Bedding plants are great value, though I wince when garden centres sell them as early as March, knowing that if they are planted out so early things can only end in tears.
Frost polishes off the likes of petunias and tobacco plants overnight and unless you can keep them in a greenhouse or a conservatory until mid to late May, you may as well save your money and leave them in the garden centre.
But by now our gardens are warming up and frosts are rare. To make the most of summer bedding, look for trays of plants that are bristling with health. Avoid any that show signs of wilting, or where the compost has shrunk from the sides of the tray – a sign of being allowed to dry out that might result in a check to growth.
Steer clear of any trays that have been affected by damping off – a fungus disease that causes the plants to rot off at the base. Sometimes trays are offered that have a dead patch in the centre or at one end – pass them by.
But don’t go for trays that are plastered with flowers; instead choose those that have a few open blooms but a lot of buds.
When you get the trays or pots home, give them a really good soak with dilute liquid feed. Prepare the ground where they are to go, lightly forking it over to remove weeds and working in a decent sprinkling of blood, bone and fishmeal.
Knock the plants out of their trays and separate them. Plant them with a trowel at the same depth as the plants were growing in their trays and space them between 6ins and a 1ft apart, depending on their ultimate size. Lovelia can go closer together than tobacco plants, for instance.
Water them in after planting and take precautions against slugs and snails – though not with slug pellets that can be poisonous to hedgehogs.
Weeding among the plants during the early days of their establishment will be beneficial and make sure they do not go short of water in periods of prolonged drought. That said, once they are established you will find they love the sunshine and will glower…