Category Archives: Practical gardening

Feeding Plants in Containers

It is always a good idea to fertilise your plants in the growing season to give them an extra boost, however it is especially important to do this with potted plants. Containers often need more regular watering than plants in the ground, and nutrients originally in the potting compost will be more quickly washed out than they otherwise would in the ground. Here are three ways of feeding your containerised plants this season.

Topdressing with manure

Step by Step - Cutting back, top dressing and fertilising Rose - © GAP Photos

Step by Step – Cutting back, top dressing and fertilising Rose – © GAP Photos

Manure is the most organic way of feeding your plants. Be sure to get well-rotted animal manure. It is widely available in garden centres and inexpensive. It is also nutrient-rich. However, depending on the size of the pot, you are unlikely to need a large quantity of it, and manure tends to be available in large bags, so possibly not a good option if you only have a few small pots to fertilise. It can also be a bit smelly!

Adding slow-release fertiliser granules to the soil at planting stage

Step by step - planting a pink and purple themed container - © GAP Photos

Step by step – planting a pink and purple themed container – © GAP Photos

Incorporating slow-release fertiliser granules in containers is a good option if you know you are unlikely to have time to feed your plants during the summer. They slowly release nutrients as the moisture levels in the containers build up, so you will still need to remember to water your plants. This is a great option if you think about it early on when you come to planting, however if you miss the chance, it’s a bit harder to add them at a later stage.

Feeding while watering with liquid feed

Feeding a container grown fuchsia with liquid feed using a watering can - © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Feeding a container grown fuchsia with liquid feed using a watering can – © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Liquid feeds are very widely available, and you can get very specific feeds for different types of plants, which will contain the ideal nutrient balance for the plants they are intended. A bit of measuring is usually required to make sure you dilute the feed with the correct proportion of water, however generally this is an easy method, and as it is incorporated at the watering stage, it takes care of two jobs in one go. You can also feed as and when you feel necessary. Liquid feeds are however, more expensive than other types of fertiliser, and you are likely to get through more than one bottle in a growing season, increasing your use of single-use plastic.

How to Make Paper Pots from Newspaper

Reduce your use of plastic and create biodegradable seed plant pots from newspaper. To do this you will need to buy yourself a paper pot maker, which are now available in garden centres and online.

The benefits to making pots out of newspaper are numerous. It’s cost affective as you just need to invest in the pot maker itself, and you are re-purposing old paper or newspaper which you would normally throw away or recycle. The paper will naturally decompose in the ground, meaning you can plant the whole pot, giving the roots a chance to establish well without being disturbed during transplanting.

Step 1 – Carefully measure and cut the paper

Woman tearing newspaper to make newspaper pots - © GAP Photos

Woman tearing newspaper to make newspaper pots – © GAP Photos

Cut strips of paper to the correct width and length specified on the pot maker packaging. It is important to keep to the recommendations to ensure there is enough paper to create a secure bottom to the pot.

Step 2 – Wrap a strip of paper around the Insert

Woman rolling strip of newspaper tightly on to pot maker - © GAP Photos

Woman rolling strip of newspaper tightly on to pot maker – © GAP Photos

When forming the pot, try to make sure there is sufficient overhang from the insert to create the bottom of the pot. Try to keep the paper tight against the device.

Step 3 – Create the base to the paper pot

Woman pressing the folded newspaper ends into the pot maker to create the pot bottom - © GAP Photos

Woman pressing the folded newspaper ends into the pot maker to create the pot bottom – © GAP Photos

Bend the overhanging paper inwards and then press the whole thing into the wooden base

Step 4 – Apply some pressure

Woman pressing the folded newspaper ends into the pot maker to create the pot bottom - © GAP Photos

Woman pressing the folded newspaper ends into the pot maker to create the pot bottom – © GAP Photos

Apply sufficient pressure onto the pot maker to create a paper pot base. Then lift the insert up and gently slide the paper pot off.

Step 5 – Add some soil and seeds

Woman adding a little compost to each pot to cover the seed - © GAP Photos

Woman adding a little compost to each pot to cover the seed – © GAP Photos

Add some soil to the pots and sow your seeds. Give the pots a little water to get them started.

Step 5 – Don’t forget a plant label

Woman adding a wooden plant label to paper pots - © GAP Photos

Woman adding a wooden plant label to paper pots – © GAP Photos

Whenever you sow seeds, be sure to add an identification label so you know what the seedlings are when they appear. Plant out as soon as possible – you can plant the whole pot in the ground with the seedling, as the newspaper will naturally break up and decompose.

Tips for Sowing Tomatoes from Seed

Tools and materials for sowing Tomato seed -  © GAP Photos

Tools and materials for sowing Tomato seed -
© GAP Photos

If you are a fan of tomatoes, you may want to grow your own, and mid spring is the perfect time to start, although if you have a greenhouse you can sow even earlier. There are so many varieties of tomato available as seed, and it is fun to select a range to grow. There are a few things to remember when growing tomatoes from seed, so we thought we would give a few tips.

1. Sow the seeds finely

Woman sowing tomato seeds - © GAP Photos

Woman sowing tomato seeds – © GAP Photos

Seedlings grow stronger with less competition with other seedlings, so try and sow the seeds thinly. Use the crease in your palm and your index finger to control where the seeds land in the seed tray.

2. Don’t forget to label as you sow

Seed tray with lines of tomato seedlings -  © GAP Photos

Seed tray with lines of tomato seedlings – © GAP Photos

All tomato seedlings look the same, so if you are growing more than one variety, clearly label as you sow so you are able to identify the germinated seedlings.

3. Keep them warm

Woman putting tray of sown tomato seed into propagator in greenhouse -  © GAP Photos

Woman putting tray of sown tomato seed into propagator in greenhouse – © GAP Photos

Tomatoes do need warm and consistent soil temperatures to germinate – from 21 to 25C, so consider using a propagator. If you don’t have a propagator, you could tie a plastic bag over the top of the pot, or pop the sown seeds in a warm part of the house, such as their airing cupboard. and then bring out when the seeds have germinated.

4. Handle with care

Woman carefully potting on tomato seedlings - © GAP Photos

Woman carefully potting on tomato seedlings – © GAP Photos

The seedlings that appear are very delicate and easily damaged. When you transplant the seedlings, hold them by their cotyledons (first leaves) rather than the stem. As the plants will shed their cotyledons anyway, it does not matter if these get damaged during the transplantation process.

5. Introduce young plants to the garden gradually as the summer approaches

Close up of line of tomato seedlings - © GAP Photos

Close up of line of tomato seedlings – © GAP Photos

Young tomato plants are very tender, and will need hardening off outside before they are planted in their final locations. Harden them off gradually by leaving them outside during the day in mid to late spring, before moving them back inside during the night.