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How to plant bedding plants
The key to success when planting tender young bedding plants is to plant them at the right stage of development into well-prepared soil. Always plant tender bedding after the last expected frost date in your area and make sure they are hardened off properly. Protect new plants from slugs and snails and keep well watered until they’re settled in.
The best way to harden-off new plants
Move plants to a cold frame (available from Homebase) about two or three weeks before you intend to plant them out. Hardy plants, like winter and spring bedding, can be moved out to the cold frame as soon as they are large enough (check labels).
Tougher summer bedding plants, like Antirrhinums and Alyssum, can be moved out a month before the last frost date in your area. Tender plants like Busy Lizzies and Pelargoniums should not be placed into the cold frame before the last expected frost date – it’s just too cold.
Harden off the plants by gradually getting them acclimatised to the weather conditions outside. To start with ventilating the cold frame by opening the lid slightly on warm days, closing it at night. After a few days, gradually increase the amount of ventilation each day until you remove the lid completely. Replace the lid on cold nights for the following week or so, but then remove it permanently.
Hardening off without a cold frame
If you don’t have a cold frame, you can harden-off plants successfully in a sheltered spot at the base of a wall or hedge (south-facing is best). To start with leave plants out during the day, bringing them in at night. After a week or so, leave them outside all the time – except on really cold nights.
Four steps to success
Use a garden fork to make sure the soil surface is level and to break down any large clumps. You will need to dig a hole slightly wider and deeper than the plant’s container. Use a hand trowel or your fingers for smaller plants.
Tender bedding needs to be planted at the same depth as its pot or tray. Check the hole is the right depth and add or remove soil from the bottom of the planting hole as necessary. Water the plant well while it is still in its pot and allow it to drain.
Avoid damaging the tender stems of the plant by holding them either by the leaves or rootball. Remove it from the pot by tipping it upside down while supporting the rootball with the plant between two fingers. Then give the base of the pot a couple of sharp taps with your trowel to loosen the rootball.
Position the plant by holding it by the rootball and plant it at the same depth as it was in the pot, firming the soil down gently around the roots. Water thoroughly after planting.