GARDENING: Revive yourÂ geraniumsÂ ready for spring with Brian Kidd
For the pastÂ 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 BrusselsÂ sprouts.
I used to showerÂ Derris Dust all over the leaves soÂ as the caterpillars ate the leaves, they wereÂ killed. But as Derris Dust has been withdrawn from the market,Â we have to use our fingers and thumbs '“ but the latex gloves make itÂ moreÂ bearable.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 ifÂ like me, you have a favourite varietyÂ and wantÂ to take cuttings of them, this is the ideal time to get them to root.Â
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 aÂ fungal disease called Black Leg '“Â it isÂ awful and there is no cure!
Cuttings should beÂ taken off the parent plant carefully, using sharp secateurs,Â just above a leaf joint, which is called a node. This ensures that fungi will not travel down the cut stem, which could causeÂ the parent plant to rot off.
The propagated cuttings need to be about 4-5inÂ long. All the leaves should beÂ removed by bending them down so they snap off the stem soÂ only the top twoÂ leaves and the tip remain.
The tiny green scales on the stems must beÂ removed with a sharp knife becauseÂ if theyÂ aren't, it canÂ often rot and cause the stem to die.
The most important cut is the final one, which consists of removingÂ the base of the geranium cutting. It needs to be done with a very sharp knife and cutÂ about an eighth of an inch below the lowest node, making a straightÂ cut across the stem.
The compost needs to be very sandy '“Â any universal compost may be used but make sure to add 50 per cent of theÂ extra sharp orÂ potting sand and then mix well. ThreeÂ cuttings should beÂ inserted around the edge of a 5inÂ 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, itÂ 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 andÂ 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 potsÂ 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 cuttingsÂ should root within threeÂ weeks and once they have, the tips should beÂ removed to ensure the cutting will be bushy. Each cutting can beÂ planted into a 3inÂ diameter potÂ over the winter in a frost free greenhouse.
You may have noticed that I didn't mention any rooting powder.Â
I normally tell people to use it if it makes them feel more confident, so feel free to use it if you wish.Â
THIS WEEK'S TOP TIP'¦
If would like to grow plants on an outside windowsill, start by growing someÂ bulbs in clay pots '“Â these pots are unlikelyÂ to fall over in the wind. Chionodoxa, and scillaÂ bulbs willÂ give you something to lookÂ forward to next spring.