Annie, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Planting, Plants, Trees, Watering

very dry trees

When you think of British summer time you might think of maybe a few sunny days where you can enjoy a refreshing glass of pimms in your garden. Or you think of the fact that whenever anyone suggests a barbeque it starts raining. You definitely don’t expect there to be endless sunshine with soaring temperatures for weeks on end. You certainly don’t expect temperatures of over 30 degrees and neither does your garden.

This summer has been something of an anomaly and seems set to continue. While we might be basking in the glorious sunshine we should spare a thought for our poor gardens which will need a little bit of extra TLC while the endless summer stretches on. The lack of rain and the unrelenting heat brings its own problems. Young trees and shrubs may struggle to thrive and might even die. However, all is not lost! There are a few things that you can do to ensure that your garden remains looking green, healthy and beautiful all summer long.

Contents:

Water, Water & More Water

It may seem obvious that during the hot weather you may need to water your plants more regularly. Young trees especially need frequent watering as they have a much smaller root system than that of an established tree. Young roots can dry out very quickly during a hot spell and that can ultimately lead to your young tree dying. So if your tree is newly planted you should ensure that it is watered every day for at least the first two weeks to help provide the roots with the moisture and oxygen it needs. After that you should make sure you water your  tree at the very least once a week, if there has been some rainfall, but even more frequently during a heatwave.

When should I water?

However, it isn’t just about the frequency with which you water young trees and shrubs it’s also when you water them as well. You should either water your garden very early in the day or in the evening when it is cooler to help keep the soil moist for longer. Watering plants during the heat of the day is actually a lot less effective and can cause damage. Water droplets on the leaves act like a magnifying glass for the sun’s rays. They make them more intense and so even though you think you are helping hydrate your young tree or shrub you can actually cause more damage.    

How much water?

So you know to water your tree frequently and you know when you should do it as well. However, you also need to know how you should water young trees. People are often tempted to water their plants little and often. However, you will find that your young tree or shrub is happier when given a slow drench of at least half a large watering can every few days. This period of dryness encourages them to make deep roots which is good for supporting the tree and will mean less maintenance in the future.

If you are unsure about whether your tree needs to be watered or whether it has been watered enough there are a couple of simple ways to check. If you want to check whether the tree needs to be watered you can do this by checking the soil beneath the mulch layer early in the morning. You just stick your finger in the soil and if it is damp your tree should be fine. If it is dry then you do need to water it. To check you have given your tree enough water you should check that the root ball is wet and can use a trowel to do this if necessary.

Watering hacks

Mulch

Laying downs some mulch around the base of the tree prevents water running off when the ground is hard and allows much more of it to sink into the soil. Woodchip is excellent, spread it in a circle approx. 3 foot in diameter.

Create a bowl

Best done when planting, if you create a bowl like shape around the base of the tree this again aids with retaining water and funnels it down towards the roots of the tree. You can build a little mud wall around the tree if already planted and it will serve the same purpose.

The upside down milk bottle

Insert an large bottle upside down into the ground and cut the end off. You can then pour water into it and it will soak slowly into the ground, directly where you want it. You may find that a bamboo cane for support helps it stay in place.

What if there is a hosepipe ban?

A hosepipe ban could be on the horizon this year. Especially if the heatwave is set to keep going. As the main way to keep your young trees or shrubs alive is to water them you might think that trying to keep young trees alive is fruitless. However, there are a few ways that you can get around this. Firstly, you can install a water butt. Nowadays there are thousands of styles to choose from so you don’t necessarily have to end up with an ugly tank in your garden. As long as you have an outside wall or guttering system in place you should be able to collect plenty of rainwater and use that to water your garden.

You can also use grey water. Grey water is waste water that has come from places such as your bath or kitchen sink. You can even collect the water from your washing machine and use this to water the plants when you are not allowed to use a hosepipe. If you are going to do this though you need to be aware of what is in the water. Grey water that has come from these areas is likely to contain harmful detergents. So if you are going to use this method you should make sure that the products you use are environmentally friendly.

What if it is too late!?

By the time you are reading this, it might be already too late. There will be many arboreal casualties this year, and even the best of gardener will struggle with their losses. It is a sad time, unless you sell trees of course. A simple Cambium test is the best way to check if your tree has expired. Scratch away the top layer of bark with your thumb. Make sure you do this on the main stem because, in extreme weather, the tree will start by sacrificing its extremities first. If  you reach moist green flesh, then your tree is hanging in there!

If not, as cold as it sounds, it’s time to start planning its replacement. You might like to consider  holding off until autumn to plant your next tree. Autumn is by the best time of year to plant; the ground is still warm, there is good rainfall, the trees are entering dormancy and they have all winter to establish a strong rootbase. In fact, the majority of young trees that you see struggling this year will have been planted in spring, not the autumn before. 

