Dahlias from Tubers a Seasons Review

It will soon be April and I need to check my over wintered tubers and buy some new varieties. The I can start my Dahlias in to growth. It is too cold to plant them out in the garden in April in the north so I start to get them going in pots in the greenhouse.


I planted the tubers in pots big enough to hold the tuber easily and covered with potting compost. After a good watering I left them under the bench in the greenhouse. Within two to three weeks I expect to see the first shoots poking out of the compost and beginning to green up. Another month will have to go by before all danger of frost will have disappeared in the North so it will be the end of May when I knock them out of the pots and they go into their final planting position

Tips For Good Dahlias

  • Choose strong healthy varieties
  • Dahlias like plenty of space and their own area to grow so space them well.
  • Dahlias need water and are hungry feeders so give them rotted compost in the hole before planting.
  • Through summer give them water containing a high potash based feed and an occasional foliar feed through leaves
  • Dahlias can grow 3 – 4 foot tall and need some support. 3 or 4 canes or a proprietary wire support is appropriate.
  • Deadhead the plants regularly and they will flower until the first frost
  • Dahlias are good for cutting but I find them short lived in the vase but that’s just me preferring flowers in the garden.
  • Dahlias can be left in the ground over winter and subject to a very late frost will survive -give them a deep winter mulch when you cut them back after the leaves have been blackened by the first frost.
  • Digging up dahlias and keeping the tubers gives you chance to dived the plants or take cuttings from stock started into growth early in the year. If you want to bulk up stock of one plant start them into growth in wet compost in the warmth in February – when shoots are 2″ or more take them as cuttings and give them warmth at the roots.

Seeds and tubers from Thompson Morgan


October Review

  • The season was wet and the dahlias enjoyed rapid leaf growth.
  • Slugs ate the white varieties but left other leaf alone – strange!
  • I did not deadhead enough and lost some of the flower power.
  • Now the first frost has sent the leaves into soggy decline I will dig up the tubers, allow them to dry and store them for next year. The North of England is too cold and damp for the tubers to survive in the ground through winter.

Generic Houseplant Advice

Commonsense will help you get the best out of your houseplants. Compost for bought plants will have enough feed for the short term but careful watering will be needed. Go with the seasons do not fight nature just because your plant is indoors.


Flowering plants need good light. Place near a window but avoid harsh sunlight.
Foliagae plants like good natural light but avoid direct sunlight.
Protect all indoor plants from sudden cold and draughts.

Ideally keep plants at the temperature recommended on any plant label.
An average warm temperature of 15-29 degrees centigrade is a default temperature.
If plants droop it may be too warm and or dry. Move to a cooler place.

Do not stand pots in puddles of water for long periods.
Water from the bottom with room temperature water.
Keep compost moist but not sopping wet.
Do not allow compost to dry out completely or it will be very hard to re-wet.
More plants drown than are killed by lack of water.

Plant Selection

Grow the types of plants normally grown indoors. If they work for others they should grow for you.
Foliage plants are a good place to start as I think they stand up to a bit of rough treatment eg late or infrequent watering.
Bulbs are popular indoors but do not last as long as they might outside.
Exotic plants bought from a nursery should be cosseted. Ask the grower for tips as they should have knowledge to share.

Other Advice
Removing faded flowers may encourage new blooms.
Occasional feeding can prolong plant life.
Plants that like a humid atmosphere will benefit from being sprayed and stood on grit or granules.
Get more advice about your specific type of plant by searching the box above.

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Sparkling Summer Bulbs

Reliable flowering can be expected from summer bulbs and tubers.
Early Summer Flowering
Alliums flower May-July, I like those that look like a burst of stars
Anemone start in April with the woodland varieties then come the blousy De Caen and larger corm types through summer

Dutch Iris look good for a short while in midsummer but I find I get poor results in containers.

Continue Reading →


Geranium Cranesbill Variety Review

The hardy perennial geranium is a good ground cover plant with many varieties to choose from. Do not confuse hardy Geraniums with Pelargoniums which are also sometimes referred to incorrectly as Geraniums.

Geranium Splish Splash

Geranium ‘Splish Splash’

Geraniums are one of the easiest and most versatile low growing plants. They are not fussy, but given a reasonable level of care they will reward the gardener with ground cover and 1 or 2 extended flowering periods.

Care for Geraniums

  • After flowering cut back geraniums to their base. Feed and water and you will get a second flush of leaves and flowers later in the year.
  • Geraniums are easy to divide. It is best done after the growing season is over in October. Just use a spade and divide their crown into two or three. If cut back, Geraniums can be divided at any time of they year but they will need more attention with watering.
  • Geraniums grow best in full sun or partial shade but they are versatile and in our experience not that fussy.
  • The great thing about Geraniums is that the mature plants seem relatively resistant to the most common pests – slugs and aphids. However, plug plants will need the usual protection from slugs and snails.

