Sowing Seeds, Acers, Plug Plants & More

 In George Irvine

A Great additive for Seed Sowing

When you are sowing seeds, the instructions on some seed packets will tell you that some seeds need to be covered over with seed compost before germination will take place. However, rather than use seed compost for this task you can opt to use vermiculite, and indeed it’s use has many advantages.

But what is Vermiculite?  Vermiculite is a mineralogical name given to hydrated laminar magnesium-aluminium-iron silicate and it resembles mica in appearance. It also has insulating properties, and it is sterile and hence free from pests and diseases. Covering your seeds to the required depth with vermiculite is worth considering, and you can also add it to the compost when pricking out young seedlings. It will help improve drainage but yet hold moisture and allow air to reach the roots..


Caring for Acers.

Many gardeners simply love Acers in their garden and these small trees, which are actually Japanese Maples, provide a bit of welcome architecture to any garden with the added bonus of lovely coloured leaves. Many are also grown for their shape too and this also will enhance your garden.

One of the many questions I am asked is about when and if they should be pruned. The answer is that generally Acers do not need to be pruned at all. By nature they are slow growing, and hence pruning is not usually necessary. However, sometimes you do need to lightly prune them just to retain their shape or to remove damaged branches.

If you do have to lightly prune, you must do it soon before the sap starts to rise, otherwise   new cuts will tend to bleed.  You can give a light feed in early spring but do watch out for black fly.


Growing from Plug Plants.

With the plug plant season now about to start  in earnest I want to feature on the steps needed to be taken to successfully grow these little plants on until ready for planting out in the garden by early summer. With any plug plants, it is vitally important that you don’t let them dry out. You also need to pot these on into small pots or cell trays. The latter are available in various sizes and are obtainable in Cardwell Garden Centre.

Use new fresh multi-purpose compost when potting-up these small plants. Don’t be tempted to use old compost which you have had lying about since last year, as this could have decomposed, creating toxins which could be harmful to your new plants. Gently ease, or pull the plug plant from it’s original tray and replant into cell trays or 3 inch pots containing fresh compost. I often find it useful to use a little bit a split cane to push the plug from it’s original tray. Gently firm the plant into the compost in it’s new abode and then water each plant carefully. Keep the plants in a light but frost-free location – such as an unheated greenhouse, but do not let the overnight temperature fall below 42 degrees Fahrenheit.


Keep a Look-Out for Frost.

Over the next couple of months we can still get some severe frosts during the night and early morning. My advice is  to watch the weather forecasts and if heavy frosts are on the horizon make sure you cover  tender young plants with garden fleece , or even a few layers of old newspaper. Keep off lawns if they are covered with frost, otherwise you can damage the grass.


Trimming Winter Heather.

Most of the winter heather which has given a bit of colour to the garden over the dull dark days of winter, will be starting to fade now. As with most heather, they do need to be trimmed after flowering and now is the time to do this. Lightly trim off all the old flowers, taking care not to cut into old dark wood. Perhaps the best way to trim off the old flower spikes is to use your garden shears. Remember, just a light trim is all that is   needed to remove the old flowers.


Get the Secatuers Out.

Perennial Lavatera – or the marshmallow plant as it is often known – should be pruned back to about nine inches above the ground during this month. After pruning, rake some general fertiliser such as bone meal or ‘Growmore’ around the base of the plants.

Hydrangea – the Mop Head varieties- should have all the old flower heads trimmed off  now but do not be tempted to prune these bushes down, because, you will prevent any flowers from appearing for the next three  years. Should your bushes become too cumbersome, remove only one third of the stems taking them down to ground level, selecting  only those that flowered last year.  Otherwise, leave your bushes untouched.

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