January/February 2012 >>>
While December is a nostalgic month looking back at the successes and failures of last year, January is a forward-looking month when we can dream about what could be possible in the future. Luckily there are new varieties of flowers, fruit and vegetables to grow and even new garden care products to try. Let's see what is new for 2012 and how these items are going to make our gardening easier and more exciting.
With everything in front of us, gardeners can be positive in their own minds about the colour and fragrance to be enjoyed in their flower garden this summer. Just one glance at the multi-coloured display of seed packets in a garden centre can get the pulses racing. Or you may prefer to spend dark evenings studying seed and plant catalogues to find out what can be ordered for later delivery as tiny plants for you to grow to maturity.
Certainly growing plants from seed is an ever-dwindling pursuit. For most people they finish up with too many plants and not enough space to grow them to planting out time. Instead most of us prefer to buy small seedling plants from specialist growers.
One recent success from Thompson & Morgan and plant breeder Ball Colgrave has been the really dark flowered petunias. The variety 'Phantom' that was launched last year has been a great success because of its unusual colourways. This bush variety has a virtually black background to it's petals that are marked with a yellow pin wheel star to contrast. Growers claim that the almost black background adds a sophisticated look to flower displays and patio pots, especially if mixed with pink or yellow petunias.
New this year is a similar petunia with dark purple petals, but this time contrasted with a pinkish star marking that resemble a mixture of blackberries and cream. Called by the grower, Ball Colgrave, Petunia 'Pinstripe' it has an upright mounding habit that is weather-resistant so is ideal for any garden planting, especially when mixed with other pink flowers. Petunia 'Pinstripe' should be available in your local garden centre during spring as rooted cuttings and later in the year as pot grown plants.
Petunias and their mini-flowered relative Calibrachoa, perform extremely well in hanging baskets and patio pots when fed regularly with soluble Miracle-Gro Plant Food applied over the foliage and into the root area each and every week. This extra feeding encourages hundreds of new flowers to develop and makes a delightful addition to any patio.
Only available as rooted cuttings rather than seed The Calibrachoa family is dominated by the Million Bells and Super Bells series. These have smaller flowers than standard petunias but carry many more blooms at any one time. Dobies and local garden centres should be selling their Super Bells plants including Cherry Punch and Apricot Punch and Mr Fothergill's new Can-Can Rose Star. These pot-ready plants are very free-flowering with excellent heat and disease resistance, producing mounded plants smothered in masses of flowers, with distinctive pale outer edges, darker inner rings and contrasting yellow eyes. What's more the plants are self-cleaning, so do not need dead-heading.
Most gardeners can't resist the fabulous colours and gorgeous scent of sweet peas. And 'Prima Ballerina' in a beautiful colour combination that Thompson & Morgan claim has "never having been seen before". They have named it their Flower of the Year for 2012. 'Prima Ballerina' produces beautiful blooms in a blend of soft pink, mauve and cream, the unique colouring is coupled with intricate veining and a delightful scent too. Each stem produces an average of four blooms, making 'Prima Ballerina' a perfect choice for cutting adding fragrance and decoration to a room indoors.
Garden centres will soon have fresh flower seedlings in stock ready for you to transplant into individual cells. These tender seedlings will need careful handling and a high quality compost. For best results use Miracle-Gro All Purpose Compost.
Many plant breeders are looking to develop dwarf plants so that traditional favourites such as Sunflowers can be grown in patio pots. Success goes to Suttons Seeds for a new sunflower 'Waooh!'. It is ideal for containers or border growing and has plenty of large blooms from mid summer onwards. It grows to 80cm (32") so no canes are required and is excellent for cut flower arrangements.
Most bedding plants are ideal for growing in patio containers, but it is sometimes difficult to know what goes together to make a striking, but harmonious grouping. To make the selection easier some seed companies sell a collection of different seeds that go well together. Suttons Patio Flowers Collection contains five separate varieties in individual packets: Ageratum Blue Mink - attractive plants producing large heads of lavender blue flowers June-September; Cineraria maritima - attractive plants with glowing silver foliage; Impatiens (Busy Lizzie) Mix - bushy plants with a host of flower colours; Lobelia Sapphire - Deep blue trailing flowers with white eye, flowers June-September; Tagetes Lemon Gem - bushy plants which become covered in small, lemon yellow flowers June-September.
Place patio pots with permanently planted shrubs close to the house to give some protection or cover susceptible foliage with fleece.
So what's new on the lawn care front in 2012? With 5.6 million households in the UK having a lawn and owning a dog - the problem of bare patches caused by urine burns is a widespread problem that up to now has been difficult to cope with. At last, Miracle-Gro have introduced a wonder treatment they call Patch Magic Dog Spot Repair - a speedy solution to repairing lawn damage caused by dogs.
