My chilli seedlings have been ticking along nicely in the conservatory, and until the weekend I’d paid them little attention other than keeping them watered. Daytime temperatures in my south-facing sun trap have suited them well, even if cooler night temperatures have kept them in check. Increased sunshine and warmer temperatures in the past week or so have evened out the fluctuations, meaning growth rates have really stepped up.
The plants have been in their root trainers for around 6-7 weeks now, meaning there will be little goodness left in the compost to support continued growth. With roots showing through the drainage holes, and the compost drying out quickly in the increased heat of the conservatory, Saturday morning was spent getting my sturdy seedlings potted on for the next stage of growth.
Root trainers make for really easy potting on – the plastic strips open like a book to reveal perfectly formed root balls that are easily handled will little risk of damage. I transferred each plant to its own 15cm pot, loosely filled with multi-purpose compost. It’s a simple process but there are some tips to follow to get the best results:
Top tips for potting on chillies:
- Water seedlings before potting on. I actually go one further and add a little liquid feed, as it will be a while before new roots stretch out to make use of the new pot compost.
- Spend time breaking up the lumps and bumps in the compost to encourage unhindered root development and good drainage.
- Use new or clean pots – re-using unwashed pots can allow pests and diseases to carry over.
- Fill all your pots before working with your seedlings makes for an efficient process.
- Write all your labels before you start – if you do this after potting on, the chances are you’ll get your varieties mixed up.
- Set chilli plants deep in their pots, burying the stems up to the first leaves. Like tomato plants they will generate new roots on the buried stem, bring better stability and nutrient uptake. Just make sure the lowest leaves are not sitting on the compost surface.
- Despite watering your seedlings before potting on, give them a complete drenching in their new pots too, to help settle them in.
- Plants may droop slightly after potting, but they should be back to full health within 24 hours.
Now my plants have space to breath, and a good amount of fresh compost around them, I swear they have noticeably come on in the few days since I potted them on. By the time I come to set them into their final containers in late May I should have some cracking plants to show off to you. Already I’m impressed with their shapes and habit – early winners for me include the habeneros and scotch bonnets in the Tropical Heat mix and the purple tinged foliage of Pot Black – I can’t wait to see the black fruits on this one!
I have to admit a slight hiccup with my chilli growing this year! On sowing day I was short on plant labels. Rather than label each Root Trainer, I thought it easier to list them on pieces of paper – one list for each tray. Yes you’ve guessed it – one of the lists has gone missing! While I can confidently label all the plants from tray 1, the same can’t be said of tray 2. I know the eight varieties in the mix, I just don’t know which is which. I was really annoyed at myself for this silly mistake, but I’m actually looking forward to growing the plants ‘blind’ and identifying them once they start to produce identifiable fruits later in the season.
Between now and the final potting up I’m going to research all the T&M varieties to place them on the Schoville heat rating scale. I’ll let you know my findings as soon as I have them.
When I think of tulips, I think of Amsterdam. I think most people do. It’s almost certainly to do with the song which I have hummed in my head a thousand times over since childhood… windmills, tulips… mice wearing clogs… but I’d never actually been to Amsterdam. In fact; I’d never actually been to Holland, and considering the number of bulbs I plant every year, it seemed a shame not to know where a lot of them had originated. When you are a writer – sometimes you are lucky enough to be taken to wonderful places on press trips – and this week, I finally got to see Amsterdam! Although I was there for a blissful three days – seeing plenty of other sights around the area and in Haarlem – it would have been possible to do Keukenhof in one day from the UK (a long day, but definitely worth it if it’s the only way you can afford to do it).
Arriving at Keukenhof was just as you would imagine – once you have cleared the gates, it was like arriving at a theme park for gardeners! The sun was shining on us as we walked around the park, and although it is difficult to suggest an exact time of year to go (with tulips being like all plants – and doing exactly what they want in their own sweet time), the park was looking incredible this week. There were some parts of the planting which weren’t yet at their peak – for example a huge picture of Van Gogh planted in blue plants, which were only just coming out, but on the whole, the flowers were looking just perfect!
