Monthly Archives: April 2019

The Right Support

Large clump of unsupported Sedum spectabile flopping from centre - © GAP Photos/Julia Boulton

Large clump of unsupported Sedum spectabile flopping from centre – © GAP Photos/Julia Boulton

If there is one garden job that is often missed in the spring, but proves beneficial later on in the season, it’s providing support for vegetable crops, annuals and herbaceous perennials. Plants often flop outwards under the weight of their own flowers and fruit, or bend towards the light; and a few stakes and a bit of string help can prevent this from happening.

Although support can be installed later in the season as required, it is often a good idea to have the framework in place before plant growth really takes off in late spring. Now is a great time to start as you should be able to see where the new growth is, but still have the space to add support without damaging any foliage or roots. Better yet, if you are also planting, you can incorporate a support system at the same time.

When it comes to plant supports, they can be as fancy or simple as you like. Some bamboo canes and string will provide efficient support to climbing annuals such as sweet peas. A few wooden stakes drummed in around the base of a herbaceous perennial, with string laced between them will help the plant upright.

Also consider how you can use plants to decorate structures in your garden. Clematis look beautiful as they steadily climb their way up decorative obelisks. Archways and pergolas can be turned into cool, shady areas in the summer if covered by a sun-loving vine.

Here we have put together ideas for simple and effective plant supports to try now, so that you can spend the summer admiring your garden rather than rushing around in the heat supporting it.

5 Annuals Worth Growing

Annuals can get a bad reputation with gardeners as they need to be replaced every year. However, one huge bonus of using annuals in your garden is that they grow very quickly and fill up an empty space at a very low cost. Here at GAP Gardens, we are huge fans of annuals. Here are five fantastic annuals that can be sown now, grow quickly and produce fabulous colour.

Nigella – Love-in-the-Mist:

 

A very pretty annual, with lovely flowers and a romantic name. It goes onto produce particularly ornamental seedpods in late summer to early autumn – so a great choice for flower arrangers.

Tagetes – Marigold:


This isn’t the edible variety of marigold, but this annual is still a useful choice in vegetable gardens. Often gardeners plant marigolds around crops such as tomatoes, that are vulnerable to attack from garden pests. They act as a great buffer between hungry slugs and succulent vegetables and the smell of marigold’s foliage confuses passing bugs. They also are a magnet to pollinators.

Centaurea cyanus – Cornflowers:

 

Cornflowers are loved by pollinators, produce edible flowers and are one of the few true-blue flowered plants. They are easily grown from seed and make great additions to beds and borders, as well as cut flower arrangements. They are also hardy, so you can start them in autumn and plant them out for earlier colour the following spring and summer.

Tropaeolum majus – Nasturtiums images:


Nasturtiums have multiple benefits, the leaves and flowers are edible, they cover and climb and are available in all sorts of colours. They are grown easily from seed and make brilliant companion plants in vegetable gardens, to discourage pests from going after your crops.

Eschscholzia californica – California poppy:


The vibrant yellow-orange flowers of this annual are breath-taking, especially when grown in mass. As well as being attractive to pollinators, they also do particularly well in poor soil and are surprisingly draught tolerant for such a little plant. A good choice for that hot dry spot where you want a bit of colour.

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.