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Tuesday
Aug142012

Caring for Summer Containers

Summer bedding plants have had a rough time in our gardens this year. As well as being bashed by high winds they have had to put up with huge deluges of rain and a few days of scorching sun as well! Below are some tips that will help you get the most from your summer containers for the rest of the season – until well into autumn.


Deadheading

This is a thankless task when the weather is as wet and miserable as it has been for much of the summer, but it will prolong the life of annual plants. Once an annual plant has set seed, it will feel that it has accomplished its mission to reproduce itself and put less effort into producing more flowers. By removing the spent flower heads, before the seed pods swell, flowering will continue for weeks, if not months longer.

TOP TIP Remove spent flower spikes back to healthy new leaves or flower buds rather than just removing the flower head and leaving a bare stalk. It looks much tidier!


Drainage

Many containers will have been over watered by the rain that has fallen this summer, causing the roots to be waterlogged in soggy compost. Drainage is key here and plenty of ‘crocks’ in the base of the container will help keep the compost free draining. As well as broken terracotta pots or large stones, chunks of polystyrene can be used. This is especially useful in large containers that may need to be moved from time to time as it adds drainage material without adding extra weight!

TOP TIP Raising the container off the ground with some ‘feet’ or on a couple of small bricks, will also allow excess water to drain through the pot.


Feeding and Watering

During the wet weather that we have experienced this summer, plant nutrients in composts will have been ‘leached’ (drained) from containers more quickly than usual. Supplementary feeding is essential to replace this ‘plant food’ quickly to prevent yellowing leaves and lack of flower amongst other problems. Liquid feeds such as Notcutt’s Pour and Feed are the quickest way to replace lost nutrients and should be applied once a week through the season. Water onto the leaves and into the base of the pot so that the plant takes up the fertilizer through the leaves and roots.

TOP TIP Always water in the morning or evening when the weather is at its coolest to prevent your plants from scorching if the sun hits water drops left on the leaves and flowers.


Pests and Diseases

Bedding plants are, by their nature, fast growing and full of soft growth much loved by slugs and snails! These annoying pests do have their favourites such as Petunias, Marigolds and Salvia but they can decimate many others as well. Be vigilant and use your preferred method of control.

TOP TIP When using slug pellets, apply ‘little and often’ as they disappear or after rain. Place a few pellets under your containers as well, to catch any slugs that may be using the shade as a hiding place through the day!

By following the advice above, there is still time to enjoy your summer containers until well into the autumn, when a visit to your local garden centre will give you plenty of ideas for winter and spring containers!

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