Posts Tagged ‘seedlings’

Seed or Plugs? Part Two

February 7th, 2020 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Petunia Tumbelina Joanna - you'll never grow anything as good as this from seed.

Many summer flowers can be started off as seed or as plugs – but which should you choose? Last week I looked at plants where seed needs starting so early that it’s wise to offload the responsibility for germination and the early stages of growth on to the grower. This week it’s a different issue: the varieties available as plugs and young plants are sometimes simply better than those available as seed. Top of the list here must be chrysanthemums and dahlias.

Growing perennial chrysanths from seed is such a waste of time that Mr F doesn’t even sell the seed any more. Only plants. So that’s that. Hardy annual chrysanths, I should say, are a very different story and bring you some of the zingiest colours in the garden.

Dahlias from seed? Well, firstly, they’re almost always sold as mixtures so you’ve no control of the colours you end up with. The flower forms can be unpredictable too but if you’re on a tight budget give the dark-leaved ‘Bishop’s Children’ mix a try. Otherwise buy tubers in exactly the colour and shape you want.

And then there’s petunias. First, you should always buy double flowered petunias as plants raised from cuttings. The Tumbelina Series are prolific, fragrant and weather-resistant, seed-raised ‘Red Pirouette’ is prolific and colourful but doesn’t have the rain resistance – and only comes in the one colour.

Secondly, to be honest, single-flowered petunias grown from cuttings and sold as plugs are also almost always better than those raised from seed and seed-raised petunias don’t have the most exciting colours. So unless you need a lot, I’d buy single-flowered petunias as plants too. And it’s the same with fuchsias: seed raised varieties are just to up to standard.

And that’s the thing. Seed is usually cheaper, but you don’t get the quality. Take your choice.

Help Your Garden Survive a Summer Drought

August 17th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments


Struggling with a summer drought is no fun, and keeping your plants quenched and happy can feel like a non-stop battle.

Don’t be a slave to the watering can!

Read on or watch the video for top tips on how to keep your garden healthy in drought conditions. They’ll save you time – and a lot of water too!



Prioritise watering

When water is precious it pays to be prudent. Concentrate your watering where it is needed; young seedlings to help them establish, leafy salads to stop them wilting, fruit and vegetables like tomatoes, and anything growing in a pot.

Balance and speed

Using a watering can? Try two! One for each hand. It will help you balance and you’ll be able to water twice as quickly. If your water source is some distance from your beds, it also means less walking back and forth.

Another option is to use a portable tank, to cart water to where it will be dispensed.

Don’t blast your plants

A strong spray from a hose can knock plants about, or blast potting soil out of containers. Get around this problem simply by placing the end of the hose in a watering can so that it fills as you pour. This means you can water carefully and precisely, enjoying the convenience of a hose without wasting a drop.

Water from the bottom

Watering pots from the bottom, rather than the top, can save a lot of time and water in hot weather. Fill up a suitable sized reservoir, adding any liquid feed you’d like to apply at the recommended rate. Sink your pots into the water and leave them to soak up the liquid for at least an hour.

You can speed things along by adding a splash of water to the top of the pot before it’s left to soak. This technique helps ensure a thorough watering that makes very efficient use of your water.

Automate watering

An automatic irrigation system connected to a timer will take the strain out of watering. Set it to come on very early in the morning, before things heat up. The best set up to use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to deliver water is right at the base of your plants, near the roots.

Some can even be fitted to water barrels, so you can make the most of any rain water you’ve managed to collect.

Keep their Cool


Drought can play havoc with seedlings, hampering germination and causing young plants to struggle. Here are a few ideas to help:

Success with seedlings

In hot dry conditions getting seeds to germinate can be tricky, particularly those of cool season crops such at lettuce. The solution is to wet the seed drill before sowing to give them the cool, moist surroundings they crave. Water along marked out drills, allow the water to completely drain away, then fill and drain once again before you sow.

Once you’re done sowing cover the seeds back over, but don’t water again until after germination. The moisture in the drill will drain through, encouraging the seedlings’ roots to follow.

Add some shade

Young seedlings, and cool season crops in general, perform better under the protection of some shading in hot summers. Prioritise shady areas for crops that prefer cool conditions, such as salad leaves. You can use taller crops to shade shorter ones, but in scorching weather drastic action may be needed.

Shade cloth can cast just enough shade to keep your plants happy in severe heat and can be easily removed when the weather turns cooler. Suspend it over plants to help them keep their cool.

Soothe the Soil


Mulch around plants

Mulches are a must in any summer drought, and a mulch of organic material such as compost, leafmould or even dried grass clippings is best.

This extra layer serves two purposes; it shades the soil from the sun helping to keep it cooler, and it acts as a barrier to the sun, dramatically slowing evaporation.

How to apply a mulch

Thoroughly soak the ground before adding your mulch. If it’s exceptionally dry, water again a few hours later to recharge all that valuable soil moisture. Lay the mulch so it’s at least an inch (2 cm) thick and feed it right around all your plants.

Fruit trees, canes and bushes can be mulched with chunkier materials such as bark chippings, or fibrous materials like straw. Mulches may not be very high-tech, but they are incredibly effective in a hot summer.


If you have any tips for gardening in a hot, dry climate, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.