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.