At ‘planting out’ time it is important to give your new shoots the very best start you can

As the sun begins to shine on a slightly more regular basis, many of us are naturally keen to spend more time in our gardens; how very welcome it is at last. It’s been a delight to see new life and lush green growth during the spring after what has seemed like a long winter. With rising temperatures, a bit of warmth and increasing light levels, everything in the garden has burst into life.

As the last of the spring bulbs flower, we begin the changeover process to our summer displays. The risk of ground frost and low night time temperatures are still possible though, even if daytime temperatures are high, so it pays to be patient as the last thing you want to do is lose any valuable plants you have been nurturing. If you are planting up summer hanging baskets and containers make sure you can protect them overnight. It is important to harden off all tender perennials and any bedding plants by taking them out during the day and back indoors at night, if the weather allows you to do so. This process will help to give your plants better resistance so they are fully hardy and can withstand anything the unpredictable British climate throws at them. It’s best to harden plants off over a few weeks to really toughen them up, and keep the fleece handy as added extra protection just in case it’s needed.

Make sure you have completed any soil preparation as this is important when it comes to planting out, to help give your plants the very best start you can. Equally, compost in containers can become tired and leached of nutrients over time. Plants in containers are hungry feeders, so emptying and changing the compost will pay dividends. Adding a slow release fertiliser into your compost will be beneficial, to help your plants perform too. When your plants begin flowering, dead-head regularly and feed with a high potash feed every seven to ten days. By dead-heading this will stop the plants putting energy into seed production and continue with a succession of blooms throughout the summer. If you are planting out into borders and you have a clay soil, adding grit will help break up the soil structure and reduce water logging during wet periods. Clay soils are generally rich fertile soils; adding extra organic matter can encourage your plants to produce soft lax growth but this may be valuable if you have a sandy free draining soil to give it body and bulk to help your plants perform.

Once planted it is important to water regularly during dry, hot sunny conditions. Applying a mulch will help to conserve water. This will also act as a weed suppressant. At Harlow Carr we use composted pine bark on our borders. This is fine enough that it can be cultivated into the soil when we change over our displays but act as a soil conditioner as well, unlike bark chips which are chunky and tend to get flicked about by birds. Check regularly for slugs and snails as they will be particularly attracted to any soft lush young growth. The last thing you want is for any new plants to be munched clean overnight. How disheartening would that be? Even adding a top dressing of horticultural grit to containers can help, offering the same advantages as a mulch to your borders. Given all the care and labour getting your plants to this stage, I hope they perform their very best throughout the summer. Good luck and happy planting and gardening in the sunshine.


• Keep plants well watered during dry, hot conditions.

• Regularly keep earthing-up potatoes.

• Mow lawns regularly and keep edges sharp and crisp.

• Tie in sweet peas to supports.


Until 1 July: Bath House Gallery – Art Showcase

If you’ve been looking for something special to hang on your wall or a decorative piece of artwork as a talking point, don't miss Harlow Carr’s art showcase offering work in a wide range of styles and different mediums. Normal garden admission.

9-10 June: All about Bonsai

With beautiful displays aplenty, the Bonsai Group will be at RHS Garden Harlow Carr to offer first-hand advice, expertise and demonstrations on these special miniature trees from 10am – 4pm. Visitors are invited to bring their own trees along for advice. Normal garden admission.

17 June: Father’s Day

Celebrate Father’s Day with a walk in the garden with dad. Maybe even treat him to a fat Rascal at Bettys Café Tea Rooms next door. Normal garden admission.

2 -24 June 2018: RHS Garden Harlow Carr Flower Show

Browse, buy, and pick up advice from more than 45 specialist nurseries and garden trade stands at Harlow Carr’s third annual flower show. Visitors can enjoy a full programme of talks and demonstrations then escape the crowds with a relaxing stroll in the stunning surroundings of the 58-acre garden: don’t miss the summer Streamside spectacle of Harlow Carr’s famous dolly-mixture candelabra primulas and an array of planted containers created by local businesses and community partners sharing their passion for plants. This year there’s a chance to see A Year in the Garden – a collection of 12 paintings by Yorkshire artist-in-residence Nel Whatmore who spent the last year painting the garden’s seasonal horticultural highlights – from the famous Himalayan blue poppies to colourful Cornus stems. The full collection will be on display for the first time at the show. Entrance is included in normal garden entry and the show is open from 10am-5pm each day. Visit for full details including parking.

* Events at RHS Garden Harlow Carr are free with the normal entrance fee, except where stated. For further information, call 01423-565418.