With the danger of frost in Portsmouth almost a memory, now’s the time for the big plant-out.

Begonia semperflorens
Begonia semperflorens
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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The risk of frost is over as long as the hawthorn where you live has finished flowering. We had two frosts at Waterlooville on May 3 and 4, but we kept the greenhouse frost-free by putting on the heating.

Great, we can now start to plant out the summer displays and our greatest display is always begonia semperflorens which are in bloom in seed tray cells.

Last week the borders were forked over to a depth of four inches and then raked. A scattering of blood, fish and bonemeal was applied all over the surface at a rate of four ounces per square yard – a good handful – and raked in.

You may think this is a lot of work, but it makes planting a lot quicker and the fertiliser is broken down by the soil bacteria and the plants quickly start to grow.

Begonia semperflorens are planted five inches apart and after three weeks the leaves touch each other. By the middle of June there will be a carpet of foliage and pretty flowers.

Begonia Non Stop is also an excellent choice. Lots of gardeners love them because the flowers are double and the plants are about a foot high. These are already in flower and can be bought at all garden centres. They are nearly always mixed, but the array of colours is always pleasing.

If you like to add a feature plant to the border, pop in a potted geranium, a canna or fuchsia. A carpet of flowers looks great but a dot plant here and there gives variation.

If you decide to plant begonias, there is no need to plant a different edging plant but quite a few gardeners use a white flowering begonia as this makes the border look larger.

If you like the idea of an annual flower bed or border but the soil is heavy clay, try this.

Buy a few growing bags and a couple of 25kg bags of sharp sand, prick over the surface of the clay to a depth of two or three inches, mix the growing bag contents with the sand and put a three-inch layer over the top of the clay and then plant annuals. Easy peasy and not costly.

A couple of tips… French and African marigolds are eaten overnight by slugs and snails. Water the ground with Slugclear once the planting is completed and see all the dead ones the morning afterwards. In hot, dry, poor soils, use geraniums.

In wet soils which remain wet for weeks, try monkey flowers – mimulus. There are several varieties at garden centres. They often produce seeds which germinate the following spring. We use these at home along the banks of the stream in our garden and they have naturalised.

Tip of the week

Don’t pull off daffodil leaves. Let them die down naturally. The sap will go down into the bulb and initiate next year’s growth. But do remove the seed heads, leaving the stem intact. This will ensure blooms next spring.