Brian Kidd urges you to take Non-Stop action en route to summer

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he South East In Bloom judges visited the Fareham area where they concluded their tour with a visit to Ferneham Hall. From left: Fiona Phillips, Stuart Lees and The Mayor of Fareham Councillor Geoff Fazackarley     
Picture Ian Hargreaves  (170760-1)

South East in Bloom judges praise standard of gardens in Fareham area

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Hazel from Cosham wrote to tell me about her Begonia Non-Stop tubers. She took the advice from my article in The News last autumn, cut off the old stems and stored the tubers on the bottom of the old stems in a box of peat.

They are now in her greenhouse and have started to shoot. Well done Hazel!

Did you know that magnificent large-bloomed begonias can be grown from seed or seedlings which will be available any time now at your garden centre?

Begonia seedlings are very delicate and tender, but if you can keep a small area of your greenhouse warm by using polythene sheeting it is possible to keep a small area cosy with a thermostatically-controlled heater.

If you don’t have a greenhouse but would like to grow tender seedlings in the spare bedroom on the windowsill, go online to Two West’s & Elliot and you will find the perfect answer, an electric propagator which fits on to the windowsill with three little seed trays. A brilliant idea and I would love one.

If you decide to buy begonia seedlings at your garden centre take a look at the pictures on the labels. Make sure the seedlings will produce large blooms.

You won’t go wrong with Begonia Non-Stop. It is well-named because it is in flower from the beginning of June right up until frosts kill the foliage.

Some varieties are excellent for covering the edges of containers and half baskets. These have lovely names but instead of being upright they are trailers.

However, Apricot Shades is a semi-trailer with an upright habit too – beautiful if you love the colours of apricots.

I know what you’re thinking – he hasn’t mentioned my tubers which I have been growing for ages. When can they be started into growth?

I know a lot of you keep your begonia tubers year after year.

Put the tubers in a box of moist peat. The rounded part of the tuber is planted downwards and the sunken area facing up.

Apply a little water and keep the tray in the light. Once the foliage is about an inch high, plant each one into a three-inch diameter pot in any universal compost.

Cuttings can be taken from one or two of these shoots if you’d like to have a go.

Wait until the shoots are three inches high. Remove the shoot and cut across the stem immediately below a node (leaf joint).

Insert into seed compost but add 25 per cent extra potting sand. Mix well and plant firmly around the outside of a three-inch diameter pot and rooting will take place in three weeks at a temperature of 15C (60F).

Starting begonias? Summer is not too far away.

Keep going, keep smiling and keep digging. It’s good for you.

TIP OF THE WEEK

If you love snowdrops but have never been able to grow them, this is the time to plant them ‘in the green’. You will find them advertised in gardening magazines and even at your market in bunches wrapped in newspaper. Plant in groups of two or three and they will flower and produce seeds which will grow alongside the parent plants. Drifts of snowdops look beautiful.