HOW TO GROW HYDRANGEA



To allow Hydrangeas to establish their root system prior to the spring, they are best planted in October and November. However if you miss this seasonal opportunity then you will have a second chance in March to April. To allow them to perform at their best, plant Hydrangeas in a good loamy, moisture-retentive soil that has been previously enriched with well-rotted manure, garden compost or other humus-rich organic compost such as leaf-mold. They are best grown in a sheltered position, against a wall or hedge, or beneath the canopy of tall trees. This is important as the young tender growths are easily damaged by late spring frosts. With this in mind, avoid planting Hydrangeas in a position where morning sun after night frosts can damage the new growth further.

Hydrangea villosa - http://bodnant-plants.co.uk/
Hydrangeas will thrive in full sun to semi-shade with the exception of Hydrangea sargentiana which will perform at it best in full shade. Hydrangea villosa will be happy in semi-shade but will scorch in full sun.

The highly popular, blue-flowering garden cultivars of Hydrangea macrophylla will not produce decent-colored blooms on alkaline soils. To avoid the colors leaching out to a drab, pinkish colour, dress the soil liberally with moss peat and apply colour-enhancing chemical feeds such as sequestrene or aluminium sulphate annually.

Pink cultivars of the same species tend to be less clear or take on purple hues when grown on acidic soils. In this instance, dress the roots with 2 ounces of ground-limestone per square yard annual to preserve the pink coloration.

All hydrangeas, and especially Hydrangea paniculata, will benefit from an annual mulch of well-rotted compost applied in April. However avoid regular feeding with liquid soluble fertilizers as this can lead to excessive soft, leafy growth. Over feeding can also cause Hydrangeas to promote foliage growth at the expense of developing flower buds. This soft growth will also leave them more at risk from frost damage over the winter.

Pruning

Image credit - http://i.telegraph.co.uk/
Most Hydrangea species require no regular pruning except to remove dead flower-heads after flowering, or later on in March. Remove any weak, diseased or damaged wood in February or March at the latest.

Cut back the previous years flowering shoots of Hydrangea arborescens and Hydrangea paniculata by half in February or March. Thin out at ground level two and three year old flowering shoot of Hydrangea macrophylla cultivars to promote strong new shoots.

The popular climbing Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris should have any overlong shoots cut back immediately after flowering. On established specimen most of the blooms will appear towards the top of the plant, so try to leave as much of this un-pruned as possible.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW HYDRANGEA
HOW TO PRUNE HYDRANGEA
HYDRANGEA MACROPHYLLA
HYDRANGEA PETIOLARIS
HYDRANGEA SERRATA 'Bluebird'
HYDRANGEA QUERCIFOLIA
WHICH ARE THE BEST BLUE-FLOWERING HYDRANGEAS?
WHY HAS MY BLUE HYDRANGEA TURNED PINK?

WHICH ARE THE BEST BLUE-FLOWERING HYDRANGEAS?

Image credit - https://www.gardenerdirect.com/

If you are looking for true-blue, hardy, flowering garden plants then I am afraid that suitable specimens are few and far between. Admittedly there are a reasonable amount of herbaceous perennials which will fit the bill but when it come to shrubs you are limited to just half a dozen genera to choose from.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Enziandom' credit - www.burncoose.co.uk
Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with the offerings of Ceanothus, Salvia, Hibiscus, Buddleia and Ceratostigma. However for depth of colour, length of flowering period and choice of cultivars you will find the Hydrangea genus hard to beat - more specifically the cultivars of Hydrangea macrophylla!

Arguably the very best blue flowered Hydrangea is Hydrangea macrophylla 'Enziandom', and as with all macrophylla cultivars the species is originally from Japan and is as tough as old boots. The 'Enziandom' form has also received the AGM (award of garden merit) from the Royal Horticultural society.

