Summer care for brassicas

Food and water is key now to ensure a bumper harvest

How are your brassica plants coming along?  It's likely you've planted them out by now and are keeping an eye on them, particularly for signs of pest and disease.  If you haven't planted them out, it's a little late but you can get away with it for a later crop.  Once planted, water them especially well because they're thirsty plants and August can be a dry month. If you're growing broccoli, manuring the ground before planting can mean it grows with all mouth and no trousers - that is, leaves galore but fewer spears! A little nitrogen-rich feed, such as liquid seaweed or Growmore, through summer can help as they grow, and every month after that give them a small boost to help them along.  This goes for cauliflowers, cabbages and other leafy brassicas. It's a waiting game for brassicas, though, as it'll be a good few months until any harvesting potential appears, but it's worth the effort for tasty, home-grown greens!  

How are your brassica plants coming along?  It's likely you've planted them out by now and are keeping an eye on them, particularly for signs of pest and disease.  If you haven't planted them out, it's a little late but you can get away with it for a later crop.  Once planted, water them especially well because they're thirsty plants and August can be a dry month.

If you're growing broccoli, manuring the ground before planting can mean it grows with all mouth and no trousers - that is, leaves galore but fewer spears! A little nitrogen-rich feed, such as liquid seaweed or Growmore, through summer can help as they grow, and every month after that give them a small boost to help them along.  This goes for cauliflowers, cabbages and other leafy brassicas.

It's a waiting game for brassicas, though, as it'll be a good few months until any harvesting potential appears, but it's worth the effort for tasty, home-grown greens!  

Sow pansies for spring

Start these beauties now for early blooms

Pansies are real 'doer' plants - quite apart from their floral glamour in times of need, they don't mind the cold, are perfect for pots and will do whatever you want them to do before and even after, other plants flower. Frilly, dramatic pansies are bred from wild violas, their hardy and robust nature lending themselves to the garden form, hence they give it their all in the colder months.  Sown now and they'll overwinter nicely and be ready to grace your garden early next year, starting the season off nicely. Sow in pots or trays of well-draining but lightly and evenly moist seed compost, covering seed with a fine layer of Vermiculite.  Keep the seedlings at about 15C (59F) or so, but no higher than about 19-19C (64-66F) or their germination may be hindered. Prick out the seedlings once they're big enough to be handled and transplanted into bigger, 9cm (3 1/2in) pots and overwinter in a cold frame, before planting out in early spring. Apart from the satisfaction of sowing your own bedding, this is a good way of getting early blooms from your own propagation.  

Pansies are real 'doer' plants - quite apart from their floral glamour in times of need, they don't mind the cold, are perfect for pots and will do whatever you want them to do before and even after, other plants flower.

Frilly, dramatic pansies are bred from wild violas, their hardy and robust nature lending themselves to the garden form, hence they give it their all in the colder months.  Sown now and they'll overwinter nicely and be ready to grace your garden early next year, starting the season off nicely.

Sow in pots or trays of well-draining but lightly and evenly moist seed compost, covering seed with a fine layer of Vermiculite.  Keep the seedlings at about 15C (59F) or so, but no higher than about 19-19C (64-66F) or their germination may be hindered.

Prick out the seedlings once they're big enough to be handled and transplanted into bigger, 9cm (3 1/2in) pots and overwinter in a cold frame, before planting out in early spring.

Apart from the satisfaction of sowing your own bedding, this is a good way of getting early blooms from your own propagation.  

Prune cordon apple trees

They'll need a trim now to curb growth before autumn. 

Cordons can be an easy way to control growth and save space if you want a number of fruit trees in your garden. It simply means a bush or tree with a leading central stem and trained with fruit-bearing sideshoots from it. They grow happily up against a wall, or staked in the open if you prefer, but walled cordons often look better, and the trees get some passive warmth if you choose a house wall.  if you have cordon fruit already, it's time to give trees a trim so you can curb their growth before autumn sets in. Trim down sideshoots over 20cm (10 in) to three leaves above this year's new growth. Sideshoots coming from sideshoots can be trimmed down to one leaf above this year's new growth. Tie in the leader, which, if it has grown too tall, you can prune and treat as a sideshoot.  Plant new cordons in late autumn, but don't train a tip-bearing variety - one that fruits on the tips of stems, as you'll continually be chopping them off and it won't fruit. It's best to get spur-bearers that fruit all the way along the stems. Check the type you're buying, or get advice from the nursery as to what you've got. 