Geranium Plugs and Bare Roots

Dwarf hardy geraniums from Jersey direct

Geranium from Thompson Morgan

G. Johnsons Blue pictured is a strain of G. pratense and is a strong growing, self spreading plant. Mrs Kendall Clark is another clear blue but Rozanne has a longer flowering period from early summer to late autumn.

A pink geranium G. sanguenium is commonly found in many cottage gardens with it profuse pink flowers that have two flushes if cut back after the initial show. G Anna Folkard with lime green leaves has a trailing habit and needs some control in my garden.

Along with Johnsons Blue and Anna Folkard, Kashmir White has an Award of Garden Merit but I recommend you see plants in flower if you are looking to acquire it for a special colour or habit so that you make sure you are getting a good base stock that is worth the AGM.

The black Mourning Widow G. Phaeum like shade and self seeds profusely. My stock is also a weedy short lived flowering example that I am trying to throw out.
Greanium renardii has sage green leaves and delicately purple-veined flowers.
Geranium himalayense ‘Birch Double’ is vigorous and versatile. this superb cranesbill tolerates almost any situation; even full shade. A mass of double purple-pink blooms stand above the delicately serrated foliage which turns to shades of burnt red and orange in autumn. will quickly blend with other herbaceous perennials to create colourful groundcover and looks equally attractive in herbaceous borders and shady woodland gardens. Height: 25cm (10”). Spread: 60cm (24”).

Geranium wallichianum ‘Sweet Heidi’ have rich purple, cup shaped blooms with clean, white centres that are decorated with distinct maroon veining. Forming loose mounds of attractive lobed foliage, this robust hardy geranium makes excellent ground cover through the front of informal borders

Geranium cinereum Laurence Flatman”


Wet Soil Water-logging and Leaching

If Prince Charles talks to his plants then possibly the soil talks back to him. It may not say I am impoverished and lacking in nutrients but the resulting plants will.
On the other-hand wet soil can eloquently tell gardeners when there is trouble.

Pitcher plants

Soil Conditions

We have suffered an excess of water this year and farmers fields have been water logged or taken up the role of flood plain resource.
The resulting ‘Clarty’ soil is muddy, dirty and sticky.
‘Claggy’ soil is more like sticky mud and is a type of soil condition where all the air has been squeezed out. Then it adheres to your boots and leaves clumps where you walk.
‘Boggy and soggy’ soil tends to favoured by marshy water loving plants.
‘Muddy’ soil can ofter turn rock hard when it dries particularly if it is clayey. Clay is made up of fine particles that can almost be welded together when wet or dry.
‘Swampy’ implies a clammy warm environment you do not get in Yorkshire.


Good soil has a balance of minerals, humus and helpful fertilising chemicals. Too much rain or flowing water can take these chemicals away either deeper in the ground or to a drain or sump.  Leaching can be caused irrigation and flooding but mainly by the dissolving action particularly of nitrogen. Leached fertilizers and manures, creates problems of excess nitrogen in the soil.

As a general rule sandy soil holds little water and goodness can be leached from the soil, while clay soils have high water-retention rates and the chemicals are harder to displace.

If you have added fertiliser like growmore, blood fish and bone or  as a top dressing you do not want to see it washed away before your plants get the benefit. Generally granular fertiliser is most effective if it is lightly raked into the top soil intermediately after application.

Waterlogged Soil

When the ground is fully saturated it is classed as waterlogged. Excess water will stand on the surface or slowly drain to a lower point. The soil will have oxygen displaced by water and the water will dissolve some of the good chemical elements of the soil. It is important not to walk on waterlogged soil as this exacerbates compaction and damages soil structure even further. Protracted water-logging can cause roots to rot.

Pond Soil

Plants in ponds need soil and a place for roots to develop. Soil in a  planting basket or pot with holes, make use of leaching  into the pond water. A hessian liner will  reduce any soil leaching and leaking out. Free circulating water will help pond plants to develop.


Biological Pest Control The Pros and Cons

Biological controls work best when it is warm and activity is highest. The more pests the more there is for the control to eat and treat.


Biological controls are pest predators that can be bought mail order. Once introduced to the greenhouse or garden they can naturally take care of the relevant pest, enabling you to garden organically and free of pests. If you are considering using Biological pest control, these are the pros and cons

Advantages of Biological Control

  • They are totally organic and provide a natural solution to your pests.
  • They can be effective for upto two months.
  • Some biological control you don’t have to buy mail order. E.g. planting marigolds may encourage hoverfly and they will eat aphids.
  • Using Biological control means you won’t kill the natural predators like Thrushes for slugs, and ladybirds for aphids.
  • They don’t create an eyesore like slug pellets do.
  • Saves you having to kill pests, if you are squeamish at going round your lettuce leaves cutting slugs in half.
  • Some insects may develop resistance to domestic sprays.

Disadvantages of Biological Control

Continue Reading →


Dealing With Ants

I am not anti ant but aren’t you glad ants are only small or with their organisation and strength they could rule our gardens.


Photo by David Dennis CC

Ant at work. You have to admire the industry and organisation of ants.