Other mophead forms such as Hydrangea macrophylla 'Barry's Best', Hydrangea macrophylla 'Taube', Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer' and Hydrangea macrophylla 'Nikko Blue' should also be seriously considered. If you prefer the style of the lacecap hydrangeas then Hydrangea macrophylla 'Mariesii Perfecta' (also known as Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blue Wave') may be your perfect choice.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer' credit -www.hauenstein-rafz.ch
You may be aware that there is a slight problem with growing blue hydrangeas. You buy them at their bluest from your local plant retailers only to find that once they have been growing in your soil for a year or so the colour washes out to a rather uninspiring pink. This is because that despite growing quite happily in the majority of garden soils Hydrangea macrophylla cultivars will not produce quality blue blooms on alkaline soils. The very deepest blue pigmentation can only be produced on soils with a pH of between 5.2 and 5.5.

To ensure the very best blue flowers add plenty of humus-rich, organic matter to the soil such as moss peat, leaf-mould, coffee grounds, and well-rotted garden compost. Furthermore apply a solution of 1/2 oz (1 Tbsp) aluminum sulfate per gallon of water to your Hydrangeas throughout the growing season. You can also consider adding sequestrene and proprietary brands of suitable hydrangea colourant.

When it comes to feeding blue hydrangeas chose a fertilizer low in phosphorus and high in potassium. Superphosphates and bone meal should be avoided.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW HYDRANGEA
HOW TO PRUNE HYDRANGEA
HYDRANGEA MACROPHYLLA
HYDRANGEA PETIOLARIS
HYDRANGEA QUERCIFOLIA
WHICH ARE THE BEST BLUE-FLOWERING HYDRANGEAS?
WHY HAS MY BLUE HYDRANGEA TURNED PINK?

WHEN ARE RADISHES READY TO HARVEST

Image credit - http://hdimagelib.com/


You can't beat the fresh, crisp taste and texture of home grown radishes, and as they are so easy to grow from seed why would you ever settle for lower quality, shop bought produce? Of course, those that have grown radish before will already know that as a member of the mustard family germinating radish seed isn't the issue. The trick to a perfect radish crop is the timing of production, the density of the crop and of course harvesting them at correct time. Always remember that overcrowded seedlings will produce foliage at the cost of root growth.

Image credit - https://www.rhs.org.uk/
Choosing the right time to harvest radishes is critical. Lift them too soon and the bulbous roots would not have formed to their full potential. Lift them too late and they will lose their crispness becoming increasingly spongy and hot to the point of being unpalatable.

For spring sown cultivars the rule of thumb is to harvest them as soon as they are of a usable size, which is usually before the root has grown to no more than one inch in diameter. Keep an eye on the date they are sown as they will be ready for lifting between 20 and 30 days - depending on the weather and cultivar.

Late summer sown cultivars are a little different as they are slower to develop meaning that they can be left in the ground for longer, usually between 50 and 60 days from sowing. Furthermore, these late season crops tend to grow larger than the earlier varieties without becoming spongy and hot. This means that they can be a little larger than one inch in diameter before they are lifted.

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HOW TO GROW PHOENIX CANARIENSIS

Image credit - http://www.fourjustinfarms.com/

The Canary Island date palm - Phoenix canariensis, is an evergreen, tree-like palm and a close relative of Phoenix dactylifera, the true date palm. Native to the subtropical Canary Islands, and extensively naturalised in Spain, Italy, Australia, Bermuda and the subtropical regions of the United States, it is a popular garden specimen garden and park plant, and also one of the hardiest of all cultivated palm-like trees.

So hardy is it that once mature, Phoenix canariensis can withstand temperatures as low as −12 °Celsius, albeit for short periods. Be that as it may, juvenile plants will not tolerate freezing temperatures without suffering cold damage and should be overwintered in a frost free position until a sizable trunk exists. Even then cold protection is advised for specimens kept permanently outside in countries that experience prolonged cold, wet winters. While this is not good news for northern European gardeners, there are examples of Phoenix canariensis growing permanently outside in the milder regions of Ireland, the south coast of England and the Channel Islands.

Container grown plants will require a good quality compost such as John Inness 'No 2' and a sheltered position in full sun over the growing period. Always harden off before moving outside to prevent scorching and provide a minimum winter temperature of 7°Celsius. If kept under protection all-year-round ventilate whenever temperatures rise beyond 18-21°Celsius.

Water sparingly during its winter rest period of November to mid-May, then water well between May and September, and then moderately until November.