The thing I loved most about the tulips there was that there were so many different varieties to look at. Tulips are so varied, and really have something for everyone to fall in love with – no matter what your style. I have always loved the parrot tulips – with their stunning colours, but this week I have fallen in love with the smaller more round budded varieties. The colours all around the park are like an assault on the senses – in the best possible way of course! It would be impossible to look upon the bright glossy reds, and the cheerful yellows, without a smile on your face.
Of course, if tulips aren’t your favourite thing, there are plenty of other flowers there too – hyacinths, and narcissi, and all of the other beautiful spring flowers that combined with the tulips, make Keukenhof a very special place indeed. The park is only open for 8 weeks in the springtime, but if you have ever wanted to see this wonderful display – it’s definitely worth the visit!!!
For some people, the structured gardens are not appealing, but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be of interest to visit the area. Following our visit in Keukenhof, we rode through the bulbs fields on bicycle. It is possible to hire cycles from right outside the park, and the experience of riding through the bulbs fields – with a bright tapestry of colours from the tulips, and hyacinths, is something that I will never forget. Now when I plant my spring bulbs, or when I buy a bunch of tulips, I won’t just be picturing Amsterdam – I will be thinking of bulb fields, and the scent of the flowers on the air, and a wonderful country with an amazing history which has been so interlinked with horticulture.
For more information: www.holland.com and for flights www.klm.com
There are so many ways to grow a fuchsia however perhaps the most effective is as a standard. Standards give height to a garden display as well as looking fantastic in tubs on the patio. They will make a feature for your garden for the summer, but remember that they must be kept frost free during the winter as the stem can be very prone to frost and if they caught by frost then you will get a great bush next year!
Firstly choose a good strong growing fuchsia, it can be any type as long as it can be made to co-operate! Therefore a fuchsia for hanging baskets can be grown into a wonderful standard with a weeping head.
So let’s start at the very beginning, standards if you think about them they are really just bushy plants grown on top of a stick, so don’t panic they really are simple to grow! For a bush we take the growing tip out when the cutting is 2 or3” tall. For starting a standard we do the reverse and leave it in position. When your young plant is tall enough then gently tie it to a small cane, either using twist-its or cut up tights! Aim to keep the main stem as straight as you can the straighter the stem the stronger it will be!
As the young plant starts to grow upwards you will notice that small shoots start to grow above the leaves, given time they would grow into the side shoots, but as we would like the plant to grow upwards, they will need to be carefully removed. However, don’t get too enthusiastic and only remove those down the base of the stem, leaving the small shoots in the top 5 or 6 leaf joints. Eventually they will become the head of your standard – if you do not keep that sort of number you can end up with an umbrella structure. (The perfect standard should have a ratio of 1/3rd head and 2/3rds stem.) Carry on tying the plant to the cane, removing the side shoots as it grows – stop when the plant has reached the height that you want. Then carefully remove the growing tip and this will then encourage the side shoots to grow more. Once the side shoots have reached two pairs of leaves, pinch out their growing tips and soon you will start to see the head develop. Only then when you have a good head developing do you remove the leaves from the stem!
There are many different ideas on growing a standard and many will say hat the best standards are grown only if they are not allowed to flower in the first year – great in theory but it takes a strong person to keep on pinching out all summer and not to enjoy them flowering – the choice is yours!
Some other points to consider!
• Standards given good care and attention can live for many years – our oldest is about 40 years old! It is woody but it flowers well – so a standard can be a long-term plant to own and grow!
• When deciding on the height of your standard – consider the practicalities – for example where am I going to put it in the winter? How much space do I have in my greenhouse? So don’t get carried away….
• If you garden is exposed, then shorter standards can be better as they can be sheltered! Always put good stakes in your standards – more than one if necessary rather than seeing one loose its head. Make certain that the cane is as tall as the plant so that the head can be tied to it! If necessary when they are out for the summer – put a brick in the pot to weigh them down!
