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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Activity on the rise – along with pests!

ONE of the benefits of being The Whitehaven News’s gardening columnist is that I am often asked by various groups to give talks on gardening, and on Saturday I was in Kendal to meet one such group to talk about sustainable gardening designs, using photographs taken of gardens around Whitehaven.

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CARING FOR YOUR SEEDLINGS: Ensure you prick out your seedlings before they become too large and into the right size container

The group’s views on Whitehaven focused on the wonderful harbour, the gardens at St Nicholas Church and the Georgian buildings, all being strong tourist attractions.

The talk was received well with an invitation to give further talks on the gardens of Whitehaven.

Sunday was a busy day, too, thanks to the very warm weather. I took advantage to tidy the borders, removing old growth from a number of the border plants, and to prune the roses which are bursting into vigorous growth.

Although a lot of new plant growth is appearing around the garden with much of it being very colourful, I could not help but notice that a lot of weed growth is also appearing. And not only the weeds were becoming active – so are the garden pests. When I cut back some of the old growth, I disturbed a number of slugs who had clearly survived the cold conditions.

The first of my annual plug plants arrived on Saturday – trailing begonias I had ordered online. The advantage of plug plants is that the nursery grower has done a lot of the hard work for you in getting the seeds to germinate and grown on in readiness for potting on.

When ordering plug plants, you need to open the packaging immediately, including the plastic casing which holds the plug plants. I have often heard it described as a mini-greenhouse – no it’s not its packaging to help them survive the posting environment!

When you receive them check their condition – occasionally they can pop out of their cells. If this is the case, simply replace them, give them a watering and let them rest in a warm area for a day or so to recover before potting them.

For my own plug plants these have been potted into small pots and placed in a cold greenhouse.

You might recall that I had sown a number of annuals seeds and placed these on my kitchen windowsill for germination. Well, with the kitchen being a warm and light area, it appears I had very good germination, and along with my plug plants I was busy on Sunday morning pricking out my seedlings in to 24 cell trays.

When pricking out seedlings make sure they are well watered before you start so when you’re teasing them apart you keep the root damage to a minimum, also to ensure the seedlings do not break! No matter how careful you are you will end up with some being accidently damaged.

You would normally think of placing individual seedlings into your trays, but this is not the case for some annual seedlings. With lobelia and alyssum, for example, you place a small clump of seedlings (around six) in to each cell.

Even for my larger seedlings such as petunia and impatiens I even double these (especially if you have ample seedlings) – this allows for the provision of full trays even if some of the seedlings fail or are damaged by pests.

The only seedlings I pricked off individually were my marigolds and asters as these were quite large and strong. All my pricked-out seedlings were placed with my begonias in a cold greenhouse.

When seedlings or plug plants have either been pricked out or potted on, don’t expect immediate growth as they will be forming new root growth first, so it will be about four weeks before you see actual growth. Once they start, however, they will soon mature, but for most seedlings keep an eye out for pests, particularly slugs – seedlings make a tempting food source!

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