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Wednesday, 2 May 2018

May News from Upchurch Horticultural Society - From the Potting Shed


Sponsored by Upchurch River Valley Golf Course Ltd

May is another very busy month after which things ease off slightly as you get into the summer routine. If you got all the April jobs done you are doing well because it has been a cold wet spring and everything is late. If you didn’t, don’t worry there is time to catch up. I have got my early and maincrop potatoes in, but my garden sits on a bed of compacted stone with rapid drainage so I can get away with it in a wet spring and leave them in the ground through winter. If your soil is heavy and prone to getting waterlogged you have probably held off from planting out and should lift your maincrop in the autumn. For a comprehensive list of jobs for May go to www.thompson-morgan.com/in-the-garden-this-month

The main thing is to get everything up and running in May, including hanging baskets, containers, vegetables and annual and perennial plants. Seedlings should be well under way by now and need a couple of weeks hardening off before being planted out in the garden. I try to get all this done by the end of May, but so far things are late so it may roll over into June. The runner bean trench should be full of well rotted compost collected over the winter and the soil can be raked back over. Erect a support that will allow them to grow as high as you can reach. I found a pack of 50 x 20mm bamboo canes on Amazon that are 8’ long and will make a good sturdy frame for the runners and Cobra climbing beans. Remember the compost pocket for marrows, courgettes and pumpkins and water well. Earth up potatoes if necessary, but I plant mine about 8” deep and if any come to the surface I cover them with soil.

May is a good time to increase your stock of perennial plants by either dividing the clumps or taking basal cuttings. Division is ideal for clump forming perennials that grow bigger each year. As the clump increases in size it can become woody and produce fewer fresh stems, dividing the clump helps to invigorate the plant. Lift the entire root ball and shake off the excess soil or wash away with a hose. Some clumps can be teased apart by hand, others can be separated by using two garden forks back to back and prised apart. If the clump is really matted then the brutal approach of knife or chopping with a spade may be required. The divided parts should then be replanted and watered well. The other method of propagating new plants in spring is to take basal cuttings particularly from phlox, delphiniums, chrysanthemums and asters.


Look for healthy new shoots springing up from the base of the plant and with a sharp knife cut the shoot just below the surface. Trim off the lower leaves and pinch out the top and place in a 3” pot with a general compost and sharp sand mix. Use a dibber to make a hole approx 2” deep and firm the cutting into the hole. Water well and cover with a polythene bag. Alternatively plant a number of cuttings into a covered propagator ensuring that the leaves do not touch. The cutting should take root within 2-5 weeks, harden off and then replant into the borders to fill gaps. Some shoots may grow from the bottom of the previous year’s wood (especially phlox). In this case the cutting can be taken by cutting through the old wood and tidying up, leaving a bit of old wood at the base of the shoot. With chrysanthemums the shoot can be snapped off and the top left in place. Rooting can be enhanced by dipping the cutting into a root hormone powder before potting.

Propagating new plants by division or cuttings ensures an exact copy of the parent plant and should be done with the best specimens. Growing from seed does not guarantee this particularly with hybrid varieties that may revert.

Happy cutting and don’t forget the half cut.

We are always looking for new members and try to encourage a fun attitude towards friendly competition. So if you want to grow your own fruit, vegetables and flowers or even enter any of the 3 shows we hold each year, then please get in touch, we would be happy to hear from you.

If you are interested in becoming a new member, (all ages are welcome), please contact Rosey on: 01634 377812 (evenings) or Email: rosemary@ringwoodaccounting.co.uk

Sean Barry - Upchurch Horticultural Society
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