Because of the heading above I bet you thought you had clicked on one of those New Age blogs that are full of philosophical adages and instructions on how to live a more meaningful life. Well you certainly hit the wrong button there, it’s just plain old gardening stuff, but I am trying to make the whole thing more edgy; I’m going for a Scandi noire type thing, what do you think? Anyway enough of my literary pretensions, let’s talk real life and death in the garden: deadheading, cuttings and seedlings. There I go again that could easily be a name for a firm of lawyers in my next book.
22nd April: Things I have been doing lately.
Deadheading Irises. By now most of your Irises and other bulbs will have died back and it is time to deadhead them and get them ready for next year. The first photo below shows one of my stands of Irises that has finished blooming and need to be prepared for bed. The key thing with all bulbs is to let them die back naturally by leaving the foliage on as long as possible to allow this to transfer all the goodness of the Sun back down into the bulb. But first you must cut off the seed head. If you don’t do this then the plant will put all its effort into producing seed and the bulb will suffer and probably not flower next year. The simplest way to do this is just cut the whole seed head off; making sure you get it all, but still leave plenty of foliage for the plant. The second photo below shows the newly deadheaded Irises neatly cut and tied back so that they don’t flop on to the litttle Carnation sitting in the bed beside them.
Before we leave Iris, you will no doubt remember that last year I has some spare Iris bulbs and decided to plant them in a corner of my lawn that was a bit scrawny. Well look at the photo below, haven’t they done well, and there will be lots more next year.
Keep taking cuttings. I know I have mentioned it lately, but keep taking cuttings. This is the time of year when most plants are thrusting out fresh, new, strong shoots. In most cases a lot of the cuttings will not take, but you should get a 50/50 ratio of dead to live. And remember every live cuttings is a free plant for you, or your friends. I am taking cuttings from: Solanum, Jasmine, Plumbago and Bignonia. If you don’t know which are best parts to take a cutting from, then look at the photo below of my Solanum. The wispy shoots sticking out at the side are crying out “cut me I’m ready to become my own plant”; that is what I hear anyway! This plant was itself a cutting from my friend Margarita, eventually planted out in February and it is now fifteen foot high.
Pricking out seedlings. Those of you who are paying attention – and this means you – will remember that a month or so ago I sowed seeds of Marigold, Butternut Squash and a few other things in my little mini greenhouse. As the photo below shows, well here we are just a few weeks later and we are ready to prick out and plant up.
To prick out seedlings I use a pencil to ease them out of their initial seed tray. It is very important that when handling seedlings you always hold them by the leaves and never by the stem. If you hold the stem and damage it then the plant will die; and new stems are very delicate. It is a bit like me taking you by the hand or by the throat, which would you prefer?
The photo below shows my workings half way through pricking out the Marigolds. You can see the tools needed: pencil to lift out, dibber to make holes for the new seedlings (planted 12 to a half seed tray) and a square tamper to even off the compost before planting.
The photos below show the Butternut Squash being pricked out. Here, the technique is different, as is the equipment you will need. Yes, the trusty pencil is still there, but instead of seed trays I am using individual Coir pots that are bio degradable which means I will be able to plant the whole pot into the ground in a couple of weeks without disturbing and potentially damaging the roots. They have been planted individually into long case seed tray. This allows for the development of a much bigger and better root stock that this size plant demands. By growing in this type of seed tray you get much better root development as seen in the second photo below. The final photo shows the Butternut Squash all potted up ready to go into the ground in about two weeks.
Planting out Marigolds. It was only a few paragraphs ago we were pricking out Marigolds, and here we are planting them out! Marigolds are the ideal flower for Spain, they grow quickly from seed, they love full Sun, and, if deadheaded will flower for most of the Summer. The photo below shows me ready to get planting. All you need is a trowel, a kneeler (if you are old – like me) and some irrigation points ready to place near where the plants are. I use the red headed screw ones which you can see in a lot of my photos.The benefit of these is that they can be turned off completely and new ones added where the plants are now this year.
Once the plants are safely in the soil then water copiously as this will give them a good start. Then whether you like it or not you have to add slug pellets around each plant. I use the bird friendly type before you ask. If you don’t do this then all you are doing is providing salad for slugs and snails. The first photo below show the Marigolds surrounded by their ring of protective slug pellets. The second photo shows the Marigold plants after one night of snail siege. Click on this photo to enlarge and you will see the dozens of dead snails around each plant. All it takes is one snail to get through and you don’t have a plant, you have a “stalk”.
The final photo shows some of the Marigolds safely in their beds with cross canes placed over them to protect against that other great gardening pest, The great marauding Labrador.