As we’re now getting into the summer you might be thinking of bringing your bedding plants and pots out into the garden. If you have been growing them in your greenhouse or cold frame, they will probably need hardening off.
Hardening off, is introducing the plants gradually to the outdoor weather and temperatures. Being inside your plants will be very soft and tender, so if you put them straight out into colder air with the possible strong breezes, you could do quite a bit of damage. To strengthen them up you need to open the cold frame during the day, take them out of the greenhouse keeping them out of the wind putting them back in at night or place them in a sheltered spot where you can keep an eye on them. This will acclimatise your plants to the outdoors. You might need to do this also with bought plants, as they can be put out for sale as soon as they’re big enough, not necessarily being ready for the garden yet.
Something else to note is that when you bring your plants outside for the first time, they are more susceptible to scorching. Scorching mainly occurs on the leaves but can sometimes damage the stem of plants. It is caused by water droplets on the leaves magnifying in the sun and burning into the plant. To avoid scorching it is quite simple, don’t get the leaves wet.
Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done, so to help it would be an idea to water early in the morning or later at night, when the sun isn’t as fierce. Also, plants that have dried out tend to scorch more, so keep them as moist as you can. Finally, wind can also burn into tender young foliage, so put them where they are protected. Please note that scorching can happen all through the summer, so take care.
As your plants in the garden grow you might want to think about feeding. Of course, you’ve been mulching well and been putting down fertilizers on your garden but what about your tubs or baskets. A plant in a pot has only got what is in the pot for nutrients, so will need your help through the growing season. If you have recently just potted it up with a multi-purpose compost, you will probably be fine for a week or so (read your compost bag). But if you are feeling that the plant is ready for a little boost or it is not performing as you wish it might be time to try a feed.
There are many ways to feed a plant but I find for plants in pots and tubs liquid feed is the best. All feed contains Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. Nitrogen and Potassium are the two parts we are mainly worried about. Nitrogen encourages growth so a higher Nitrogen now will assist with the growth. Potash (Potassium) helps with fruit and flowers and towards the end of the growing season it helps the plant harden up for the winter.
One thing to be wary of, is not to over feed. Over feeding can sometimes do more harm than underfeeding. If you start feeding your pots do it gradually, perhaps start off with your feed half strength and then gradually build it up to full if the plant seems to be responding well. If you’re looking for a really good liquid feed, try one that contains seaweed extract. They’re a little more expensive but very good.
Plants in pots can give a lot of pleasure, just keep up with the maintenance of them and they will be a delight all summer.