Having a beautiful garden and owning a dog can be a real challenge. The issue that causes the most angst for dog owners is a ruined lawn - bare patches caused by urine burns, digging and burrowing. But all that can be a thing of the past, thanks to this easy-to-use, one-step solution for lawns damaged by dogs.
Patch Magic Dog Spot Repair contains gypsum, grass seed and coir. The gypsum has been specially formulated for even, dust-free application. Gypsum is a calcium-rich mineral that helps rebalance the soil nutrient levels and alleviates stresses caused by salts present in dog urine, to improve grass seedling establishment and growth. The Miracle-Gro grass seed mix comprises superior quality, high performance, salt-tolerant varieties, specially selected for use on high-salt urine burns. Coir is a super-absorbent growing medium that creates a microclimate that protects the seed as it establishes and the seedlings as they grow. Together these ingredients ensure fast establishment and great growth even in tough conditions - from high traffic areas to full sun and even dense shade. Best of all, the protective coir layer changes colour when it starts to dry out, so it's easy to see when the grass seedlings need more water.
The weather is too cold for this or any other grass repair kit to function, so be patient and apply for the first time during March when lawn soil has warmed considerably and the grass seed has the opportunity to germinate.
Keep off the grass while it is frosty or your footprints will be marked in the grass for several weeks.
FRUIT & VEGETABLES
Tomatoes are a standard crop for most gardeners and few patios are complete without a couple of Giant Tomorite Planters positioned in the sunniest spot to encourage a good crop and early ripening. As plant breeders do their best to give us home-growers tasty tomatoes, it's fascinating to see that small cherry types are much more prominent on everyone's list for 2012.
Sungold is a tried and trusted performer that I have grown for many years for its flavour, although the skins do split very easily. Last year I grew Lossetto (Thompson & Morgan) a red cherry type that is a cascading bush variety that has built-in blight resistance and a very good flavour. I grew four plants that produced so many tomatoes we had to give them away. They are on my must have list for this year too.
It was interesting to see the results of a tomato taste test carried out by Ball Colegrave last year that recorded the favourite tasting variety by 580 visitors. The only standard sized variety in the top ten was Sparta F1 from Mr Fothergill's and DT Brown (ranked 5th), a Shirley type that is only for greenhouse growing. All the others were cherry or small plum sized fruits.
Top of the list for taste with 54 votes was Sweet Million (Suttons and Marshalls Seeds), followed closely on it's heals by Rosada (T&M, 46 votes); and Suncherry Premium (T&M, 35 votes).
Suttons have also developed a new range of seeds especially for growing in patio containers and confined spaces. To be displayed at Garden Centres under the 'For Your Space' heading these bright, fresh, easy to understand packs of seeds will hopefully encourage more people to grow tasty vegetables. Among the varieties on offer are Dwarf French Bean 'Speedy', Pepper 'Roberta' and Pea 'Tom Thumb', a dwarf, bushy variety that is perfect for small spaces. The resulting tasty, sweet peas are ideal for all the family! Don't forget Courgette 'Patio Star' which produces very compact spine free plants. Heavy cropping July through to September.
News too from Scotts that their systemic insecticides BugClear Ultra and BugClear Ultra Gun! now have approval for use on a range of edible crops including apples, pears and plums. With the new label you will see you can easily control aphids on lettuce and whitefly on tomatoes. For full details see the new label.
Sow seeds of large onions in January so they have a long season of growth. Traditional varieties such as Bedfordshire Champion and Ailsa Craig take some beating for a reliable crop, but I hear Marshall's exclusive variety called Marco has a long-storage advantage. It matures early so that you can take advantage of autumn sun to dry the tops thoroughly and reduce the risk of neck rot. It has a reputation for exceptional storage - kept cool and dry it will hold until mid-May the following year.
There's plenty of excitement and anticipation from gardeners
and especially growers of alpines since it was announced in
Amateur Gardening in October that Monsanto are to launch a Gel
version of their famous Roundup weedkiller.
This natty green dispenser enables gardeners to precisely target weeds in awkward places such as borders, alpine beds and vegetable patches without affecting other plants. Roundup Gel is remarkably easy to use. The dispenser exudes a clear weedkiller gel that is dabbed onto weed leaves. It kills grasses and broadleaved weeds right down to the roots, even bindweed growing amongst shrubs or roses. So if you need to be precise with weedkiller application then Roundup Gel is going to be the answer you've been looking for.
Use plant protection products safely. Always read the label and product information before use. BugClear™ Ultra and BugClear™ Ultra Gun! contain acetamiprid. The Roundup family of weedkillers contain glyphosate.
®, ™ Patch Magic and Miracle-Gro are Trade Marks of The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company LLC or its affiliates. Roundup is the registered trade mark of Monsanto Technology LLC.
.........................................Download PDF of Garden Diaries below: