GARDENING: Revive your geraniums ready for spring with Brian Kidd

You should start preparing your favourite geraniums for spring now, says Brian Kidd.
You should start preparing your favourite geraniums for spring now, says Brian Kidd.
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For the past few evenings, I have donned a pair of latex gloves in order to give some pesky caterpillars a good squeeze as they are shredding the leaves on my Brussels sprouts.

I used to shower Derris Dust all over the leaves so as the caterpillars ate the leaves, they were killed. But as Derris Dust has been withdrawn from the market, we have to use our fingers and thumbs – but the latex gloves make it more bearable.

Now, for something you may find a bit more interesting...

The geraniums were wonderful this summer because they enjoyed the hot sunshine in July and August. And if like me, you have a favourite variety and want to take cuttings of them, this is the ideal time to get them to root. 

This is because cuttings that are taken at this time of year tend to root quickly and are far less likely to rot off at the base. This may happen because of a fungal disease called Black Leg – it is awful and there is no cure!

Cuttings should be taken off the parent plant carefully, using sharp secateurs, just above a leaf joint, which is called a node. This ensures that fungi will not travel down the cut stem, which could cause the parent plant to rot off.

The propagated cuttings need to be about 4-5in long. All the leaves should be removed by bending them down so they snap off the stem so only the top two leaves and the tip remain.

The tiny green scales on the stems must be removed with a sharp knife because if they aren’t, it can often rot and cause the stem to die.

The most important cut is the final one, which consists of removing the base of the geranium cutting. It needs to be done with a very sharp knife and cut about an eighth of an inch below the lowest node, making a straight cut across the stem.

The compost needs to be very sandy – any universal compost may be used but make sure to add 50 per cent of the extra sharp or potting sand and then mix well. Three cuttings should be inserted around the edge of a 5in diameter pot so that the foliage doesn’t touch.

After filling the pots, scatter more sandy comport over the surface so that when the cuttings are inserted, it will fall into the hole made by a gardening dibber.

These cuttings must be firmly inserted. When I was an apprentice, our head gardener would take hold of a cutting and lift the whole pot off the bench. If the pot fell off, you had to insert the cuttings all over again. The pots were only watered after this test.

The cutting pots will root best if they are in a greenhouse, covered with a sheet of newspaper. They prefer not to be kept in a humid atmosphere, not in a plant propagator.

The cuttings should root within three weeks and once they have, the tips should be removed to ensure the cutting will be bushy. Each cutting can be planted into a 3in diameter pot over the winter in a frost free greenhouse.

You may have noticed that I didn’t mention any rooting powder. 

I normally tell people to use it if it makes them feel more confident, so feel free to use it if you wish. 

THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP…

If would like to grow plants on an outside windowsill, start by growing some bulbs in clay pots – these pots are unlikely to fall over in the wind. Chionodoxa, and scillabulbs will give you something to look forward to next spring.