Thank you so much for all your letters. I try to answer every one, either here in your gardening feature or to you personally.
If you send in a sample, please remember, wrap it in DRY newspaper, no moisture, no polythene or Clingfilm and go to the post office to ensure the correct stamp is applied. Thank you.
This week’s postbag was interesting.
A lot of gardeners are complaining that hanging baskets are not so good this year. They seem to be lacking vitality and the flowers don’t seem to last as long as usual. So, what is the answer?
Hanging baskets can be really beautiful as long as we never forget that the plants are growing in very small containers.
There might be about 20 plants in a basket which contains little more than a bucket of compost in it.
One of the best things you can do is to take off every dead bloom every day, yes every day.
Petunias are really important because if they are allowed to set seed the parent plant will turn brown and die.
Yes, it can be difficult to find the dead blooms among all the other plants, but after a few days, those deceased flowers become crisp. A pair of sharp scissors, using just the tips will do the trick. The dead blooms can go in the compost bin of course.
Bidens in baskets are just wonderful, the flowers tumble down to make a waterfall of yellow blooms.
In the early part of the season they just look like ferny foliage but once they become established they will bloom their socks off, right up until the frosts arrive... as long as they are deadheaded every day. Don’t forget those scissors...
Returning to the issue of the small amount of compost in the baskets; this means that they need to be fed regularly.
This is very important and when judging baskets it is easy to see who feeds regularly.
Some gardeners buy the recommended feed but don’t use it. If you use it, it will work and will transform your baskets.
Feeding is very important indeed but perhaps we need a different psychological approach to it.
Yes, chemical fertilisers feed the plants but if we look at the biological process you’ll realise that we also need to feed the compost. If we feed the compost the plants will take out the nutrients from it and grow beautifully.
Look at the directions on a bottle of Maxicrop Complete liquid fertiliser and use the weakest strength every time you water your baskets. Keep deadheading and you will have the best baskets ever.
To save water, place a bucket under the basket to catch the waste and this can be used another day. Just to make you think: we are using the same water as the day the earth was born, so we must look after it.
One last tip: if you suffer from the wind, use flat-backed, round-fronted baskets which are attached to walls. The wall protects the plants from the wind.
THIS WEEK'S TOP TIP
Sow cress three days before sowing mustard in trays anywhere indoors. Home-grown mustard and cress is easy to grow and tastes excellent in salads – a good way of introducing children to gardening.