Spring planting Week 16

Spring planting

Spring planting
The last two weeks have mostly been put to use in clearing and tidying. That took care of the jobs that either the cold or water in the soil prevented.

That has involved some hard landscaping, replacing a slippery path with something more stable, cutting and edging lawns. I have also been potting on plants grown from seed and cuttings. And setting out Dahlias to start sprouting in the greenhouse.

Spring planting
These alpines were in need of tidying and redressing. Now they’re ready to go out.

And the beds have have a good clear out too, with the last of the winter structure removed. That included any detritus that had been previously left as protection. I also used the opportunity to remove some of the very invasive bluebells that can colonise the front of borders. Finally another mulch of rough garden compost and its ready to start growing. Some of it’s off to  a great start.

Spring planting
Two weeks after splitting the Delphiniums are growing stronger than ever

A late spring?

This year seems to be about 3 weeks later than last year after the warm early spring we had in 2015. That always leads to an anxiety about where certain plants are, have they appeared yet, will they appear?

The obvious things so far missing are Heleniums – three differerent ones not so far seen – a couple of Echinaceas, and Achillea and all the Hostas. I went to an open garden in Cookham on Sunday and the Hostas  where all showing nicely.

The cold blast due this week will certainly slow progress down a bit more. So those plants potted and ready to go out will have to wait a week or more than expected before they can be planted.

The main flower border is not looking too bad though so far.

Spring planting
This south and east facing bed is the first to show colour

Spring planting Dahlias

I have some greenhouse borders that are spare before tomatoes are due to go in. These will be used for the Dahlia tubers, laid out and gently watered to stir them into life. That way I can see what is growing before setting them in beds or pots; nothing worse than carefully planning where to put them and finding nothing grows.

So far about 10 of 80 are shooting, with more showing every day.

Spring planting vegetables

Not too much more on this front, but the broad beans are all out. Peas are planted in between potatoes, and many leaf and salad veg are ready in pots to go out. they too can wait until the cold spell passes.

Dividing perennials

And the process of creating more and better stronger plants goes on. Last weekend a friend came over with a couple of chunky Salvias – not something I’d grown before – so they could be split. They were tough to break, with the carving knife not being man enough I resorted to a spade. She took the main divisions and I kept one, plus all the bits that fell off.

I have planted them in a sharp draining compost and kept in the propagator for a few days. It looks like 90 per cent or so will be good. That’s a good block for the garden beds and some for the Plant swap on May 7th.

 

 

 

 

 

How to divide perennials Week 14

Divide perennials

Divide perennials 
Knowing how and when to divide perennials is key to productivity in your garden. It enables the stock to increase in numbers, both for better display and impact, and cheaply insure against loss through slugs, deer, excess wet or cold winter. And dividing will increase the vigour of the plants for better flowering.

Having more enables you to repeat a plant in a border or garden plan – a keystone in garden design – making a connected theme and a more attractive display.

Knowing how to divide perennials will make this easy.  Faced with digging up a prized plant that is doing fine, doubts can set in.

This is how I tackled one of my prize Delphiniums this week. I say “prized” because it took a long time, and probably more dead plants than I care to recall before I got Delphiniums to grow well. And they do grow very well. In fact they are virtually unstoppable.

I started by digging out a clump that had about six shoots showing.

How to divide perennials

A large delphinium in need of splitting

How to divide perennials
The Delphinium freshly dug up

It was not clear what it looked like under the soil, so I washed it off for a better look.

How to divide perennials
Washed off to reveal the extent of the plant

Underneath was covered in shoots, with the strongest at the outside. I know that this plant had not been split since I planted it three years ago, so I was not sure how tough it would be. I decided to try a knife first rather than a spade, and it worked just fine.

How to divide perennials
Splitting it with a carving knife was easy.

I cut it into four even pieces, each with several shoots and plenty of root.

How to divide perennials

Before putting the pieces back I dug the hole deep with a fork, and put in a bucket full of rough compost. You can almost see the clay turn into perfect soil as you do it.

How to divide perennials
I would say that the continual addition and digging in of compost was the most significant factor in making the clay soil here viable.

And after planting them back I gave them a light mulching of more compost, just in case we get another frost.

When to divide perennials

The basic rule I apply is that if the flower in spring, wait until afterwards, otherwise spring is better than autumn. But there are exceptions. Hemerocallis is one, and Hostas too seem to perform post spring splitting.

They must also be shooting. Some perennials like Helenium are still dormant in my garden.  They must not have any flower spikes showing, as the Kniphofias do already.

The Delphiniums here have flowered better each years since I put them in, with an earlier start and later finish – some were still flowing in December 2015. So when to divide is a judgement call.

