Princes Award

Gardening Tips

January

Start begonia seed. Fill a seed tray with good fresh compost, briefly stand in water to moisten then allow to drain well. On a piece of card mix seed with a small amount of silver sand, carefully bend the card to facilitate easy distribution and sprinkle carefully across the surface of the compost. Do not cover. Stand tray in a hot area with plenty of light and the seed should germinate within three to four weeks. A temperature of 21°C (70°F) is ideal.

February

Start delphinium seed. Fill a tray with good fresh compost, moisten and allow to drain. Sprinkle the delphinium seed onto the surface and cover with compost or vermiculite to the depth of the seed. Cover the tray with black polythene, check daily and remove polythene once the first seeds germinate. A temperature of 16°C (60°F) is ideal.

Check trays of begonia seed for germination and prick out any seedlings with a small forked stick.

March

Check second year delphinium plants and make sure there is adequate protection against slugs and snails. Either use slug pellets or place a copper ring around each plant. Give a first feed of Vitax Q4 around the delphinium plants and add supports.

Continue to prick out begonia and delphinium seedlings into small individual pots. Plant begonia tubers and stand pots in a well heated area. If timing begonias for showing remember a rule of thumb is to allow four months from tuber planting to flowering.

Tubers will start to shoot in a cooler atmosphere but will be slower and take longer but as the plants cannot go outside until the risk of frost is past this may not be a problem.

April

Continue to prick out begonia and delphinium seed.

Place the first ties around the stakes on mature delphiniums if using canes to support the plants. Start potting on the first early begonia plants to the next size pot and add a sturdy stake to support the mature plants later on. Do not feed the begonia plants until the first buds appear.

Begonia plants required for outdoor use should be gradually hardened off. Place outside in a sheltered position during the day but return indoors or into a cold frame at night time. The risk of frost remains until June but by acclimatising plants they will be hardier when planted out eventually.

May

Continue to move the young begonia and delphinium plants on to their next size pots. Do this gradually as plants do not grow well if over potted. Check for any signs of mildew although it is unlikely to appear this early. If any is found treat swiftly with Scotts Fungus Fighter or Fungus Clear. Mildew is an airborne spore and will spread quickly.

Space the plants out well on the bench as lack of air around them causes problems. Always keep the greenhouse well ventilated. Shading may be necessary to remove the risk of plants becoming damaged by strong sunlight. Begonias particularly have tender leaves which will burn if in direct sunlight through glass. Keep plants well watered but do not allow the compost to become saturated.

Plant up hanging baskets. Three tubers will make a good show but if using seedlings four young plants will be needed. The baskets will look sparse to begin with but as the plants grow they will fill out and give a good show.

June

Young cutting grown delphinium plants may be planted out into the garden. Give them a good amount of space in which to grow and start them off with a sprinkling of Vitax Q4 or similar. Ground prepared earlier being well forked over and nourished will produce healthy vigorous growth. Keep the plants well weeded and protected from slugs.

Add the final tie to stakes around mature delphinium plants. Keep mature delphinium flower spikes discreetly supported if in an exposed position.

Begonias may be planted out during the second week in June. If not hardened off make sure they are not in direct sunlight immediately as the leaves will burn. Plant bedding begonias eight inches apart in the garden for a good summer display. Place hanging baskets in their display position - keep them well watered and feed them every second to third week.

July

Begonia seedlings now in flower need to be well spaced out on benching.

Feed begonias in pots occasionally- about every other week. It is better to underfeed than to overfeed. Vitax 111 is evenly balanced and is good. Chempak, Phostrogen and Tomorite also suit begonias.

Tie stems carefully to supports but take care not to damage the main stem of the plant.

Dead head flowers which have gone over to encourage the plant to produce more. Support heavy flower heads to avoid risk of breaking off.

Keep delphiniums weed free and well watered. Cut down finished flower spikes roughly 6 - 8 inches from the base unless needed for seed. Give the plants a light feed of Q4.

August

Keep all plants tidy and well watered. Remove dead flower heads and any damaged foliage. Continue weeding!

September

Delphinium plants may show signs of light flowering again. A token feed is in order to top up the nutrients required.

Begonias do not need any further feeding. The tuber is now in the process of ripening and needs to firm up ready for dormancy. Feed at this stage makes the tuber soft and lessens its chances of survival through the dormancy months. Remove foliage and leaves which fall to eliminate the risk of damage to the plant from rotting matter.

October

Keep weeding the delphiniums!

Begonia flowers can be removed at this stage to direct all the goodness of the plant away from the flowers and into the tuber. Watering should be minimal as the need lessens with cooler days. Be aware of the risk of frost this month. Begonias in the border will stand a light frost which will darken the leaves but the plants should then be lifted and placed somewhere frost free to die back ready for dormancy.

November

Lessen the amount of water given to begonias in pots. The leaves will gradually go yellow and fall off as the plant becomes ready for its rest. Tip the plants out of their pots with the stems still attached and lay them in shallow trays. Stems may be cut to three or four inches from the tuber. Once the soil and remaining stems have fallen away of their own accord check the tuber then store it for dormancy in a FROST FREE place; somewhere which is not too hot, room temperature is ideal.

Tidy delphinium plants ready for dormancy. Make sure slug control is in place as the plants are vulnerable during the winter months.

December

Clean and sterilise everything in your greenhouse. Get rid of old pots and make sure no bugs are lurking! Although delphinium plants are dormant do not let the dormant crowns sit in waterlogged areas or pots. Start planning for next year ordering labels etc as required.