Cordons can be an easy way to control growth and save space if you want a number of fruit trees in your garden. It simply means a bush or tree with a leading central stem and trained with fruit-bearing sideshoots from it. They grow happily up against a wall, or staked in the open if you prefer, but walled cordons often look better, and the trees get some passive warmth if you choose a house wall. 

if you have cordon fruit already, it's time to give trees a trim so you can curb their growth before autumn sets in. Trim down sideshoots over 20cm (10 in) to three leaves above this year's new growth. Sideshoots coming from sideshoots can be trimmed down to one leaf above this year's new growth. Tie in the leader, which, if it has grown too tall, you can prune and treat as a sideshoot. 

Plant new cordons in late autumn, but don't train a tip-bearing variety - one that fruits on the tips of stems, as you'll continually be chopping them off and it won't fruit. It's best to get spur-bearers that fruit all the way along the stems. Check the type you're buying, or get advice from the nursery as to what you've got. 

Summer pond care

A little time spent on it each week will keep it healthy

Summer's all about keeping everything healthy and ticking along nicely in the garden - and the same goes for ponds. As with all gardening, 15 minutes upkeep every week or so will keep everything in check. Leave it to its own devices and, after a few weeks, the job will probably turn into a bigger one! Ponds are often trickier than other areas of the garden - neglect them in summer and they can quickly turn into an eyesore! Unless you want a jungle swamp, add the pond to your regular tasks for peace of mind.  If your pond is becoming green and smelly and doesn't clear up, you may need to check the ratio of pond plants to water - they should be evenly matched - or whether your pond is too much in the open sunshine. Consider more shading plants as marginals to counter this.  Weed your pond as you would your borders. Apart from visible pond weed and algae, there'll be weeds to get rid of in between pond-side plants too. Plus, your oxygenators, which do a great job under the surface to increase oxygen levels, can get a little out of hand, so chop them back before they take over. 

Summer's all about keeping everything healthy and ticking along nicely in the garden - and the same goes for ponds. As with all gardening, 15 minutes upkeep every week or so will keep everything in check. Leave it to its own devices and, after a few weeks, the job will probably turn into a bigger one!

Ponds are often trickier than other areas of the garden - neglect them in summer and they can quickly turn into an eyesore! Unless you want a jungle swamp, add the pond to your regular tasks for peace of mind. 

If your pond is becoming green and smelly and doesn't clear up, you may need to check the ratio of pond plants to water - they should be evenly matched - or whether your pond is too much in the open sunshine. Consider more shading plants as marginals to counter this. 

Weed your pond as you would your borders. Apart from visible pond weed and algae, there'll be weeds to get rid of in between pond-side plants too. Plus, your oxygenators, which do a great job under the surface to increase oxygen levels, can get a little out of hand, so chop them back before they take over. 

Plant out bulbs to flower in autumn

Glorious nerines will be a showstopper in vivid pink

Fancy giving your garden a real lift for autumn, with carpets of colour and fresh blooms for the colder months? Well, now's a great time to plant bulbs for autumn, slotting either grown-on plants or bulbs into any gaps you can find in borders, ready to burst forth when late summer's plants have gone off the boil. It always looks superb when the colour keeps coming, and spring-like flowers seem to defy the elements and shine, despite the often gloomy weather. Nerines in particular, which are being planted here, grow upwards of 30cm (1ft) and catch the eye with their starbursts of vivid pink until November.  It's prime time to get these bulbs in the ground, so they've time to establish themselves readily over the next month or so into strong plants. Be sure to plant bulbs in their most comfortable position and at the right depth so they can develop strongly, and stand tall with good stems.  Plant in groups together, using a trowel or a bulb planter for tight spots, and add a little grit into the holes for good drainage.  Make sure the stock you buy is dry, hard and healthy, and as they're in their growing stage, be on the lookout for slugs, snails or even squirrels, who might take a fancy to these nut-sized bulbs. 

Fancy giving your garden a real lift for autumn, with carpets of colour and fresh blooms for the colder months? Well, now's a great time to plant bulbs for autumn, slotting either grown-on plants or bulbs into any gaps you can find in borders, ready to burst forth when late summer's plants have gone off the boil.

