Uses | Plant raising | Planting | Aftercare for bedding annuals | Pots and containers
An interesting colour mix with annuals
Very effective use can be made of these colourful plants for filing gaps between shrubs, or between border perennial flowers, particularly in the early years of a garden when a lot of bare ground must be covered quickly and cheaply.
Some of the summer bedding plants, such as petunia, busy lizzie and bedding begonia, make excellent flowering pot plants for the greenhouse, or the home itself.
The half-hardy annual flowers are raised by sowing seed in pots, or in trays of good seed compost in the second week of March. A few slow developers, such as geraniums, busy lizzies and snapdragons should be sown a few weeks earlier.
Use clean trays and purchased seed compost to avoid damping-off disease of the seedlings. Sow the seed as directed on the seed packet. Cover with a sheet of glass and brown paper. Place the tray in a warm place at 20º Celsius – a warm greenhouse, a heated room, or a special propagator.
Do not place seed trays on top of the television, as this is dangerous. Do not place seed trays in the hot-press – it is too hot. Examine the trays each day and remove the paper when the seedlings emerge. Remove the glass a few days later. At this stage, the temperature can be lower and they will be fine in a frost-protected greenhouse or on a bright window-sill indoors, but be careful they do not suffer sun scorch in the first few days.
Prick out the seedlings, spaced at 5 centimetres by 5 centimetres, in trays of fresh compost, about two weeks after emergence. Harden off the young plants about ten days before planting out by placing them outside by day and taking them in at night.
Dig the ground, working in about 70 grams per square metre of general fertiliser, Vegyflor or Growmore. If the soil is dry, give it a heavy soaking and let it settle for a day. Summer bedding needs good, fertile soil to develop quickly, and flower well. All types enjoy sunshine, but there are a few, such as bedding busy lizzie and bedding begonia, that tolerate light shade.
Using a line to keep the rows straight, plant the summer bedding plants at a spacing of about 30 centimetres each way – a bit more for large types, less for edging and small kinds. If planting time is not dictated by the removal of wallflowers or such like, summer bedding can be planted in early to mid-May in the south and coastal areas, mid to late May in the midlands and north.
Petunias are great value all summer
Do not be in any rush to plant out, because bedding plants can get a severe shock from cold weather, and be disappointing later on. Water the plants immediately after planting, to settle them in.
Aftercare for bedding annuals
If the weather is dry, water the plants to ensure continued strong growth. Watch carefully for slugs and snails, and use slug-killer if necessary. Hoe lightly between the rows as soon as weed seedlings appear. Do not let weeds get beyond the two-leaf stage.
Summer bedding plants are discarded after flowering finishes in October, except for the few perennial types that are retained. Dahlias and tuberous begonias can be lifted and allowed to dry off in a cool shed. Geraniums can be discarded, if cuttings were taken in August. Otherwise, lift and pot up the plants.
A nicely planted hanging basket
Pots and containers
Plant up pots and other containers in early May, if a greenhouse is available. Grow the plants on, and harden them off in the container. In this way the plants will already be well established when the containers are put outside.
Otherwise, plant up containers in mid- to late May and place them on the ground outdoors, close to a sunny wall, until established. Use trailing types for containers, along with some fuchsias, miniature roses, cordylines or small conifers, to give bulk.
Ordinary soil is not good enough for containers. Use half soil, half peat, and add a small fistful of general fertiliser to each bucketful. Keep containers, especially hanging baskets, well watered. For this purpose, line hanging baskets with polythene.