Although it is May and the garden centre is awash with beautiful bedding, it‘s better to resist the temptation to buy until the last frost has past, so many gardeners buy early and regret later. It is, however a good time to plant up hanging backets, giving them a few weeks in the greenhouse to establish, so they look good before putting them outside. Always buy your plants from a supplier with a good reputation, prices may be higher but the choice should be greater, the quality higher and if there‘s a high turnover, plants won‘t be standing around on the benches for too long. Choose your plants carefully; select colours that work well together in bright or pastel shades and roughly work out how many you need, beforehand to save the cost of impulse buying. The plants should be compact, pest and disease free and the leaves should show no signs of yellowing, make sure there aren‘t masses of roots growing through the drainage holes and that the compost is moist. When you do finally buy bedding plants for outdoors, acclimatise them for a couple of weeks in the green house, leaving them outside during the day and bring them into the glasshouse at night. When they‘re finally planted out, give your new plants a boost by watering in with liquid general fertiliser.
It‘s been a late season but greenhouse will soon be full of seedlings, I‘ve sown melons, peppers, courgettes, ornamentals like Zinnias and unusual perennials like Lobelia gibberoa, a giant plant which lives high in the mountains of Uganda, were the gorillas play. It promises 15‘ flower spikes after several years and is most unlike the ones we grow in hanging baskets!
The flavour of fresh herbs beats anything you can buy in a supermarket and now‘s the time to sow herbs from seeds for your summer supplies. Sow coriander, dill and fennel in pots, trays or directly into the soil, parsley germinates better with fluctuating temperatures so sow it in trays or modules and putting them in the greenhouse during the day and outdoors at night. Sow basil too, there are some wonderful varieties including Basil‘ including ‘Cinnamon‘ which is very good for pasta or with spicy food, ‘Dark Opal‘ with strongly flavoured purple leaves, ‘Genovese‘ the traditional variety, low growing ‘Bush Basil‘ (Ocimum minimum) and ‘Siam Queen‘ (Ocimum x citriodorum) with an intense liquorice flavour and extra large leaves. It can be planted out once there‘s no danger of frost and should always be watered early in the day as it does not like going to bed with its feet wet!
Now that the weather is warming up, keep an eye on watering and feeding. Check plants in containers every day but don‘t just pour in water in as a matter of routine, check the moisture level in the compost first by pushing your fingers just below the surface, if particles of compost stick to your finger, then it doesn‘t need watering. Ignore established trees and shrubs and concentrate on those which are newly planted; it is an ideal opportunity to use washing up water, but not on edible plants; cut down on detergent and recycle! Soak plants thoroughly when watering, a little and often encourages roots to the surface where they are more vulnerable to drought.