d always encourage you to expand your collection by trying out new varieties (and of course, ordering them all from Vernon’s!), taking your own cuttings of geraniums is also an exciting part of this wonderful hobby of growing and collecting geraniums! If you’ve never tried it before then do give it a go – I still get a thrill when fresh, white roots are coming out of the base of a cutting I’ve taken. There is no such thing as 100% success but if you have a method that works for then I’d always say stick with it.

 

How to take geranium cuttings

There is no particular time of the year for taking cuttings of the geranium family, because they have no dormancy and grow for twelve months of the year. However, success will depend on being able to supply good light and warm compost.

Your requirements will be a mother plant, a sharp knife, some seed compost and some means of keeping the compost warm once the cuttings are inserted.

  1. Cut the mother plant just above a leaf joint on the main stem and then trim the cutting you’ve taken to just below the joint.
  2. Strip off most of the leaves.
  3. Don’t take a great long cutting. The healthiest past of a plant is nearest the growing tip, so short cuttings are best, and once rooted they will soon catch up with long ones.
  4. The cuttings need to be inserted into warm, damp sterilised compost. Do not let them dry out and keep them in a light, dry atmosphere. Never put the lid down on a propagator if you are rooting any of the pelargonium family – they are very prone to rotting in high humidity.
  5. Wait and few weeks and your cuttings should have rooted!

Some years ago someone once wrote in a pelargonium magazine that it was beneficial to use a solution of vitamin C for cuttings, so we tried it and had to agree it helped, so we have been using it ever since. We put about half a teaspoonful of powder in a couple of eggcupfuls of cold water and stir it with anything that is non-metallic (usually a plant label) and it is stored in a dark bottle. Tablets would do just as well as powder – and what you don’t use for your geranium cuttings can be made into a drink – so it will do you both good! We never use hormone-rooting powders or liquid, as this makes the ends go soft and they are more likely to rot than root.

Do not get distraught if a few do not make it – one hundred per cent success is a very high standard to try to achieve! The important thing is to enjoy what you are doing, and we think you will always feel a sense of achievement when you manage to increase your stock of a plant. We always do!

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