Posh bedding


It is not too late in April to raise hardier annuals from seeds sown now, plants like cosmos, zinnias and marigolds. However it's often easier to opt for ready-grown plugs of these, as well as the more-tender begonias, petunias, antirrhinums and nicotiana. Large plugs come ready to pot up and the ideal compost for young plants like these is the loam-based John Innes 1. This will deliver enough food for the first stages of growth, but after that you will need to feed once a week with a weak potash-based tomato feed such as Tomorite. Increase the size of the pots if the roots become visible through the holes in the bottom. You can gently upend the plants to check.

When putting into position, always opt for larger containers because these need less water and look more visually pleasing. Avoid peat-rich multi-purpose compost and opt for loam-based John Innes 3 instead. The loam base holds water and nutrients far more effectively than lighter composts and is more forgiving when it comes to watering. Don't expose your summer bedding to the great outdoors until late-May or early June because cold nights will check their growth and a sharp frost may kill them. If you don't have a greenhouse, growhouse or cold frame, place your full pots in the most-sheltered position and cover them with a double layer of horticultural fleece on cool nights.

If you're looking for vivid colour the petunia has much to offer and the double-headed petunias have long-lasting flowers that shrivel up and get hidden by the others, a process called self-cleaning. Many are scented too, particularly in the evening, and the colors are excellent. Their lax habit looks good in a pot, or in a window box, or against a wall. The Pirouette Series comes in 'Double Pirouette F1 Mixed' and this will include pinks, whites and purples, or there's 'Double Pirhouette F1 Rose', which has white edges surrounding deep rose-pink ragged-middled flowers. Petunia breeding has improved their rain resistance and doubles endure - whatever the weather throws at them.


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