It always looks superb when the colour keeps coming, and spring-like flowers seem to defy the elements and shine, despite the often gloomy weather. Nerines in particular, which are being planted here, grow upwards of 30cm (1ft) and catch the eye with their starbursts of vivid pink until November. 

It's prime time to get these bulbs in the ground, so they've time to establish themselves readily over the next month or so into strong plants. Be sure to plant bulbs in their most comfortable position and at the right depth so they can develop strongly, and stand tall with good stems.  Plant in groups together, using a trowel or a bulb planter for tight spots, and add a little grit into the holes for good drainage. 

Make sure the stock you buy is dry, hard and healthy, and as they're in their growing stage, be on the lookout for slugs, snails or even squirrels, who might take a fancy to these nut-sized bulbs. 

Sow catch crops now

They plug any gaps you have and can be harvested in weeks

Catch crops are useful, efficient space savers, which tuck into gaps when other crops have finished, or as they're still growing, thereby maximising yield. Most crops can be grown close together, so if you spot any spaces here and there, sow some quick-growing, tasty produce for harvest in just a few weeks. You'll be picking and eating some of these a couple of times over before some of your other crops even get near maturing!  Once you've harvested your potatoes, for example, there'll be vast spaces ready and waiting for some quick croppers such as coriander, radish and lettuce, which will zoom up in the same soil. As potatoes are hungry plants and usually take all the available nutrients from the soil, just dig in a bit of compost before you sow to help the new crops on a bit. Because closely cropping plants compete slightly with each other, they need a good, rich soil to grow happily in.  Under late-sown runner bean plants, 'intercrop' some new lettuce leaves, which will grow way before the beans do.   

Catch crops are useful, efficient space savers, which tuck into gaps when other crops have finished, or as they're still growing, thereby maximising yield.

Most crops can be grown close together, so if you spot any spaces here and there, sow some quick-growing, tasty produce for harvest in just a few weeks. You'll be picking and eating some of these a couple of times over before some of your other crops even get near maturing! 

Once you've harvested your potatoes, for example, there'll be vast spaces ready and waiting for some quick croppers such as coriander, radish and lettuce, which will zoom up in the same soil. As potatoes are hungry plants and usually take all the available nutrients from the soil, just dig in a bit of compost before you sow to help the new crops on a bit. Because closely cropping plants compete slightly with each other, they need a good, rich soil to grow happily in. 

Under late-sown runner bean plants, 'intercrop' some new lettuce leaves, which will grow way before the beans do. 

 

Check show plants

Any Top Tray plants you're intending to show over the coming weeks should be receiving your main attention now.

It's easy for these plants to go over, or not even reach the peak of perfection, without adequate care. Get hold of the right show schedule and check that all the plants you intend to exhibit meet the required sizes, shapes and presentation. Check plants carefully for diseased, dead or damaged leaves or flowers. Cut blooms are best picked in the evening before the show and kept cool. 

It's easy for these plants to go over, or not even reach the peak of perfection, without adequate care. Get hold of the right show schedule and check that all the plants you intend to exhibit meet the required sizes, shapes and presentation. Check plants carefully for diseased, dead or damaged leaves or flowers. Cut blooms are best picked in the evening before the show and kept cool. 

Sow edible flowers

Start off a few tasty bloomers now to use in a variety of dishes

We don't always think of our flowering plants as edible - it's too easy to section off in our minds that veg are for eating and flowers are pretty to look at - but for thousands of years gardeners have been using blooms in medicines and cooking, or to use as edible garnishes.  Thanks to restaurants and cookery shows it's a much more popular ingredient these days, but it's an age-old practical use of our garden plants. What tends to be good about some flowers - those that bloom from our veg plants - is they often taste like the veg in question. Pea flowers for example, have a lovely fresh pea taste, while runner bean blooms taste mildly beany. This is a good thing when it comes to radish and rocket flowers as the crop itself is usually spicy and strong, but the flowers are a pleasant milder version. Flowering at the moment are calendula or nasturtium, so pick these now to give your cooking a brightly coloured and peppery kick.  Always know what you're picking to eat, use the flowers straight away, and, of course, don't use any chemicals on them! See this week's issue of Garden News to find out what we recommend you get going now, either for late blooms, overwintering or some quick and easy croppers. 

We don't always think of our flowering plants as edible - it's too easy to section off in our minds that veg are for eating and flowers are pretty to look at - but for thousands of years gardeners have been using blooms in medicines and cooking, or to use as edible garnishes. 