Specimens kept under protection will benefit from having the glass lightly shaded over the summer, but provide full sunlight for the rest of the year.

Repot every two or three years in April, and in years where the specimen is not being potted on provide a liquid soluble fertilizer every week or so from May to September. The final container size should be up to 1 metre wide, but possibly smaller depending on the practicalities of it being moved.

In favorable climates, plants grown permanently outside will perform best in a sheltered, sunny position in a sandy, well-drained, but relatively moist soil. Avoid heavy soils and areas prone to waterlogging. Equally, do not allow newly planted Phoenix canariensis to dry out for extended periods over the summer for at least the first few years in order to avoid root damage or even death. Specimens with a trunk over 2 metres tall will need secured with posts or cables until the root systems establish.

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MINIATURE COCONUT PALM - Lytocaryum weddellianum
THE COCO de MER - Lodoicea maldivica

WHEN IS CELERY READY FOR HARVESTING






Celery is a biennial vegetable, although grown as an annual for its tight cluster of crescent-sectioned stalks, The most commonly cultivated varieties are green, pink or red. The green cultivars will mature first followed by the pink and lastly the red. Red celery is the hardiest of all forms of celery. These regular cultivars will need to be grown in trenches and earthed up for blanching prior to harvesting. Self-blanching white or green celery varieties will not need earthing up but are far less hardy than regular cultivars and must be cleared from the ground outside before the first frosts.

The stalks of trench grown celery are not usually blanched sufficiently for use until at least eight weeks after the first earthing up. The first earthing up is usually around mid-August. Self-blanching celery varieties should be ready for harvesting from the end of August onward. Typically, the time to harvest celery is 85 to 120 days after planting out into their outside bed. The variance is due to the time of planting, seasonal weather conditions and specific cultivars. Of course, for the harvest day period to be of any use you will need to take note of the date when planting out.

Celery can be harvested as soon as the bottom stalks are at least 6 inches long, from ground level to the first leaf node. The stalks should still be close together, forming a compact bunch approximately 3 inches in diameter. Cut the stalks below where they are joined together, as near to the roots basal plate as possible. That way the entire plant can be lifted in one go.

When a plant is removed fill in the gap with soil to prevent too much light reaching the remaining plants.

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WHEN DO YOU HARVEST PARSNIPS?

HOW TO TAKE CUTTINGS FROM ABUTILON


The Abutilon genus comprises over 200 species from the tropics and subtropics of the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australia. While not all are deemed worthy enough for a position in the garden, those that do are highly ornamental with architectural foliage and exotic blooms.

Unfortunately if you want to purchase some of the rarer, prized examples such as Abutilon 'Tiger Eye', then you will find that specimens are few and far between. However if you have access to such plants (and have permission from the owner) then why not propagate your own Abutilon plants from cuttings?

Water the parent plant the night before to make sure that any cutting material taken will be as turgid as possible. Then in the morning, (the best time for taking cuttings) and using a sharp, sterilized blade take 3-4 inch cuttings of half-ripe lateral shoots. Make your cut just below a leaf node. The best time for this is between May and August. Unless you are going to strike your cuttings immediately, place your cutting material in a sealed, damp plastic bag to prevent them from wilting.

Prepare a cutting compost of equal parts by volume moss peat and horticultural grade sand, or purchase a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting'. Remove the foliage from the lower half of the cutting and if the leaves are particularly large they can be cut in half. If you have it, although it is not really needed, dip the cut end into rooting hormone powder. Strike each cutting into a 3 inch pot (use a dibber if you have applied rooting hormone powder), and place in a heated propagator or propagating frame with a root temperature of approximately 15-18 degrees Celsius. Gently water in and provide high levels of humidity until the cuttings begin to root. Ventilate daily to prevent the incidence of fungal infections.

Image credit - http://images.whiteflowerfarm.com/
Once rooted the abutilon cuttings can be potted on into larger pots using John Innes 'No.1' compost. Keep in a frost free position until they have established into their pots.

So long as late frosts are not expected hardy species can be hardened off in an outdoor cold frame before being planted out into their final position in May or September. Greenhouse species will need ventilating once temperatures rise above 13 degrees Celsius, and provide shading over the hottest months.

