Ready for some summer colour? Of course - but be cautious if cold snaps remain likely
This is the perfect time of year to get planting and with a bank holiday weekend just 24 hours away, get planning!
The weather is going to be pretty good by all accounts, and even if it isn’t brilliant where you are, the soil will be warming up and still damp from spring showers which create the optimum conditions for getting plants in the ground so their new roots can get a wiggle on and start harvesting water and food for strong new growth.
Although many of us have been blessed with a heatwave this week, clear days can lead to chilly nights so it is worth keeping some fleece on standby to throw over new plantings, especially if they include less hardy varieties such as gazania, pelargoniums and penstemons.
And if you rushed out and bought your summer bedding as soon as the garden centres opened last week, whoah there! Many of these plants are seriously tender and will be damaged by chilly nights so if possible, keep them undercover for a couple more weeks yet and harden them off.
Hardening off involves exposing delicate plants to outside temperatures during the day, then bringing them in at night. Do this for around 10 days and then leave them out at night, initially with a covering of fleece, which can be removed after a few days when the plants have toughened up and temperatures have hopefully levelled off.
I live in the south west where we are lucky to escape the worst of the cold weather and temperatures are reliably high now to plant out our overwintered scented pelargoniums.
These are glorious plants with delicate pink flowers and leaves that give off a heady smell of lemon or roses when crushed between fingers or brushed against. They look stunning in borders but because of their scent, are good to plant in pots around seating areas.
I started my planting in a border, but stood the plant in water for a good 30 minutes first so the rootball was saturated. This gives the plant a good drink but also helps avoid tearing the roots if any have become stuck to the pot, when you slide out the plant.
I then dug a hole and made sure it was deep enough for the plant, but not too deep as plants don’t like going in the ground much higher or lower than the depth of their rootball.
Because our soil is quite thin and chalky I added some well-rotted homemade compost to the bottom of the hole to give the pelly roots something to get stuck into early on.
I then slipped it from its pot and carefully checked its roots were healthy, teasing out the ones that were slightly congested and starting to circle the pot. This is also a good opportunity to check for any soil pests that have moved in over winter.
Place the plant in the centre of its hole and infill around the roots with the removed soil mixed with a little compost. Firm it down as you go to support the plant and knock out air pockets.
Once the plant is in, water it well and add a layer of mulch – compost or manure – around the root area to hold in the moisture and keep weeds at bay.
Then make yourself a cup of tea and stroll around the garden admiring your hard work and the beauty of the flowers. This is one of the prettiest times of year, with everything busting out all over and the air loud with birdsong, so make sure you tke the time to enjoy it.
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