Thursday 28 January 2016


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Bedding plants look fantastic in a garden, but can be expensive to buy.  You can grow bedding plants easily at home from seed for a fraction of the price of buying them in the shops, and you can get to choose from so many more varieties too.

Not to be confused with violas or violettas, pansies derive from the wild pansy, viola tricolour. The other main contributor to the huge range of hybrid varieties now available is  the mountain pansy, V. luteaThe crossing of these two plants resulted in the garden pansy, V. x wittrockiana.  

Pansies are a firm favourite as they add so a distinctive block of colour in a garden.  These cool season annuals, biennials, or hardy perennials and bloom in early spring or autumn depending on the species and actual time of sowing the seeds.  They can be grown for both summer and winter bedding, just ensure you choose the appropriate summer or winter variety. 

Pansies become straggly in their second year so it is therefore best to sow them annually to ensure a good flowering display. 

Growing pansies from seed

Pansies can be sown in early spring, ready for planting out in May for a summer display. Alternatively you can sow seeds in June for a autumn planting to flower in the spring.

Pansies prefer full sun and moist, rich soil that is well drained. Fill a seed tray with seed and potting compost.  Sow the seeds thinly on the surface of the soil and thinly cover with vermiculite.  Gently water and place in a warm, sunny position with a temperature of between 15-18C.  

The seedlings will germinate in 14-21 days. Keep the temperature consistent and water as required, as high temperatures and fluctuating moisture levels are the most likely causes of failure.

Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle.   Place the into 9 cm pots filled with seed and potting compost.  Plant your seedlings into your garden 8-10 weeks after sowing, but remember to harden off  the plants in a cold frame prior to planting in their final position.

Autumn planted Pansies tend to fend off cold better if they are well fed, so feed your plants in autumn with a water-soluble general purpose fertiliser. 

Monday 25 January 2016


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Bananas always give a tropical feel to a garden and I love them.  But being tropical plants bananas need heat and lots of it, and don't like temperatures below 12 degrees. It is possible to grow bananas successfully here in the UK as there are some varieties that will grow in our climate, albeit with lots of tlc.

Musa basjoo (Japanese banana)

Position: mainly sunny, with a little midday shade
Soil: rich and fertile or loam based compost in pots
Rate of growth: average to fast
Flowers: white flowers in bronze/red bracts
Flower colour: creamy yellow
Other features: unpalatable greeny-yellow fruits
Hardiness: half hardy - will need protection in winter

An extraordinary, architectural plant with huge, green, paddle-like leaves that can each grow up to 3m long. It produces creamy yellow flowers in summer, that are often followed by yellowish-green fruit. These are not tasty enough to eat, however the plants look brilliant when incorporated into a jungle-style planting schemes, and can be potted up into large pots and treated as a dynamic feature.

Garden care:Though the root is fairly hardy, you should apply a thick layer of mulch to protect the crown in autumn and protect the foliage with a blanket of fleece or straw. In colder areas, or where the soil remains heavy in winter, they are best grown in pots, so they can be over-wintered under glass.

Musa lasiocarpa (Chinese hardy banana)

Position: full sun to partial shade
Soil: fertile, moist but well-drained soil
Rate of growth: average
Flowering period: July to September
Hardiness: frost hardy (needs winter protection)

Thought to be extinct only a decade ago, this handsome banana was found growing in remote regions of the Himalayas in southwest China. This clump-forming banana has huge, paddle-like, bright green leaves and mature specimens will produce long-lasting yellow, summer flowers. As the flower develops, the original plant will start to die, but it will produce off shoots and will continue to thrive. In the winter, or during a cold snap the foliage will brown off, but if the root is kept protected the plant will bounce back and continue to grow as soon as the temperatures rise again.

Garden care: Though the root is fairly hardy the foliage does need to be protected with a mulch of fleece and straw in autumn.

There are some other varieties of banana that are also often listed as being suitable to being grown in the UK, but although they can grow in the mildest of locations outside during the summer they do require both protection and bringing inside during the winter as they will not tolerate temperatures below 5 degrees. These include Musa sikkimensis and Musa ventriculosa.

Cold hardy bananas
How to overwinter banana plants
How to grow hardy bananas

Sunday 10 January 2016


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are gourd like plants that are members of the cucurbitaceae family, and are closely related to melons, squash and pumpkins. Like all those plants cucumbers are hungry, thirsty plants that love sunshine and take up a lot of space in your garden.  

However to overcome this space issue cucumbers can be grown easily in pots on your terrace, patio, at work or just about anywhere. The advantage of growing them in pots rather than directly into the soil is that they can be grown when space is short and can be moved to a sheltered position or greenhouse as required.

Indoor and outdoor cucumber varieties are available, so check your seed variety before you grow them. Greenhouse cucumbers require high temperatures, very high humidity and a minimum night temperature of 18C/60F to grow successfully. Hardier varieties are less fussy and can be grown outside sucessfully after the risk of frost has passed.  

In the UK you will need to start off your hardy cucumber plants early in a greenhouse or indoors in order to make the most of the available sunshine. Start off your pots early in a greenhouse or indoors in March to give them a head start, taking the pot outside in May after the risk of frost has passed. You can sow seeds direct into the final pot or transplant cucumber seedlings into it.

Fill a small 9 cm pot with potting compost and place two cucumber seeds in each pot.  Water thoroughly and cover with a perspex sheet/glass to keep in moisture and place on a sunny windowsill or greenhouse. The cucumber seedlings should germinate within a week or two. Remove the weaker of the two seedlings when they are 3 cm high.

You can transplant the cucumber seedlings into their final pot when they have 2-4 true leaves. Fill a large 30 cm pot with a mixture of  potting compost and general purpose fertiliser and place one cucumber seedling in each pot. Water thoroughly.   Harden off your plants in a cold frame before placing outside.

Cucumber plants like to stretch out so when grown in pots vertical height is required.  Use a stake to encourage your plants to grow up . Ensure you water well during dry spells and feed fortnightly with a general purpose fertiliser.  

Cucumbers are ready to harvest July to October depending on variety. Keep an eye on them during this period or they may suddenly grow to massive proportions.

For related articles click onto:
Growing herbs
Growing rhubarb
Growing potatoes
Growing tomatoes

How to grow cucumbers in pots
How to grow garlic
How to build a cold frame
How to grow artichokes from seed
How to Grow Asparagus from Seed
How to grow cabbage from seed
How to grow carrots from seed
How to grow cucumbers from seed

How to grow tomatoes in pots
How to grow melons in pots

Friday 1 January 2016


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

Although Banana plants are tender, there are some species that can be grown successfully outside in the UK.  However they do require a sheltered spot and some protection during the winter.

But before you even think about wrapping your bananas up for winter you need to get the planting and location right. Choose a sheltered, sunny site protected from frost and plant in a well drained soil enriched with organic matter. This will give protection to the leaves too, which become easily shredded in the wind.

Not all species of banana (Musa and Ensete) can be grown successfully outside in the UK but hardier species such as Musa basjoo can be left in the garden over the winter.  They will need protection against rain, snow, ice and frost during the colder winter period so start covering them before it gets too cold, usually around the end of October.

First of all remove the leaves with just above the top of stem. Use sharp secateurs and cut at an angle, sloping away from the centre of the plant to prevent water channelling back into the stem.

With three large bamboo canes make a cylinder structure around your banana, just slightly larger than the plant itself. Create a frame around the canes with chicken wire.  Use straw to insulate the banana from the cold and carefully pack it around the plant taking care not to damage the trunk. Cover the top of the frame with plastic bubble wrap to prevent water entering the structure and secure with ties.

In milder areas you can protect your plant in a much simpler way by wrapping the stem with horticultural fleece and securing with twine.  Take care not to tie too tightly as this will damage the stem.

Check on the structure throughout the winter to ensure it is still intact and protecting the plant.  The wrapping can be removed after the risk of frost has passed in the spring.

Cold hardy bananas
How to overwinter banana plants
How to grow hardy bananas