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Garden Maintenance - caring for your plants

Looking after your garden

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Maintenance
Besides providing the right situation and sustaining balanced soil conditions, you can encourage your plants to grow with more vigour and provide a more rewarding display by a little additional care.
Some plants, such as certain annuals, will flourish naturally and need little or no attention, but others respond, depending on their growth characteristics, to being supported or guided, lightly trimmed or regularly and judiciously pruned.

Keeping plants in trim
Annuals, biennials and perennials are less demanding than trees and shrubs.
Alyssum and lobelia, for example, grow side shoots naturally and flourish without any helpThis will promote side shoots and produce a busier growth.
To encourage larger blooms on each side shoot, disbud plants su, as do plants which grow only one stem with a terminal flower.

Plants such as antirrhinums, sweet peas and wallflowers, however, benefit from having their growing tips removed (called ‘stopping’) when they are 3-4in high, as do chrysanthemums, dahlias, pinks and roses.
Break off all flower buds from a cluster except the top, or crown, bud.
Remove any weak and stunted plants, leaving enough space between the remainder for them to develop fully.
To extend the flowering season, remove the blooms as they fade (called deadheading) so that the plant’s energy is concentrated on producing new blooms rather than seeds – unless you wish to harvest the seeds.
Deadhead either by nipping off the flower, or for plants with single, bare flower stems such as red-hot pokers, as close as possible to the base.
Remove heads of small flowers when the whole cluster has died.

Providing support
Tall-growing plants often need some kind of support, especially if they are in an exposed position.
Twigs at about half a plant’s eventual height can be placed around or between plants, or you can use metal or plastic supports obtained from a garden shop.
Place supports at an early stage of the plant’s development so that they will be hidden as the plant grows.
Support young trees and shrubs with wooden stakes and tree ties.
A stake firmly driven into the ground with about 2-3ft exposed will keep the roots and lower trunk stable, but leave the top free so that the tree can cop on it’s own when the stake is removed.
Use longer stakes for trees trained as standards, as these tend to be top-heavy.
Most climbers need help to attach themselves to their support, such as wood, metal or plastic trellis, plastic mesh stretched between wooden battens, or horizontal wires attached to hooks.
If there is no suitable framework, some climbers will grow through trees, or up a vertical pole in the open garden.
Other climbers need not help.
For example, many ivies produce aerial roots to climb with, while Virginia creepers support themselves with suckers.

See our section on Garden Tools and
Equipment
for purchasing plant maintenance and garden equipment online

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