GARDENING: Brian Kidd on how to revive your flagging baskets and droopy annuals

Underwatered, underfed, unloved.
Underwatered, underfed, unloved.
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This is the time of the year when things start to let us down. Hanging baskets and containers aren’t as good as they were in July and yet it’s only August. All the annuals should still be looking good, but they aren’t.

The hot weather has been the greatest problem.

It has been a full-time job watering everything with watering cans rather than a hose as I have to set an example in not wasting water.

The main reason for lack of colour is because plants have not been fed and watered properly combined with a lack of attention to deadheading.

I spent several hours deadheading all the plants last week.

Every seed head was removed and all the dead flowers too. It took ages and bidens in particular was difficult because the lovely flowers are on long stems and it is difficult to see whether the rounded flower buds are still to open or have gone over.

I decided to cut a lot of them back to where there were frills of leaves and then gave all the containers a feed of Maxicrop Complete plant food.

This is quite expensive but it feeds the compost and the compost then feeds the plants whereas cheaper ones do nothing for the soil and simply feed the plants.

Within a few days the Maxicrop brought new growth on all the plants and the bidens are all shooting again from the frills of leaves. They will still be brilliant right up until the cold weather arrives.

You probably know there is a little knack when deadheading petunias of all types. Take a look and you will see what I mean.

The petunia flower is right at the tip of all the shoots.

The ones below that are all dead flowers although they look as if they are still to come into bloom. Look further down each side shoot and using scissors cut the plants right down hard.

Now give them a good soak of Maxicrop Complete plant food diluted in water as recommended on the bottle for a weak feed and new side shoots will grow and there will be an abundance of flowers in mid-September.

I know some of you loyal readers do this because I had several letters from you last week about this very subject.

Mother Nature plays an important role in all of this and here is an explanation which I often pointed out to our apprentices in the Portsmouth parks department...

All annual plants have a natural urge to produce flowers because they must produce seeds in order that the species survives.

Once the flowers are pollinated the seeds form and the plant is then quite content not to produce any more flowers unless encouraged to do so.

That’s where we gardeners come into play.

We keep removing the dead flowers and feed the plants. The plants are concerned there are no seeds so they keep growing so eventually seeds are produced – the flowers in our parks and gardens must be completely frustrated... if you see what I mean!

THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP

Quality hyacinth bulbs are arriving at garden centres. These will flower for Christmas if you follow advice here next month. Make a start, buy clay bulb pots  six inches across. They’re deeper than bulb bowls and the blooms won’t fall out.