• Have fun and experiment!
Hope you are all well? Spring has sprung; the days are getting longer and warmer weather (hopefully) is on its way.
It’s National Gardening week, and I am so chuffed that I can now, in my best Pembrokeshire Welsh accent say “I declare the New Greenhouse OPEN ! ” Not because it’s National Gardening Week, but because Mark and I have finally completed the construction of it. We have even moved the water butt to attach another hose kit so that we can collect rainwater from both greenhouse roofs. As you can see from the photo there were a lot of panes of glass to install, sixty, in fact. It took three hours as the clips kept pinging off the glass and one of us would have to look for ages to find it. I am sure some of them are still in the Rose and Herb Garden.
We have put top soil and compost into the borders the path has been laid, the edging is done, and we have even erected the new shelving, the shelving was the easiest job out of everything. One of my aunties gave us a giant lightweight wooden lantern and we have hung it from one of the beams along with a glass wind chime from my mum. I don’t think they will stay there once the tomatoes and other veggies are in place, as, even being only five foot one and a bit, I keep banging my head on them.
As yet the part of the shelving is still in the old greenhouse as I have had so many seedlings to transplant, I am sort of moving things between them until I know what is going where and when. So far in the new greenhouse I have one set of shelves a mini spade, trowel , fork, and plant feed pellets, five pots of overwintering, soon-to-be-moved-out pots of Strawberry Sweetheart’s, seven bags of potatoes, two large blue terracotta pots of sunflower “Colour Parade” and stocks “Sugar and Spice.” I am wondering if this might be a good planting combination. I want something to take the attention away from the sunflower stalks for a while.
I am really looking forward to the T&M Sunflower competition, not that the blue pot combo will be entered as a photo, I have a totally different plan that I hope will work, but sorry, I can’t share that one with you! All of the above plants are being hardened off at the moment, but our weather is still a bit unpredictable. Last week we hit twenty two degrees Celsius only for it to drop to nine degrees by the end of the week. We haven’t had any frost but the winds have been blustery and cold.
After looking after me last month and doing the hard graft, last Saturday was a chance for Mark to do what he loves the most, joining his friends from the club on a metal detecting rally, this meant I had the garden to myself! Selfish I know, but I love this quiet time, just the birds singing, and insects buzzing, I spent a good half hour just walking around the garden, seeing what was in bloom, and what needed attention. I then decided to construct a pea wigwam using canes and string, the garden peas have really shot up. Next I transplanted some mini plugs and earthed up and fed the spuds. My friend Rachel arrived with a selection of tomatoes she grew from seeds, including White Opal, a wise man once said “A generous Gardener is never poor.” And I totally agree, so in return for her gift, she had a pot of baby lettuces from me. This wise man’s saying has now become a motto for me, I love sharing and swapping plants with people. For a long time I admired my next door neighbour’s poppies, one year he was getting rid of some them and he gave me a slab of the root cuttings, he said “I don’t know if they will grow my girl, but bury them in the ground and see what happens.” They did grow and they get stronger every year. What’s the best garden swap you have had?
I possibly may have germinated too many seeds, I have at least two hundred Amaranthus seedlings, I bought them from T&M a few years ago and they are beautiful. I love the burgundy leaves, and it’s worth growing them for the foliage alone, but come midsummer they will produce a soft feathery spike that can stand up to anything the weather throws at them. Each year I collect a spike of seeds and keep it to sow the following year. The seeds are loved by the birds too so I have to be quick. I held back and only planted around ten radishes; this is because I don’t know if I like them. I haven’t eaten them since I was a child and I was convinced the little red thing in the salad bowl was a cherry and I had to have it before my brothers, so I put the whole thing in my mouth and it practically blew my head off. We were having lunch with some people and I was too polite to spit it out. I never tried radish again, Mark likes them though so I am giving them a go.
I also have a second sowing of peas, fifty or so sunflowers, seven aubergines, and some Zinnias that I had free with a magazine. I also have 300 mini plugs. HELP! I am not very good at thinning out seedlings; I tend to keep them all potting them on and give them away when they are bigger.
I received five plug plants from Terri at T&M of Fuchsia Garden News. I potted them on straight away as they were so robust that the roots were trying to escape through the packaging almost. It’s quite exciting that there is a Fuchsia Festival, I have learned so much about these shrubs from the information on the website.
Writing this blog has made me realise I need a plan. Each evening after work I have spent an hour in the greenhouses potting on, watering, or plant labelling but it’s on the weekends that I really have to pull my socks up and do some serious work. I usually try to dedicate an afternoon just for gardening. My diary helps as it has a section to list my to-do tasks but I think a more detailed plan is needed, so a sheet of A4 paper and a pen is needed. Do you plan what to do in the greenhouse, or do you just get on with tasks in hand?
I am hoping that by this time next month I will have even more greenhouse news to share with you. Fingers crossed that the tomatoes are big enough to be put in their final beds, with their growing frames neatly installed, I hope that the aubergines have got bigger, that I have eaten my first lettuce leaves with radish or white onion and cheese sandwiches. The rhubarb whilst not in the greenhouse should be ready for pulling, and I can stew that to make a jelly or just have it with custard. This is why I love gardening, the anticipation of what’s to come. Is there anything you would like to see more or less of in my blogs? I love having you feedback, please send me pictures or comments on how your greenhouse/garden is doing. I would be really interested in what you have achieved.
Until next month,
Our 2014 plant trials produced some surprising results for our Petunias. Weather conditions really put them to the test with a frustrating mix of heat waves and summer storms but, they didn’t fail to impress.
Traditionally, petunias are the first plants to take a hit from poor British weather, especially from heavy rain. However, our robust petunias stood strong, and bounced right back after our summer downpours showing little signs of damage. They really are a must have plant for resilient summer displays!
With built in weather resistance and robust habit, our Petunia ‘Crazytunia’ Collection is a spectacular patio variety. Upright growth in never seen before colour combinations, they offer great weather resistance, flowering beautifully in pots, beds or borders, come rain or shine.
‘These stunning blooms that have lasted summer and had many comments from visitors, especially the Green with Envy and Starlight Blue which are still flowering in the garden come October’ Geoff Stonebanks, Driftwood.
Trailing ‘Surfinia’ Mixed has the longest trailing stems of any petunias! Surfinia is one of the world’s most popular trailing varieties and it is with reason. Known for their impressive flower power, weather resistance and colour ranger, this variety will provide outstanding displays from June to September.
I remember reading a blog from one of our customer trial members. Alison was not a fan of petunias, but being a trial member she grew what we gave handed to her and of course, you guessed it, we gave her Petunias! Not to our surprise Alison was converted, you can find out more here.
Why not try them, and give petunias a firm place in your garden.
There is nothing we love more than hearing customer success stories and seeing your delightful gardening photos via our Facebook and Twitter pages. So, when we got this letter from a very loyal customer we were overwhelmed and had to share it with you.
‘Over the past 20 years we have been a customer of Thompson & Morgan, we would like to show you the success of your business are achievements we have had as man and wife to prove your plants and seeds have been phenomenal and consistent’
Alma and her husband, who is 78 years young, have shared their love of gardening through growing T&M plants and entering numerous competitions. Here are just some of the prizes they have won;
1984 – 1st Place for best allotment (out of 31 sites)
2008 – National 1st place for best allotment in England run by Garden News
2008 – Kitchen Garden award for first Community Garden.
2008 – First in Black Country (Toby Inn competition for Healthy Foods)
2009 – Wolverhampton Gold Award at Britain in Bloom
2011-2012, 2014 – First in city and second in city 8 times.
Other shield and cups are won in local shows around the West Midlands.
It is wonderful to see that their love for gardening never dwindled, and at 78 years old they are still going strong. Thank you Alma for sharing your story with us.
If you have any gardening success stories we would love to hear them, email@example.com.