Another “rule” is to wait until after flowering, which is technically what I have done. When plants are as strong as these you can be more confident about doing it.

Other ways to create more plants

Dividing perennials is for more more about the health of the plant than creating more. Dividing – like taking cuttings – does assure the same variety of course, where seed produces all sorts of strange versions.

So combining some division, some cuttings and some seed sowing allows increasing stock, better healthier more vigorous plants, and a better display for your enjoyment.

 

Spring plant swap – from the ground up

Spring plant swap

Spring plant swap will be held on Saturday 7th May at 10.00am.

Please come along to this, the third plant swap at Abbots Corner.

Bring plants you have propagated in your own garden, and take away some bought in by other locals – you know they are likely to thrive.

I will provide :

Lupins
Achillea Gold Plate
Iris Sibirica Tropic Night
Verbena Bonariensis
My own super strain of Delphinium
A few varieties of crysanthemum ( small bloom garden types, not the big monsters.
Rudbeckia Herbstonne
Helianthus

There are a few other plants I have small quantities of too
Sunflowers
Eryngium
Dogwood
Penstemon

 

I am looking for these for my own projects;
Hemerocalis, any colours but yellow
Any dry or wet shade tolerant or loving plants
Hostas

It’s all very simple. You bring one, and you take one.

Other contributions.

Brian has lots of the most spectacularly marbled leaved Cyclamen, and is bring those. Suitable for a shady spot and flowering late in the year until at least March.

About the spring plant swap, and further garden workshop events

Drop me a note to say what you have to bring, and what you might be looking for, and I will post it on this page .

The spring plant swap will be held on Saturday 7th May. Book your place by sending your details below.

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Seed Success in the garden Week 13

Seed Success in the garden Week 13

Seed Success in the garden Week 13
A few weeks ago I shared my seed sowing ideas with friendsI mentioned the tests and comparisons I was making to find the most successful way to sow seeds and grow on seedlings.

These have now to conclusions, and the answers are not what might have been expected.

Test one was on sweet peas. With a historic 50 per cent germination rate I thought there had to be ways to improve production. Thompson and Morgan have a  useful page of suggestions, but some of it seemed just too much hassle.  So I put it to the test.

They included soaking in water, soaking in tea – using the tanins to mimic passing through a birds digestive system. And also chipping the seed, not chipping them, planting them shallower or deeper than suggested.

Seed success with sweet peas
Seed sowing test with sweet peas

Nothing made a real difference, except for the deeper planted seed. They had not been soaked or scored in any way, just planted 4cm deep as opposed to 2cm. They came up faster and notably stronger.

I shall repeat that specific test for confirmation this week.

The other test was on the sowing medium, specific John Innes mix seed compost or a vastly cheaper multi purpose. I use the B&Q Verve compost, and recommend it highly. For most purposes I mix the MP compost with some sharp sand at 4:1

Seed success with multipurpose compost

I sowed 5 different seeds – Digitalis, Achillea Cerise Queen, Achillea Gold Plate, my own super Delphinium strain and some chilli peppers left from an earlier sowing – in lines across trays of compost.They were lightly covered with compost and soaked them from below in a water tray. They were next to each other in a heated propagator.

This produced interesting results in what actually germinated and how they behaved in the weeks following.

In the JI seed compost the Digitalis was up first after about a week, followed by the Delphiniums and a few of the Gold Plate. Nothing was going on with the MP still.

Another few days later and there was growth in all 5 lines of the MP tray, but nothing different in the JI.

A further week passed and all was ell with the MP, but the Digitalis had all died back in the JI tray.  My conclusion was that the composts were drying out at different rates, and the MP retained water longer. The Achillea Gold Plate and Delphiniums were all pricked out into trays and look strong. I have left the MP tray still to watch the slower growing chilli seeds, and to see what happens with the faster growing Digitalis.

Testing different sizes

The final test was in potting on, and what happens when using larger or smaller cells for growing on. I used 24, 54 and 60 cell trays available from the garden centre.

Delphinium seedlings
delphiniums in 60 cells.
Delphinium seedlings
Delphinium in 24, 54 and 60 cell trays

After 3 weeks the 24 cells plants are showing strong growth and ready to pot on further. The 60 and 54 cell plants are not so evidently growing away. They are are susceptible to  some cells being either too wet or too dry.  And it is hard to tell if the seedlings are not growing in the smaller cells, or if they are being restricted by them.

I will take them all apart this week for a definitive answer, even though that may mean sacrificing some of them.

So the conclusion is to use larger cell trays and stick with multipurpose compost, rather than the more expensive John Innes seed  mix.