It has been a long, cool spring and we are still not out of the woods yet, with cold nights still a possibility. Spring flowers have lasted well but it is time to think about pulling up spring bedding and replacing it with summer flowers.
Most summer bedding plants, including petunias, pelargoniums, fuchsias and busy Lizzies, are not hardy and will be damaged by frost. So if you buy them they must be protected from overnight frosts. If you plant them out and a frost is forecast you should try to protect them by covering with fleece or even cardboard, taking care not to squash them.
If they are in pots you can often move the pot to a sheltered place or you can cover the pot and plants with a bin bag.
Even without a frost, you should be careful that the bedding plants are protected from cold weather. If the bedding plants have been grown in a greenhouse they can be scorched by cold winds or even bright sunlight. They need to be acclimatised to outside condition. If you buy plants that have been kept outside or in a covered areas with open sides then they should be used to outside conditions.
Flowers in containers
When replacing seasonal plants in patio pots, it is not necessary to replace the compost every time. You should be able to use the compost for a year or eighteen months but after that it needs to be replaced – you can tip it out onto the garden as a mulch or dig it in as soil conditioner. But the previous batch of plants will have depleted the compost of nutrients so you should add some controlled-release fertiliser to the compost before you plant the next batch and you may need to add some compost to the top of the pot to top it up.
When planting bedding plants in the border, hoe the soil to remove weeds and rake in a little general fertiliser. Water the bedding plants well before you plant them and then water the plants in to settle the roots after planting. Many bedding plants are very tasty to slugs and snails so protect them immediately or the plants will disappear overnight. Be prepared to water every few days in dry weather until the plants are established.
Stake herbaceous plants such as peonies before they get blown over by wind.
Deadhead tulips as the petals drop. This will help them die down more quickly so they can be lifted.
Sow wallflowers in the veg garden to provide plants to bloom next spring.
Sow more veg including salads, carrots, beet, turnips and peas. Sow French beans if the soil is warm – they need warmth to germinate.
Plant tomatoes in the border, pots and growing bags in a cold greenhouse or polytunnel.
Sow sweetcorn in cells trays on the windowsill to plant out in early June
Prune spring-flowering shrubs like ribes and spiraea.