Wake-up call for gardeners

By Richard Wright

Published on Friday, February 17, 2012 - 11:10


Wake-up call for gardeners

Pick off flower heads once they have faded to stop energy being wasted in producing seed.

GARDENINGIT IS odd but after one of the mildest ever winters, when 'proper’ weather did arrive, it seemed to go on forever.

But now there is light at the end of the tunnel, days are noticeably lengthening and it is time to crank up the activity in the garden after weather-induced hibernation.

Whatever the weather, it’s time to prune back the stems of rose bushes to a third of last year’s height and remember the gardeners’ adage that the secret of good gardening really is in the soil.

Use sharp secateurs to cut the stem just above an outer-facing leaf joint.

To complete the job and encourage really strong new growth that will carry lots of flowers, it is really beneficial to feed each rose bush with a handful of fertiliser.

A special rose and shrub plant food, or blood, fish and bone are good, but even better — I am told — is a slow release flower plant food, such as Miracle-Gro rose and shrub continuous release plant food.

It is based on something called Osmocote technology — odour-free granules releasing small amounts of plant food every day for up to six months whenever the soil is warm enough to encourage plant growth. That sounds clever.

It is claimed to encourage dazzling flowering results on roses and any other decorative shrub or climber so it is ideal if you have fuchsias, ceanothus, clematis, mock orange or wisteria that you want to encourage into full flower.

Shrubs, such as rhododendron, azalea and camellia (a particular favourite of which is donation) that are termed ericaceous, appreciate acid soils and when grown on neutral, or limey, soil really do need a plant food that contains sequestered iron.

Spring-flowering bulbs, such as daffodils, early tulips, crocus and hyacinths, may be producing a fine show of flower colour at this time of the year but if that is to continue for following years, the plants need to be fed while they are in leaf.

At this time of the year, leaves and roots are growing strongly and absorbing energy to create next year’s flower display. To get energy into the bulb plant almost instantly, wet the leaves and around the roots with soluble plant food dissolved in a watering can.

A feed every ten days while the plant is in leaf will ensure the bulbs grow in size for a grand display next year.

And, don’t forget to snap off seed heads of daffodils and tulips after blooming has finished to stop all that energy being wasted in producing seed.

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