Head over to the plants section of the primrose website to order you bare root trees for delivery at the perfect time. Or, if you are impatient, we have potted trees available now!

Annie CorcoranAnnie works for the Primrose product loading team mainly creating web pages and writing product descriptions. When not at her desk you can find her writing for The Independent, re-reading Harry Potter or out for a walk.

See all of Annie’s posts.

Flowers, Gardening, Gardens, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting, Plants, Watering

Rhododendrons and azaleas usually bear their spectacular, large, often scented flowers in spring – but do you know the difference between the two?

Well, both are in the genus Rhododendron –  but azaleas can be distinguished by having five stamens per flower (one per lobe), whereas rhododendrons have 10 or more (two per lobe). Azaleas can be deciduous or evergreen but rhododendrons are all evergreen. Finally there is a difference in size. Azaleas are small to medium shrubs – rhododendrons range from prostrate shrubs to huge trees.

Within this guide you will find information about some of the different varieties of rhododendron and azaleas, as well as information about how to successfully plant and maintain your own.

Main Species

There are more than 28,000 rhododendron or azalea hybrids, as the plants readily cross breed. However, here are the most popular varieties for gardeners:

  • Hybrids or hardy hybrids: What gardeners would consider a ‘traditional’ rhododendron with large flower trusses, some scented, blooming anywhere between January until July – often growing very large.
  • Dwarf rhododendrons: Mainly alpine varieties, ranging from 20cm-80cm, flowering in April.
  • Yakushimanum: Mound-shaped plants reaching 80-100cm, often with unusual leaves. Many brilliant flower colours available.
  • Williamsianum: Unusual rounded leaves, 80-100cm.
  • Deciduous azaleas: Sun lovers, growing up to 150cm, often scented, (especially R. luteum) with rich autumn foliage. They can be divided into Species (Sciadorhodion, Pentanthera, Rhodora, Sinensi or Brachycalyx); Ghent (the oldest hybrid group with multiple small flowers); Knaphill (large flowered hybrids, some of which are scented); Mollis (earlier flowering, more compact and spreading); Rustica (small double flowers, some scented). Other deciduous azaleas include Pratt hybrids, viscosum, occidentale and the Northern Lights series.
  • Evergreen azaleas: Small, slow-growers, suitable for pots, up to 75cm, some are prostrate in habit, with autumn colour. Flowering season is usually May.

Planting

Choose a sheltered site with dappled shade, however, dwarf alpine species will tolerate full sun. Avoid sites exposed to early morning sun in spring, as this may damage frosted flowers.

The most important factor deciding whether rhododendrons or azaleas will grow well in your garden is the pH of your soil. They must have moist but well-drained, acid soil between pH 5.0 and 6.0 that is rich in organic matter. Reducing soil pH is not easy.

October or March/April are the best times for planting – dig in acidic organic matter before you begin (leafmould, rotting pine needles or composted bracken will work well). Don’t just concentrate on the planting hole – mix well around the surrounding soil. Don’t plant deeply, as rhododendrons are surface rooters. Apply a loose 8cm mulch of acidic organic material and water well to finish.

Care

To keep your plants performing at their best, in spring, apply slow-release ericaceous fertiliser and renew the acidic mulch and keep well watered.

Rhododendrons grow best in areas of high rainfall, which is naturally slightly acidic. Using tap water, especially in hard water districts, is not good for the plant as it contains too much calcium which reduces the acidity around the plant’s roots. However, if rain water runs out, tap water is OK to use for a month or so in summer.

Rhododendrons don’t require pruning apart from removing dead wood and deadheading if practical. If the plant outgrows its space, cutting back is tolerated best from deciduous azaleas and rough-barked rhododendrons. After cutting back, mulch, feed and keep well watered.

Growing in Containers

If you have alkaline soil, grow rhododendrons and azaleas as container plants. Use ericaceous loam-based compost and repot every other year into fresh compost in spring. When not fully repotting, top dress the top 5cm of growing medium with fresh compost.

Common Problems

Most problems with rhododendrons and azaleas stem from the soil being too alkaline, drought or other extreme weather conditions. Here are signs to look out for:

  • Non-flowering and bud drop: Flower buds actually start forming in late summer – dry conditions at this time can lead to a total bud formation failure or a partial formation, causing buds to dry up and dropping unopened in spring. Mulch and water thoroughly and regularly during dry periods in summer.
  • Leaf drop: Older leaves droop and roll, then drop off, following extreme moisture conditions – drought or waterlogging. Newer leaves show browning at the leaf tip or edge. However, it is normal for the shrub to shed some older leaves in spring and summer.
  • Leaf droop: Usually a response to severe cold, but they usually recover.
  • Leaf scorch/flower damage: Often caused by windy, cold or wet weather.
  • Yellowing foliage: Caused by nutrient deficiency known as chlorosis, an iron deficiency caused by high alkalinity in the soil.
  • Pests: Vine weevil can be a nuisance for container-grown plants, as can rhododendron leafhopper and scale insects.
  • Diseases: Relatively uncommon are bud blast, azalea gall and honey fungus.