Thanks to restaurants and cookery shows it's a much more popular ingredient these days, but it's an age-old practical use of our garden plants. What tends to be good about some flowers - those that bloom from our veg plants - is they often taste like the veg in question. Pea flowers for example, have a lovely fresh pea taste, while runner bean blooms taste mildly beany. This is a good thing when it comes to radish and rocket flowers as the crop itself is usually spicy and strong, but the flowers are a pleasant milder version. Flowering at the moment are calendula or nasturtium, so pick these now to give your cooking a brightly coloured and peppery kick. 

Always know what you're picking to eat, use the flowers straight away, and, of course, don't use any chemicals on them! See this week's issue of Garden News to find out what we recommend you get going now, either for late blooms, overwintering or some quick and easy croppers. 

Mulch pots and borders

It helps conserve moisture levels and looks good too

British summer weather can be sporadic at best, but depending on where you live what tends to happen is that, among the squalls of showers - and perhaps a two-day long wet patch - sits days and days, and sometimes even weeks of dryness.  That's certainly been the pattern this year - one minute plants are absolutely gasping for a drink and the next they're deluged. However, what's important to plants is a consistent moisture level - not too wet or too dry - and there are ways we can control this. Mulching is one of the gardener's key tools to help maintain the correct environment for all their plants. Summer mulching is most useful as a moisture retainer, keeping plants happy in scorching spells, but there are so many uses that serve as side benefits. They're decorative for starters, and bark or gravel mulches neaten up borders no end, just when you want to show them off. And the horticultural bonuses are plenty, too. They stop weeds from poking through, some provide nutrients of varying levels, and when the time comes in just a few months, they can also be good at insulating roots against the cold. 

British summer weather can be sporadic at best, but depending on where you live what tends to happen is that, among the squalls of showers - and perhaps a two-day long wet patch - sits days and days, and sometimes even weeks of dryness. 

That's certainly been the pattern this year - one minute plants are absolutely gasping for a drink and the next they're deluged. However, what's important to plants is a consistent moisture level - not too wet or too dry - and there are ways we can control this.

Mulching is one of the gardener's key tools to help maintain the correct environment for all their plants. Summer mulching is most useful as a moisture retainer, keeping plants happy in scorching spells, but there are so many uses that serve as side benefits.

They're decorative for starters, and bark or gravel mulches neaten up borders no end, just when you want to show them off. And the horticultural bonuses are plenty, too. They stop weeds from poking through, some provide nutrients of varying levels, and when the time comes in just a few months, they can also be good at insulating roots against the cold. 

Keep on top of aphids!

Check plants regularly to stop an infestation of pests

The bugbear for most summer gardeners is aphids. Be it general green or blackfly or specific species such as woolly aphids, they aren't just annoying but can also be dangerous to plants.  They're carriers of disease, transporting moulds and other afflictions around our gardens, often able to do so due to their sap-sucking weakening of all the plants. One of the most important jobs in the growing season is to check plant tips, nooks in branches and under leaves for those tell-tale clumps, or before you know it you'll suddenly realise new buds have whole infestations.  There are, of course, insecticides to help you - very effective in getting rid of them, but it may have an effect on other beneficial insects in the vicinity.  You could substitute them for organic versions, available in garden centres, as well as ones developed for fruit and veg use (such as Bayer Provado Fruit & Veg). Small amounts of aphids can be picked off and squashed, or even hosed off.  Otherwise look at the big picture and grow flowers that are lapped up by hoverflies, lacewings, and ladybirds, as they'll eat lots of aphid pests as a handy snack. 

The bugbear for most summer gardeners is aphids. Be it general green or blackfly or specific species such as woolly aphids, they aren't just annoying but can also be dangerous to plants. 

They're carriers of disease, transporting moulds and other afflictions around our gardens, often able to do so due to their sap-sucking weakening of all the plants. One of the most important jobs in the growing season is to check plant tips, nooks in branches and under leaves for those tell-tale clumps, or before you know it you'll suddenly realise new buds have whole infestations. 

There are, of course, insecticides to help you - very effective in getting rid of them, but it may have an effect on other beneficial insects in the vicinity.  You could substitute them for organic versions, available in garden centres, as well as ones developed for fruit and veg use (such as Bayer Provado Fruit & Veg). Small amounts of aphids can be picked off and squashed, or even hosed off. 

