Gardening: Time to sow half-hardy annuals for the season

Dahlia Bishops Children in pink.
Dahlia Bishops Children in pink.
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There’s zero planning in my choice of half-hardy annuals this year, which is apparent from the complete lack of colour scheme.

It did occur to me how many seeds we waste, so I have deliberately tried to use them up.

Antirrhinum Royal Bride with Alchemilla mollis (lady's mantle).

Antirrhinum Royal Bride with Alchemilla mollis (lady's mantle).

You can sow them all now in a propagator, moving then to bright, cooler positions as soon as they germinate.

Prick out when first true leaves have formed into modules and plant out after the last frosts.

All need a sunny position to perform well – most of these will be going in pots:

Marigold Strawberry Blonde: She may be last year’s model but it’s taken me this long to get round to the idea of growing marigolds at all (my father grew them in straight lines with alyssum and lobelia, which I hate). Good weather tolerance, pink and russet tones, 25cm, £2.99, www.thompson-morgan.com.

Cosmos Cupcakes White.

Cosmos Cupcakes White.

Cosmos Sweet Sixteen: white with pink picotee edging, 90cm, part of the Sophie Conran Wildflower Garden Seed Set, £10.99, www.burgonandball.com/products/sophies-wildflower-garden-seed-set.

Cosmos Gazebo Mixed: Deep and mid-pink and white mix, 60cm, early flowering, £1.99, www.unwins.co.uk.

Cosmos Cupcakes White: Petals fused into one single cup, some single, some semi-double, 1.2m, £1.99, www.thompson-morgan.com.

Verbena Scentsation: Classed as a hardy annual but I’ve included it as it was sown in the propagator at the same time. It’s a Mr Fothergill’s exclusive, highly scented and compact, 20cm. £2.69, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.

Dahlia Bishops Children in orange.

Dahlia Bishops Children in orange.

Erigeron Profusion: Natural trailing habit, ideal for hanging baskets and tumbling over walls. Masses of white daisy-like flowers, suffused with pink, 15cm. £2.29, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.

Antirrhinum Royal Bride: tall, white-flowered variety, 90cm, part of the Sophie Conran Wildflower Garden Seed Set, £10.99, www.burgonandball.com/products/sophies-wildflower-garden-seed-set.

Dahlia Bishops Children: Single flowers in deep red, gold and orange with bronze foliage, 90cm, £2.69, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk

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JOBS TO DO THIS WEEKEND

Continue to prick out seedlings before they become straggly. Shade seedlings in the greenhouse on sunny days, as they can quickly wilt and die. Don’t water seedlings with cold water direct from the water butt or hosepipe. Keep a couple of cans filled and inside the greenhouse so the water is at the ambient temperature.

Stop weeds before they start in earnest. Cover a weedy, empty patch of ground with black plastic, cardboard or carpet to stop unwanted plants growing until you have time to deal with them. On already cultivated ground, hoe weeds as they emerge and don’t let them seed, but don’t damage the emerging shoots of perennials. If you are blighted with perennial weeds such as bindweed and brambles, just keep digging them out.

Russian comfrey plants – Bocking 14 - are a must to make your own plant food. The leaves can also be used as a compost activator, a mulch, or a liquid feed. Bocking 14 won’t take over your garden - but beware - the plant food it makes absolutely stinks!

Top-dress containers. Scrape the top 4cm/2ins of soil off, and replace with new compost. Finish with a layer of horticultural grit to retain moisture.

Make sure automatic vents in the greenhouse are working properly, and open the door on sunny days. Temperatures will soar inside a closed greenhouse. Avoid fungal diseases by watering from below to avoid wetting foliage. Don’t let plants stand in (still icy cold) water for longer than 10 minutes.

Tidy lawn edges with a half-moon edger – it makes a huge difference to the general appearance.

Feed hedges with a top dressing of garden compost or well-rotted manure, or mulch with lawn mowings.

Plant evergreen hedges. Prepare the site well, adding a couple of handfuls of garden compost per plant. Water well over the next few months as the plants settle in.

There is still time to divide overgrown clumps of herbaceous perennials. Water well after transplanting, and keep moist in dry spells.

Slugs and snails will become very active. Most newly emerging shoots will be at risk. Act now and destroy their egg clusters, translucent milky spheres, usually laid in nooks and crannies in the soil, and down the sides of pots. Delphiniums and newly-emerging hostas in particular are at risk.

Once the soil has warmed up enough, apply the slug nematode. They will get rid of soil-dwelling slugs but not snails. Use all controls available. Don’t rely on just one method.

Aphids can multiply rapidly during mild spells. Remove early infestations by hand to prevent the problem getting out of hand. Protect sweet pea plants in particular, as they can get sweet pea viruses.