Composting, Flowers, Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting, Plants, Watering, Wildlife

Rose

There is no doubt that roses are one of the most popular flowers to grow in Britain. In fact, so many are planted each year that if you set them out as a single row these plants would circle the equator! With the proper care and maintenance you can expect your rose to last for at least 20 years. However, many roses fail to thrive and a lot of that is due to improper planting and care. There are several elements to consider before attempting to plant a rose in your garden and this step-by-step guide should help you to navigate the pitfalls ensuring your rose is a success!

Planting

Planting Position

Choosing the correct position for planting your rose is crucial. If it is not in a suitable spot it will not thrive. Plenty of sun is needed for your rose to grow, slight shade in the afternoon is good but not continuous shade. Your rose needs shelter from the cold winds. A nearby hedge or fence is good but should not be too close that it shades the bush. Your rose will need good drainage as it will not grow in waterlogged soil.

Soil Conditions 

When planting your rose it is important that the soil is suitable. Ideally the soil should be medium loam, slightly acid with a PH of 6.0-6.5 and reasonably rich in plant foods and humus. Roses cannot thrive if the soil conditions are poor. Roses should be planted from Late October to March and the ground should not be waterlogged or frozen.

Preparing the Rose

Cut off any leaves, hips or buds that may still be present. If the stems are shrivelled place all of the bush in water for several hours. Cut off any decayed or thin shoots before planting. Plunge roots into a bucket of water if they seem dry. It is crucial that the roots do not dry out before planting and make sure they remain covered until you are ready to set the bush in the planting hole. Cut back any long or damaged roots to about 30cm.

Planting the Rose

Mark out planting stations to make sure your rose bush has enough space. There should be a distance of about a metre between each plant. When planting make sure that the bud union is about 2-3cm below the surface.

Caring and Maintenance

Mulching

Roses benefit from having a layer of mulch on the soil surface around the plants as it reduces weeds, keeps soil moist in summer, improves soil structure, reduces black spots and some mulching material provides plant foods. Some suitable materials used for mulching include moist peat, shredded bark, well rotted manure, good garden compost and leaf mould. Prepare the soil surface for mulching by clearing away debris, dead leaves and weeds. Water the soil surface if it is dry. Spread a 5-7cm layer around the rose. Mulching reduces the need for watering and hoeing but does not replace the need for good feeding.

Watering

Roses have a deep-rooting habit meaning that the watering of established plants is not crucial in some seasons. However, some roses need watering after a few days of dry weather. For example, newly planted roses, climbers growing against walls and roses planted in sandy soils. All roses will need plenty of water in a period of drought in spring and summer. When watering, use about 5 litres of water for each bush or standard rose and 15 litres for a climber.

Hoeing

The main purpose of hoeing is to keep down weeds that are not smothered by mulching. Hoeing needs to be done frequently to make sure that the underground parts of the weeds are starved. Do not hoe any deeper than 2-3cm below the surface or the roots could be damaged.

Cutting

Roses are perhaps the most popular flower for cutting and using as decoration. To make sure you don’t weaken the rose bush, do not take more than one third of the flowering stem with the flower. Cut just above an outward facing bud. Do not cut struggling or newly planted roses.  

Feeding

Roses make heavy demands on plant food reserves in soil. If one or more vital elements run short your rose will not thrive. Feed your rose every year using a proprietary compound fertiliser containing nitrogen, phosphates and potash. You can use powder or granular fertiliser, liquid fertilisers or foliar feeding.

Deadheading

It is important to regularly remove dead blooms. Remove the whole truss when the flowers have faded. Cut the stem just above the second or third leaf down. This will help the rose conserve energy.

Pruning

Roses do not produce shoots that increase in size steadily each year. Therefore, if they are not pruned the rose becomes a mass of live and dead wood. The purpose of pruning is to get rid of the dead wood each year and encourage the regular development of strong and healthy stems. For more details click here.

 

Flowers, Gardening, George, How To, Infographics, Planting, Plants

No plants will survive very long without good watering, and it’s even more crucial for potted plants. They may not have the same access to rainwater, drainage or natural water reserves depending on where they are placed. So here is our handy infographic to remind you how to water pot plants for great growing!

If you’re looking to give your potted plants a fabulous new home, then you’re in luck. At Primrose we have an incredible selection of all kinds of planters available.

How to water pot plants

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Catch up on the previous post in the series: How to Repot a Plant.

Next up is Part 4: How to Choose the Right Planter for Your Garden.

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.