Otherwise look at the big picture and grow flowers that are lapped up by hoverflies, lacewings, and ladybirds, as they'll eat lots of aphid pests as a handy snack. 

Perk up hanging baskets

Watering is key to keep them looking fresh and fabulous

When you see those huge, tumbling, beautifully-flowering hanging baskets in open gardens, outside pubs or strung up on lamp posts through summer, for gardeners it's always with an envious eye that we look at them. How on earth do they get to be so teeming with flowers and foliage and looking so perfect? The key to their success is constant care, more so than with standard container planting.  Dense planting and taking steps to ensure water doesn't drain away too much helps, so line the basket with absorbent matting. Then water, water, and water again! Don't feed every time you water, just do that weekly. If you're at the planting stage, however, you can add some slow-release feed pellets to aid the plants during summer.  Putting a hanging basket in a windy spot may stress the plants, as they'll lost moisture, so consider where your baskets will go and that you may have to further increase the amount of water you give them!  

When you see those huge, tumbling, beautifully-flowering hanging baskets in open gardens, outside pubs or strung up on lamp posts through summer, for gardeners it's always with an envious eye that we look at them. How on earth do they get to be so teeming with flowers and foliage and looking so perfect? The key to their success is constant care, more so than with standard container planting. 

Dense planting and taking steps to ensure water doesn't drain away too much helps, so line the basket with absorbent matting. Then water, water, and water again! Don't feed every time you water, just do that weekly. If you're at the planting stage, however, you can add some slow-release feed pellets to aid the plants during summer. 

Putting a hanging basket in a windy spot may stress the plants, as they'll lost moisture, so consider where your baskets will go and that you may have to further increase the amount of water you give them!

 

Protect plants from winds

They might need some extra care if blustery weather hits 

We've had a few blustery winds recently, which can bash our precious plants every which way. When they get jostled and knocked over, you'll need to keep an eye on them and check for damage.  There's the physical damage of collapsing and being uprooted - some tall plants will need tying in, staking and tucking upright back in the soil again. Check for root or stem damage and prune out any obviously impaired areas. Wind-scorched leaves will appear crumpled or browned as they've lost moisture. You should always water and feed your plants well anyway, but particularly after a heavily windy couple of days. This Abutilon vitifolium, pictured, likes a sunny spot, but needs shelter from heavy, drying winds. It was almost uprooted and collapsed on the border! It's being put back upright and staked well with thick canes.  If plants lose their new leaves or buds it may be due to damage so keep them watered, fed and sheltered. Often there's nothing you can do to stop wind damage, but there are precautions and post-damage steps to try and help your plants get back on their feet again. See this week's issue of Garden News for our top tips!  

We've had a few blustery winds recently, which can bash our precious plants every which way. When they get jostled and knocked over, you'll need to keep an eye on them and check for damage. 

There's the physical damage of collapsing and being uprooted - some tall plants will need tying in, staking and tucking upright back in the soil again. Check for root or stem damage and prune out any obviously impaired areas. Wind-scorched leaves will appear crumpled or browned as they've lost moisture. You should always water and feed your plants well anyway, but particularly after a heavily windy couple of days.

This Abutilon vitifolium, pictured, likes a sunny spot, but needs shelter from heavy, drying winds. It was almost uprooted and collapsed on the border! It's being put back upright and staked well with thick canes. 

If plants lose their new leaves or buds it may be due to damage so keep them watered, fed and sheltered. Often there's nothing you can do to stop wind damage, but there are precautions and post-damage steps to try and help your plants get back on their feet again.

See this week's issue of Garden News for our top tips!  

Plant a climbing rose

These easy-to-grow plants add colour and structure

If you’ve recently unearthed or added an extra bit of fence or trellis to the garden this summer, you may be wondering what to fill it with. So good news – you can plant potted climbing roses all year round. Bare-roots should really be left till autumn and winter. Take advantage of the teeming shelves in garden centres, choc-full of container roses of all shapes and sizes, to add height and vibrancy to your planting. Your choice may be a simple one to provide colour or eventual height, or you may want to do a little research into varieties that could work better for you in terms of disease resistance and vigour. Garden centre labels may not have this information, but a quick search for climbing roses on www.davidaustinroses.co.uk, or www.crocus.co.uk, for example, will reveal more details of prospective plant health and performance for you to consider. Roses are actually quite straightforward to grow, and good watering, mulching and weeding around them will help roses in the ground. In containers, a good helping of tomato feed every couple of weeks will boost growth. Climbing roses are pruned in late autumn or winter, with old stems trimmed back and flowering sideshoots reduced by two thirds.  Tie in stems where needed. 

