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Gardening

 


June 2017 - OUTDOOR RELAXATION

by Pippa Greenwood

Houseplants

Most houseplants need to be just that, plants in houses, but come the summer it usually gives them a real boost to get the higher natural light levels, refreshing (relatively warm) rainfall and seriously fresh air. But now that September is here it is time to bring them indoors – colder nights will cause damage, especially to some of the more tender varieties.

Before bringing them in though, it is essential to put your plants through their paces; think of it as being a bit like going through Customs on your way back from your seasonal break! First I go over them checking for dead, damaged or dying leaves, and then use a sharp pair of scissors to remove these, cutting back neatly into clean, healthy growth. Next it is time to inspect the stems, foliage and any flowers for pests and diseases. There is often a wide range of these problems that can infest or infect your houseplants, and it always pays to bring them in totally clean. Look out for white powdery mildew deposits, often accompanied by a bit of leaf yellowing, and check for greyish fuzzy fungal patches caused by the notorious Botrytis or grey mould - this will often start out on an already dead part of the plant such as a faded leaf or flower, but is often associated with yellowing, petal browning and dieback too.


Also look for pests like scale insects - tiny brownish elliptical insects which feed beneath leaves or on soft stems, often producing copious quantities of sticky, sugary honeydew - or aphids, which may be found clustered on the more tender, newer growth. If you find any infestation, it is essential it is dealt with before the plants go inside, as once the pots are back indoors the pests will flourish in the now warmer and more protected conditions, and will soon multiply and may even spread to other healthy plants, causing potential chaos! Most problems like these, if caught early, can be dealt with by using a sharp pair of scissors or secateurs to snip off infected areas, or by some careful picking off by hand. If you find scale insects, aphids or fluffy patches of mealy bug, you can purchase a brilliant biocontrol to sort them out in a totally environmentally friendly way that is also completely safe for you and your pets. For more information, visit www.pippagreenwood.com/
products/protect-your-crops.


Once the plants themselves have had a check over, I always inspect the pots, including the surface of the compost and beneath the base and rim of the pot itself. If you can, and as long as the plant won’t be damaged in the process, gently ease it out of its pot and check the root ball. This may sound a little extreme but all of these more ‘hidden’ and out of the way places provide perfect places for stowaways: the pests which live in the garden but would appreciate spending the cooler weather in your house - things like vine weevils, slugs and snails. Not the sort of house guests you or your plants would appreciate, I’m sure.


When the check over is complete, gently scrape away the uppermost surface of the compost and replace with the same quantity of fresh, similar compost, wipe down the sides of the pot and take your plants inside, taking care not to put them anywhere which is too hot, too dry or too draughty for their liking.


Once your old favourites are safely re-installed in their old positions and are free from unwanted guests, you may like to treat yourself to a new houseplant or two. There are some wonderful (and amazingly good value) houseplants readily available in garden centres now and you’ll often find some gems in the supermarket too - how about a marvellously elegant moth orchid (Phalaenopsis) or two? I treated myself to a couple when I was working at The Woburn Abbey Garden Show this summer, and they’ve proved to be a beautiful reminder of a lovely show and I know that even with my sometimes erratic care they should keep on performing for years to come!


Visit Pippa’s website www.pippagreenwood.com for her ‘Winter thru’ Spring Collection’ of gorgeous UK-grown garden-ready vegetable plants ready for delivery in September. You’ll also find many gardening items including growing frames, SpeedHoes, SpeedWeeders, raised bed kits, Nemaslug and other nematode controls, copper tape, pull-out EasyTunnels, signed books and lots more besides. 


 

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