Summer starts here

This weekend is the last Bank Holiday for several months and with warm, if not necessarily dry, weather forecast, it is the perfect time to get those summer bedding plants in the ground. Frost should no longer be a worry and with showers a possibility, your precious plants will get watered in.

In recent years we have changed our bedding-buying habits and no longer tend to plant them out from trays by the hundred. Instead we fill patio pots or plant bedding in smaller numbers, usually bought in pots or cell trays. No longer do we plant the ‘old favourites’ and rows of lobelia, ‘alyssum’ and lobelia are something of a rarity. But I am pleased to see that French marigolds are still popular. I know that many people are rather rude about them because they are brash and have ‘aromatic’ foliage, but after the long winter and dull spring I crave brightness and French marigolds are reliable, whatever the weather and are also great for pollinators.

When you are about to plant your bedding plants, lift your tulips and other bulbs and allow them to dry off naturally for replanting in autumn. You need to be careful with tulips to try to keep the leaves attached to the bulbs. Spring bedding plants can be composted.

If you are replanting in pots on the patio you do not need to replace all the compost unless it has been in the pot for 18 months or more. Then you can tip it on the border as a soil conditioner. But otherwise you can enrich the compost with some controlled-release fertiliser and top up with fresh compost.

Refresh old compost by mixing in some fertiliser before planting

In borders, pull up the old plants and remove any weeds. Despite what you may have heard, slugs and snails are a threat to your young plants and they adore munching on dahlias and marigolds. When you remove all the weeds that the slugs had previously been eating, and pop in your bedding plants, the slugs have no alternative than to eat your plants. So after removing weeds, apply your preferred slug control and leave the bed overnight.

Then you can plant. But it is worth sprinkling on some general fertiliser to boost growth and rake that in. Make sure your plants are well watered before you start so help prevent wilting. It also makes it easier to remove them from the pots.

Then carefully remove the plants from their pots or trays and pop them on the soil surface where they are to be planted so you can space them evenly.

Then plant them with a trowel, gently firming in the plants. Spacing will vary but the length of a trowel, including the handle, is a good guide. Most plants can be put about 20cm (8in) apart. Taller plants can be put slightly further apart. Some petunias have very vigorous, spreading growth and they can be put 60cm (2ft) or more apart and specimen plants like cannas will need a similar amount of room.

Once you have planted the area, make sure you water the plants in thoroughly so the water soaks into the roots and surrounding soil. This first water also settles the soil around the roots to make sure there are no air pockets around the roots which will lead to them drying out and the plants failing.

Be prepared to water in dry weather and please keep an eye out for slugs and snails.

If you have more gaps to fill and need to do it on a budget, there is still time to sow some annual seeds, direct where they will flower.

They will not bloom till August but should then keep on flowering right into autumn. Among the quickest and easiest are nasturtiums. The seeds are large and easy to handle and the plants can be dwarf and spreading or tall and climbing. Either way they are easy and quick and there are lots of new kinds with very attractive flowers and even variegated foliage.

Lavatera are large, robust plants with pink or white blooms and among the best for filling gaps in borders.

There are many kinds of poppy and all are great for bees, providing masses of pollen. They are easy to grow but the seeds are tiny and you will need to work your soil so it is fine before sowing.

When it comes to being easy to grow you can’t go wrong with limnanthes, or poached egg plant. One again the seeds are large and easy to sow and the plants flower quickly, and usually seed themselves. The low plants cover themselves with brilliant yellow and white flowers that are especially popular with honeybees.

Whatever you get up to this weekend, have a great time and enjoy your garden.

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