Ants will be a common feature of any garden. To some extent, there is not much you can do about ants. In the garden they are a nuisance, but, sometimes it is just easier to live with them. Ants are more of a problem when they come into the house.

In the garden, you will notice ants, when areas of fine soil are created. (This actually makes very good topsoil). They are unlikely to do much lasting damage to your plants.

Generally, in the garden, I prefer to just tolerate ants, it isn’t really necessary to start using chemicals to kill them.

In the house they are more of a nuisance. But, before resorting to chemicals, simply try to block their entrances and keep areas clean of food.

Ants and Aphids


Photo by Martin Labar CC

This image shows ants and aphids working together. Ants are often attracted by aphids for the juice they excrete. In return, ants help protects aphids from predators.

How to Deal With Ants

  • Ants follow trails of food. Make sure you don’t have trails of food to your house
  • Ants do not manage to cross sticky substances. Using a jelly or slippery grease will prevent ants climbing in.
  • Often the easiest and most effective way of preventing ants entering in the house is to locate the hole where they are managing to enter. (Often ants follow a trail and you can see them returning out the same way they came – carrying food with them.)
  • If you find a colony of ants in a plant pot, you could drench the pot with water. (though make sure you don’t drown your plants.
  • Boiling water on an ant hill may also kill many of the ants in their. Though in the garden it might not be worth it.
  • Use Chemical pesticides.

Book Cover
Ant Spray at Amazon.co.uk


Common Garden Pests

Sometimes we don’t see the pest, but we definitely see their work.

What are the most common garden pests we are likely to encounter and how can we deal with them?


Anyone who has sought to admire their garden, will have come across the devastation that slugs can do. From new shoots of delphiniums to prize hostas and lettuce leaves, slugs can leave a trail of devastation before you can say ‘where are those slug pellets…’
Fortunately, slug populations can be controlled through both the popular slug pellet and more environmentally friendly organic methods. See: Tips for dealing with slugs


There’s not too much difference between slugs and snails when it comes to pests in the garden. I remember my grandma going out in the morning with a plastic bag full of salt, she could easily fill a bag with snails almost every week. The methods for dealing with snails are similar to slugs.

Continue Reading →


Cuckoo Spit and The Froghopper

It is nothing to do with birds or frogs but there is a lot of it about this year.
Cockoo Spit froth containing nymph of Froghopper

Cuckoo spit is the white froth found on plants in early summer. It contains and protects the grub or nymph of the Common Froghopper .
They are called Froghoppers because from above they appear frog-like, and they are able to hop significant distances when disturbed.

Problems Caused by Cuckoo Spit

  • Froghoppers are a pest known particularly to fruit-growers. They feed on plant sap which they extract from the leaves and stems of plants.
  • The grubs causes minor damage in itself, but the insects can carry viruses which can cause serious harm to crops.
  • The eggs are laid on a variety of plants including tender young shoots of Willow, Cherry, Canterbury Bells, Primulas and Apple.
  • Tender shoots and leaves can distort.
  • In gardens they are frequently encountered on such plants as chrysanthemum, dahlia, fuchsia, lavender, rosemary and rose.

Grub on leaf

The immature light green grub can be seen in this froth on the back of this leaf which is now distorted and curling round the wound.

Treatments For Cuckoo Spit

  • Hose off the froth with water or soapy water and the grub will desiccate and die before it can lay its own eggs. Continue Reading →

Understand Mildew in Your Garden

Mildew is an airborne fungus that requires wet weather and warmth to come to life. It is most visible during spring and autumn as the winter is too cold and in summer it may be too hot. The wetter spring and autumn is when the white powdery mold-like mildew shows up most.

When mildew is dormant or being blown around your garden as spores it is invisible. When it has infested your plants it often shows up as a white powdery substance which are dead spores. Black mildew is seen on wood an in damp places in the home whilst yellow patches with brown furry blotches underneath affects Rhododendrons. No plants are immune although some suffer a lot worse than others, roses, gooseberries, marrows, apples, sweet peas, clematis etc.


Tips to Control Mildew

  • It seems contrary but keep plants very well watered at the roots but do not splash the leaves.
  • Stress or lack of air circulation causes mildew to grow & thrive.
  • Mix one tablespoon baking soda with one gallon of water and spray all the plants as a contact fungicide
  • A spray made up with 10% milk and 90% water is not EU approved but is said, after trials, to be effective.
  • Look out for mildew resistant varieties.
  • Mulch when the soil contains plenty of moisture.
  • Do not plant too densely as mildew fungus loves stagnant air.
  • For severe infections, on roses for example, prune out infected parts and white patches on stems immediately. Burn or dispose of all infected debris.

Mildew on Phlox

Effects of Mildew

Lest you think mildew is a benign substance you should be aware of some of its effects.
Corn crops can be devastated by mildew and is of major concern to farmers.
Fruit crops can become mis-shapen and unsaleable.
Severe attacks can and will kill your garden plants.


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