It’ll soon be time to sow petunia seeds

Petunia Black Velvet
Petunia Black Velvet
Dahlias - one of the boldest plants you can grow .

GARDENING: Brian Kidd is planning for summer with dahlias

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Do you love petunias? Well I have good news for you, as in a couple of weeks’ time the seeds can be sown indoors – even if you don’t have a greenhouse.

Think back to last year. Were the petunias bushy, strong and healthy with blooms all through summer right up until October?

Or did they end up with just one flower on the top with sticky foliage? Did you say to yourself ‘I wish the plants were like those growing in the parks’?

If you would like to see perfection, look carefully at the packets of seeds and look for varieties with F1 hybrid alongside the name. This means you can buy mixed colours, separate colours or even flowers which have two colours such as Cherry Frost (red with a white frilly edge) or Blue Frost (dark blue with a white frilly edge.)

There are dozens of different varieties. The F1 hybrids are more expensive but the plants will all be bushy, with large dark green leaves and they don’t bolt upright with only one flower on the top!

A seed tray is filled to within half-an-inch from the top with seed-sowing compost and the seeds scattered over the surface. Then they are lightly covered with the same compost through an icing sugar sieve.

There may be as few as 15 seeds. They are tiny, but if mixed with dry sand this helps ensure they are well spaced. Watering is best done by placing the tray in two inches of water in the sink or a bowl. Allow it to soak until the surface sparkles.

The seed tray is now placed on the windowsill with a clear plastic dome over the top. This forms a very simple but effective plant propagator and germination will take about three weeks.

Once the plants are large enough to handle, each one is best transplanted into 3in diameter pots or insert cells so that every plant produces a good root and strong uniform growth.

The secret of success is to produce strong plants right from the start. The great advantage is that when they are planted out into the garden, every plant is large and there is no problem with diseases entering broken roots.

Going back to last year, did you have a job separating the plants when bedding out and did you notice the plants in the centre of the boxes were weak and thin and how many died?

Have a go at the F1 hybrids for a marvellous display all through the summer right up until late October.

If you are a regular reader, you will have noticed I didn’t mention adding Cheshunt compound into the water before soaking the tray.

This is because Cheshunt Compound is no longer available, but there is now an alternative.

Look for a packet of Fruit and Vegetable Disease Control protective fungicide made by Bayer. There are six sachets of the product in each pack.