Water freely over the growing season and provide a liquid soluble feed every week or so. Stop feeding and just keep moist for the rest of the year.

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WHY ARE MY SUNFLOWERS DYING?

Why are my sunflowers dying - http://www3.syngenta.com/


If you have grown sunflowers before then the chances are that you have experienced at least one of them suddenly wilting to a quick and ultimately death. Yes they have been adequately watered, but the tell-tale signs of the lower leaves collapsing and early flower bud formation are undeniable evidence that something is desperately wrong.

If it isn't something mundane like a snapped stem or catastrophic insect damage then your sunflower has most likely been struck down by the dreaded Phoma Black Stem disease.

Phoma Black Stem disease

Image credit - http://www.plantmanagementnetwork.org/
Phoma Black Stem disease - Phoma macdonaldii, is the most common of all sunflower diseases and is the result of a soil borne fungus. The infection is characterized by large dark lesions on the stem, low down near the soil level - but not always. The infection usually starts on the leaf and follows the petiole to the stalk. While the sunflower is young the infection will often go unnoticed especially if there are other plants growing nearby which hide the damage from view. The large patches on the stalk become most noticeable after petal drop, but by then the damage is done and the spores have been spread.

The fungus would have originally been brought into the garden on infected sunflower seed and will overwinter in plant debris. The following spring it is spread to your new season sunflowers by splashing rain or by biting insects such as leaf miners and stem weevils. Incidentally the larvae of stem weevils can spread the fungus further while tunneling in the stalk.

It is of course quite possible for infected plants to recover but they may produce smaller flower heads and less seed as a consequence. In the case of giant sunflower cultivars, they will not go as tall as expected. This is because the stalk lesions are on the surface only and the inner pith is not destroyed.

Control of Phoma Black Stem disease

Sadly there is no fungicide treatment available for Phoma Black Stem disease, but this doesn't mean you should not spray as your plants weakened state may leave them as risk from secondary fungal infections. It is recommended to plant sunflowers in soil where sunflowers have not been grown for at least four years. Also consider spraying with a systemic insecticide every fourteen days to control damage from biting insects.

However the best method of control Phoma Black Stem disease is to plant Phoma Black Stem tolerant hybrid sunflower seeds. Unfortunately at the time of writing this article the viability of Phoma Black Stem tolerant hybrid sunflower seeds are still being researched, and are not yet available to the general public.

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WHEN DO YOU HARVEST CARROTS

When to harvest carrots - http://www.wikihow.com/

The edible carrot is a hardy biennial vegetable, although it is cultivated as an annual. It is grown for its orange/red tap-roots which are used mainly as a vegetable, and also raw in salads. By successive sowings in the open and by the use of cloches and frames, young tender carrots can be harvested throughout the year.

There are three main groups of carrots:

1. Short-rooted, with a cylindrical or almost spherical root.
2. Intermediate-rooted with a medium length, blunt-ended cylindrical or tapering taproot.
3. Long-rooted, with a long tapering, sharply pointed root.

Pulling carrots -  http://www.northeastmetro.ie/
Short-rooted varieties are best used as an early or forced crop and will be ready for lifting approximately 14 weeks after sowing so make sure that the date is added either to the plant identification labels or your crop diary.

Intermediate-rooted varieties are larger, slower-growing, and suitable for sowing outside from early April onwards to provide a main crop. Long-rooted varieties are grown as a late maturing crop, and their large, symmetrical roots are idea for exhibition purposes. Of course, you will need to research the best varieties if this is your intention,

Short-rooted, early carrot cultivars can be can be harvested as soon as they have reached your desired size. From then on they can be lifted as required for several weeks after.

Main crop carrot varieties are harvested from the middle of October onward. Late main crops carrots will be a couple of weeks later. Use any split or damaged roots first and store the health roots for use through the winter.

Clean off the soil and cut the foliage back by approximately 1/2 from the top of the crown. Pack the rots in an outdoor clamp, or in layers in deep boxes of sand kept in a dry, cool, frost-proof shed or cellar.

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