Don't expect blooms to flourish without food

Removing spent blooms from ornamentals can stimulate more.

Saturday, 2nd September 2017, 2:03 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:13 pm
The beautifully planted new cart at The Coach Inn in Lesbury makes sure everyone is smiling again. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Roses are the epitome of this. You start dead-heading as the first flush of late June fades, and continue almost to the frost. It’s rather like trying to paint the Forth Road Bridge if you have a large collection. To keep annual bedding subjects flowering, removing spent blooms is essential.

No matter how well you’ve prepared the medium in a container, the demand for food is strong. The roots are confined, and unlike those in the open garden, cannot forage deeper into the soil. There comes a time when extra supplies are required. The sign might be a yellowing of leaves, stunting of growth, or aphids gaining a foothold.

Even when slow-release fertiliser pellets have been added to a window box or basket, expecting the effect to last until late summer is too much. If you want displays to flourish, remember to feed them occasionally.

Think tomato growing because the act of feeding these plants each week leads thoughts towards, “which other plants would benefit from this?” That’s when action speaks louder than words. I alternate between the liquid, seaweed-based Maxicrop and granular Phostrogen, going from tomatoes to vines, peach tree and potted plants.

It’s so sad to see plants wilting through lack of water. Tomato and fuchsia can recover if it’s offered in time, but the experience undermines their health long-term. Installing an irrigation system is one way of ensuring a regular supply, otherwise there’s a responsibility to check daily.

Hanging baskets with plants dying for water is a common sight. Polymer granules that absorb and store moisture, then release it on demand, should figure in all composts used for them. Although peat continues to feature, it does dry out rapidly and can be stubborn in re-absorbing moisture.

Favourite displays pop up throughout our region. It might be park bedding, containers or a roadside garden, but if it disappears there’s disappointment. Such was the case when an old cart outside The Coach Inn, Lesbury, started to collapse.

Up stepped Sandy, a farmer and pub regular. He constructed another, wheels and all. Michael and Carolyn planted it up so now everyone’s smiling again.

When the autumn changeover of bedding comes, prepare the growing medium well for your spring displays. It will have been plundered for nutrients by host plants all summer so beef-up the organic content and add a slow-release fertiliser with phosphate to boost root development while the soil remains relatively warm.