If you’ve recently unearthed or added an extra bit of fence or trellis to the garden this summer, you may be wondering what to fill it with. So good news – you can plant potted climbing roses all year round. Bare-roots should really be left till autumn and winter. Take advantage of the teeming shelves in garden centres, choc-full of container roses of all shapes and sizes, to add height and vibrancy to your planting.

Your choice may be a simple one to provide colour or eventual height, or you may want to do a little research into varieties that could work better for you in terms of disease resistance and vigour.

Garden centre labels may not have this information, but a quick search for climbing roses on www.davidaustinroses.co.uk, or www.crocus.co.uk, for example, will reveal more details of prospective plant health and performance for you to consider.

Roses are actually quite straightforward to grow, and good watering, mulching and weeding around them will help roses in the ground. In containers, a good helping of tomato feed every couple of weeks will boost growth. Climbing roses are pruned in late autumn or winter, with old stems trimmed back and flowering sideshoots reduced by two thirds.  Tie in stems where needed. 

Sow some Oriental veg

Persevere with these Eastern delights for tasty new crops

Do you like a nice bung-everything-in-the-pan stir fry? Perhaps you love your greens but want to liven up your crop choice? Then why not give over a bit of space on your patch to grow some Oriental veg?  Seed is readily available from all garden centres and online seed companies, as demand for these Asian staples has increased. As with growing many greens, there’s a trial and error element – depending on weather conditions and environment some can bolt before you know it, setting seed and being useless for harvesting as fresh greens. But breeding these days means many varieties benefit from slow-bolting traits and you’ll soon learn what works to produce the best crop.  There are lots of mild types, such as mizuna, mibuna and mooli, if you don’t like the heat of mustardy veg and greens. You can harvest most as baby leaves, or leave them to mature as late summer and autumn crops. Sowing this late on is good, as they’ll mature when the shortening days help them not to bolt. Sow leaves in pots and other veg where they’re to grow, and protect them from the usual pests and disease, such as slugs, flea beetle and club root. Fertilise with a nitrogen-rich feed.

Do you like a nice bung-everything-in-the-pan stir fry? Perhaps you love your greens but want to liven up your crop choice? Then why not give over a bit of space on your patch to grow some Oriental veg? 

Seed is readily available from all garden centres and online seed companies, as demand for these Asian staples has increased. As with growing many greens, there’s a trial and error element – depending on weather conditions and environment some can bolt before you know it, setting seed and being useless for harvesting as fresh greens. But breeding these days means many varieties benefit from slow-bolting traits and you’ll soon learn what works to produce the best crop. 

There are lots of mild types, such as mizuna, mibuna and mooli, if you don’t like the heat of mustardy veg and greens. You can harvest most as baby leaves, or leave them to mature as late summer and autumn crops. Sowing this late on is good, as they’ll mature when the shortening days help them not to bolt. Sow leaves in pots and other veg where they’re to grow, and protect them from the usual pests and disease, such as slugs, flea beetle and club root. Fertilise with a nitrogen-rich feed.

Get lots more pelargoniums - for free!

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If you overwintered your pelargoniums in the greenhouse, they'll have been putting on some strong new growth by now, so it's prime time to make the most of that and create some new mini plants from it. Try your hand at this propagation technique to provide yourself with some classic summer bedding next year! It's extremely satisfying and, best of all; you don't need to part with any pennies. Softwood or greenwood cuttings, which you can take from a number of perennials and shrubs now, are easy to do and are the most likely to root of all the different types of cuttings. This is because conditions are ideal right now - warm and moist, with a bit of sunshine.  These cuttings will take up to 10 weeks to root. Once you notice roots have formed, either from some popping out the bottom of a pot, or from a gentle tug of a plant, pot them up in late summer, so they can establish on their own as single plants. If you miss the boat now, just overwinter them and pot them up singly next spring. See our step by step guide in this week's Garden News!

If you overwintered your pelargoniums in the greenhouse, they'll have been putting on some strong new growth by now, so it's prime time to make the most of that and create some new mini plants from it. Try your hand at this propagation technique to provide yourself with some classic summer bedding next year! It's extremely satisfying and, best of all; you don't need to part with any pennies.

Softwood or greenwood cuttings, which you can take from a number of perennials and shrubs now, are easy to do and are the most likely to root of all the different types of cuttings. This is because conditions are ideal right now - warm and moist, with a bit of sunshine. 

These cuttings will take up to 10 weeks to root. Once you notice roots have formed, either from some popping out the bottom of a pot, or from a gentle tug of a plant, pot them up in late summer, so they can establish on their own as single plants. If you miss the boat now, just overwinter them and pot them up singly next spring.

See our step by step guide in this week's Garden News!

Give your plants a tropical holiday!

They'll love a bit of fresh air now the warmer weather is here

Have you got houseplants that have done their best over winter, got through the spring and the temperature changes, but now look a little stressed and in need of some fresh air? For most parts of the country, the cold snaps and frosty weather are now likely to be over until autumn, so why not help them by popping houseplants outside for a breather.  You might see an improvement in them when they get a bit of direct sunshine, some wind in their sails and drops of real rainwater. They'll become less dusty and probably grow quicker, too. Do still keep checking outside temperatures or whether a deluge of rain is forecast, as some tropical indoor plants may not appreciate cold, wet feet.  If the summer weather where you are is erratic at best, try hardening them off as you would your tender crops before letting them fully go outside when it improves. And remember that before you bring them indoors again you should check for slugs and other creepy-crawlies that you might be bringing in with them! 

Have you got houseplants that have done their best over winter, got through the spring and the temperature changes, but now look a little stressed and in need of some fresh air? For most parts of the country, the cold snaps and frosty weather are now likely to be over until autumn, so why not help them by popping houseplants outside for a breather. 

You might see an improvement in them when they get a bit of direct sunshine, some wind in their sails and drops of real rainwater. They'll become less dusty and probably grow quicker, too. Do still keep checking outside temperatures or whether a deluge of rain is forecast, as some tropical indoor plants may not appreciate cold, wet feet. 

If the summer weather where you are is erratic at best, try hardening them off as you would your tender crops before letting them fully go outside when it improves. And remember that before you bring them indoors again you should check for slugs and other creepy-crawlies that you might be bringing in with them! 

Problem Solver - Why did strawberry tree die suddenly?

Q What was the cause of my strawberry tree’s sudden death?

A Very simply, your strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) failed to establish a good root system. It should have easily doubled its root spread over 18 months, but it appears to have made very few, if any, new roots. Gardeners often contribute to establishment failure by poor planting technique. The main failure is through not thoroughly teasing out the rootball prior to planting. The all-too-often-heard advice of not disturbing roots is just nonsense. Container-grown plants are well-grown at nurseries, but invariably root bound. It’s essential to thoroughly tease out the rootball to get these roots growing out into the surrounding soil, which is very different to the potting compost they’re grown in. You can’t usually do that with your fingers. I use a patio weeding tool, but a sharpened piece of bamboo, or similar, will do the job. Long, circling roots should be uncurled and pruned off at the side of the rootball.  Make the planting hole no deeper than the depth of the rootball, but three times as wide, as roots tend to grow sideways, not down.  Finally, don’t add organic matter to the planting hole as this tends to discourage rooting out into the surrounding soil. On very poor sandy soils you might incorporate some as part of the backfill (the soil dug from the hole).  Secure the tree trunk a third of the way up a tree stake, inserted diagonally at 45 degrees. This will ensure the new roots aren’t broken if the tree’s subject to high winds.  Planting too deep is the other major contributing factor. Again, the advice to plant at the depth the tree was in the pot is misguided as a lot of nursery stock is mechanically potted and is too deep to start with. This is the case with your tree, which was potted at least 5cm (2in), if not 7.5cm (3in), too deep. The tree has produced additional adventitious roots from the buried trunk to try to compensate but without success. With poor root growth, the tree has eventually come to a halt and died.

A Very simply, your strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) failed to establish a good root system. It should have easily doubled its root spread over 18 months, but it appears to have made very few, if any, new roots. Gardeners often contribute to establishment failure by poor planting technique. The main failure is through not thoroughly teasing out the rootball prior to planting. The all-too-often-heard advice of not disturbing roots is just nonsense.

