How to get lucky with your heather display

Get ready to take your heather cuttings in the third week of July

Get ready to take your heather cuttings in the third week of July

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The summer flowering plants are all settled, but we must keep in mind the permanent plants.

I don’t know about you, but I do love heathers, especially those which bloom during the winter. On sunny winter days they cheer up the garden, but they have now finished blooming and need some attention.

Clip off all the dead blooms and give the plants a top dressing of peat to which you add just a tablespoon of Vitax Q4 fertiliser in a gallon bucket of peat, mix it well.

This will encourage the plants to grow, so do this now. Water with a watering can with a rose using rain water and in a few weeks we can take some cuttings.

The cuttings are taken during the third week of July and should be about three inches long.

There are two ways of taking the cuttings: the first is to pull off side shoots three inches long so they come off with a heel. Using scissors, just nip off the skin part back to the woody part.

The second method is to cut the stem just underneath a node. There are dozens of nodes on heather stems and sharp scissors can be used to do this.

Holding the cutting firmly, use the thumb nail to remove all the little leaves so the stem is bare apart from the top one inch. Dip the cuttings into a liquid rooting solution for 30 seconds and insert the cuttings, 24 to a standard seed tray.

The compost needs to be very sandy, so a 50/50 mix of sharp sand and peat is ideal. They will need to be kept in a shaded spot, preferably in a cold frame but no heat is needed.

Cuttings will root in autumn, and in spring you will see them beginning to become a lighter green at the tips. This indicates they have rooted and this is the time to nip off the tips and put them into little flower pots.

Put each one into a three-inch pot in an acid compost. John Innes ericaceous is best but add 20 per cent extra sharp sand as they do love sandy acid composts.

If you read these articles you may have seen another tip I often mention and that is once you do the top dressing, pull the outer stems towards the centre of the plant and peg down the stems with 10-inch long wreath wires bent over like hair pins.

The stems often root and can be cut off the plants about nine months after pegging them down.

This is also a good idea when you see the plants becoming bare or woody in the centres. Heathers are only expected to live for a relatively short time before being replaced with vigorous, rooted cuttings.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Tomatoes in the greenhouse? Don’t use tomato fertiliser in hot weather. Best to use a general feed such as Maxicrop Complete which contains less potassium. Too much potassium in heat leads to partially-ripened fruit.

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