Mark Lane details how to make plant pots out of household items
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Petunias are really good doers in the garden. I was never a great fan of them until a couple of years ago when I decided to grow some in three pots outside our TV room window and they flowered for months on end. They are great plants to consider and look just as good at the front of a border as they do in a pot or container.
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There are compact forms and trailing forms, come in a vast array of colours, sizes and produce non-stop flowers.
Some have single flowers while others can have double blooms, be smooth or ruffled.
The colours can be a single solid colour, striped, veined or have picotee edges (different coloured edges). Some petunias even have a fresh scent. Did you know that they are, in fact, related to tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and tobacco? This is because they belong to the nightshade family, Solanaceae.
Although we grow them as annuals, they are in fact tender perennials, such as Surfinias.
One of the oldest types is the grandiflora, which was introduced in the 1950s, but through hybridisation we now have multifloras and floribundas.
There are also 3cm blooms, perfect for pots, belonging to the millifloras, which look like Calibrachoa.
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The best time to plant petunias is in the spring in a greenhouse, coldframe or cool shed with natural light and put outside once all signs of frost have passed, but they will be available in garden centres in early summer and can be planted in May and June, even July, and still give you months of interest.
Petunias require full sun for most of the day to reward you with masses of colour.
They can tolerate some shade, but they will not be as prolific.
The soil needs to be free-draining and slightly acidic (pH 6 to 6.5). If you are growing them in the ground and you have heavy clay, then work in some compost or other organic matter into the ground before planting.
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In pots, use a soilless compost which contains a slow-release fertiliser. Remember though that this fertiliser will only last four to six weeks, so to prolong flowering add your own slow-release granular fertiliser.
Alternatively, do a weekly dose of liquid fertiliser high in potash, such as tomato or seaweed feed, to keep them flowering vigorously, as watering will wash nutrients out of the soil.
Being sun-worshipers, they do require regular watering as they have shallow root systems which dry out quickly. Do not over water, however, as soggy soil can cause root rot and yellowed foliage.
For pot displays, you may have to water every day. Try to do this either early in the morning or early evening when the sun is at its least hot.
Many people think that petunias do not need deadheading. This is the case for smaller, self-cleaning and spreading varieties (although occasional deadheading will boost flower production), but the larger flower varieties such as traditional grandiflora need frequent deadheading to prevent plants from going to seed.
If your petunias have got leggy do not throw them in the bin.
Cut them back hard and apply some liquid fertiliser to encourage new growth.
When it comes to pest and diseases, the main culprits are thrips and caterpillars.
Thrips can be dealt with by using applications of neem oil or soapy water.
Caterpillars can be picked off by hand. Powdery mildew is caused by overcrowding as well as wet conditions.
Petunias can be displayed in many ways.
Use them as a groundcover at the front of your colourful borders as groundcover (and to block out light to weeds); as fillers and spillers in containers and hanging baskets; individually in hanging baskets; as a ground cover to help prevent weeds; and as colourful window displays complementing your home’s colour scheme.
However you display your petunias, with the right care you can flowers for 8 months, from May through to the first frosts.
My pick of the bunch are: Petunia ‘Back to Black’; Petunia Crazytunia ‘Mandeville’; Petunia surfinia ‘Hot Pink’; Petunia ‘Frenzy’ mix; Petunia ‘Frills & Spills Mixed’; Petunia Easywave ‘Sweetheart’; Petunia ‘Sweetunia Johnny Flame’; Petunia ‘Pegasus Burgundy Bicolour’; Petunia ‘Tidal Wave Red Velour’ F1 and Petunia Funhouse ‘Ruby Glow’.
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