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Vital task of caring for your seedlings.

MRS E. Powell of Bewdley dropped me a line about successful plug planting. Having been unhappy at her results in previous years she was looking for a publication on the subject. Her main complaint is that seedlings grow leggy instead of maturing as compa ct, bushy plants. I'll tell her of one publication where over the next few weeks she will hopefully find just the answers she is looking for! It's right here every week in your Sunday Mercury. I shall be telling you of some of the pitfalls and giving you some tips on how to produce outstanding plants. I made complaints last year to one of the largest plug companies and as a result gave them advice on how to improve their product. The end result is that my son James, aged 9, and I will be appearing in sh ort videos at more than 300 garden centres up and down the country.

Initially look out for good-quality, compact seedlings and in most cases these need to be grown on in bright light. Most of us try to cram too many seedlings into too small a seed tray. I now grow only 15, or at the most 18, bedding plants in a standard seed tray.

Mr Cartwright of Wall Heath keeps losing young yew hedging plants.

After talking to him and his wife I find his garden slopes towards the path and main road and a persistent puddle often splashes water back into his garden, causing an almost permanent pond.

Yew trees like moisture but cannot stand waterlogging. I am going to suggest adding lots of sharp grit to the hedge line after lifting the plants that are surviving. It will also be necessary to put in some additional good-quality soil. I want to create a slightly raised bed to allow the yew plants to root sufficiently before encountering the more waterlogged soil. It's not the perfect answer and I would always try to drain the ground first but in this case it is just not practical.

Mrs P. Law of Highters Heath stopped me in the High Street this week to ask about her azalea that had been given to her by her daughter at Christmas.

She was half complaining, half worried her daughter might find out that her plant had lost almost half its leaves and the flower buds had gone brown.

I will guarantee that this is a sign that the room is far too hot and the air too dry for what is basically almost an outdoor hardy plant.

Let's suggest standing the pot on some gravel in a saucer with a little water. Place the plant in a much cooler but well-lit position and mist the foliage with lime-free water.

Every seven to 10 days immerse the pot and rootball in a bowl of lime-free water. Allow it to drain after a few minutes' immersion before returning it to the saucer. From May the plant can spend the summer out of doors in a sheltered, humid position.

During a recent cold snap several readers noticed with alarm that their so-called winter pansies collapsed and then recovered when the temperatures rose above freezing.

In my opinion winter pansies do not really survive cold spells very well. They do collapse but will recover provided they have been grown hard - raised in cool conditions and not over fed, especially with nitrogen.

Readers should not confuse this short-term wilt with wilts that last for several days in above-freezing conditions.

This can be due to a soil pest but is normally a serious wilt disease and the only answer is to burn plants, sterilise the soil with Armillatox and try to avoid growing pansies in that vicinity for at least five to seven years.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 10, 1999
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