Container-grown plants are well-grown at nurseries, but invariably root bound. It’s essential to thoroughly tease out the rootball to get these roots growing out into the surrounding soil, which is very different to the potting compost they’re grown in. You can’t usually do that with your fingers. I use a patio weeding tool, but a sharpened piece of bamboo, or similar, will do the job. Long, circling roots should be uncurled and pruned off at the side of the rootball. 

Make the planting hole no deeper than the depth of the rootball, but three times as wide, as roots tend to grow sideways, not down. 

Finally, don’t add organic matter to the planting hole as this tends to discourage rooting out into the surrounding soil. On very poor sandy soils you might incorporate some as part of the backfill (the soil dug from the hole). 

Secure the tree trunk a third of the way up a tree stake, inserted diagonally at 45 degrees. This will ensure the new roots aren’t broken if the tree’s subject to high winds. 

Planting too deep is the other major contributing factor. Again, the advice to plant at the depth the tree was in the pot is misguided as a lot of nursery stock is mechanically potted and is too deep to start with. This is the case with your tree, which was potted at least 5cm (2in), if not 7.5cm (3in), too deep. The tree has produced additional adventitious roots from the buried trunk to try to compensate but without success. With poor root growth, the tree has eventually come to a halt and died.

Propagate primulas from seed

This is a fun little project to attempt now your Primula veris and P. vulgaris have largely finished flowering. They will seed themselves, but you might just wish to experiment with your own man-made propagation to see how well you do. Just be aware they can be a little tricky sometimes.  The seed is very fine and doesn’t need burying under compost – just leave it on the surface of moist compost, covered with a fine layer of grit, which gives light protection but room for seedlings to emerge from it. Once sown keep your seed tray at around 15C (59F) for germination, but be patient! It’ll take a while – up to six or so weeks – for possible germination. If it doesn’t happen in that time, give your seed tray a period of cold stratification – a few weeks in the fridge – and then bring out to the warmth again.  Once seedlings have grown and can be easily pricked out, grow them on in small pots before planting out in autumn. 

This is a fun little project to attempt now your Primula veris and P. vulgaris have largely finished flowering. They will seed themselves, but you might just wish to experiment with your own man-made propagation to see how well you do. Just be aware they can be a little tricky sometimes. 

The seed is very fine and doesn’t need burying under compost – just leave it on the surface of moist compost, covered with a fine layer of grit, which gives light protection but room for seedlings to emerge from it. Once sown keep your seed tray at around 15C (59F) for germination, but be patient! It’ll take a while – up to six or so weeks – for possible germination. If it doesn’t happen in that time, give your seed tray a period of cold stratification – a few weeks in the fridge – and then bring out to the warmth again. 

Once seedlings have grown and can be easily pricked out, grow them on in small pots before planting out in autumn. 

Make a bee hotel

Solitary bees are very useful to us gardeners and are likely to frequent the bee hotels you can make for the garden. They're fantastic pollinators of a wide range of plants, particularly fruit trees and bushes in spring, as being able to fly they can reach these plants in cool, sometimes rainy weather, to pollinate them just when they need it.  They like to make nests in little tunnels, so any old strong bamboo canes with sizeable enough holes, about 50mm wide or more, can be fashioned into a nice little nesting site for them. It's wonderful to see them being used, and you'll be surprised at how many bees use it if positioned in the right spot. Mason and leafcutter bees will use bits of plant leaf to create cigar-like tubes as nests in the holes. Mason bees also like to use teasel and sunflower stems to nest, so these will work too.  For a more secure 'hotel' look, enclose all your stems or canes in a frontless wooden box and hang on the wall. 

Solitary bees are very useful to us gardeners and are likely to frequent the bee hotels you can make for the garden. They're fantastic pollinators of a wide range of plants, particularly fruit trees and bushes in spring, as being able to fly they can reach these plants in cool, sometimes rainy weather, to pollinate them just when they need it. 

They like to make nests in little tunnels, so any old strong bamboo canes with sizeable enough holes, about 50mm wide or more, can be fashioned into a nice little nesting site for them. It's wonderful to see them being used, and you'll be surprised at how many bees use it if positioned in the right spot. Mason and leafcutter bees will use bits of plant leaf to create cigar-like tubes as nests in the holes. Mason bees also like to use teasel and sunflower stems to nest, so these will work too. 

For a more secure 'hotel' look, enclose all your stems or canes in a frontless wooden box and hang on the wall.