Essential ways to keep your plants healthy
May 17, 2019
Nurtured in Norfolk’s gardening expert Martyn Davey answers all your questions.
If you would like any horticulture query answered please do e-mail our head grower at firstname.lastname@example.org to add your thoughts to our weekly horticulture hacks.
Could you please tell me if there are actually any real benefits from deadheading daffodils? Some people do some don’t, what are the benefits of removing them if there are any?
J. Smith email
The appearance of yellow daffodils traditionally heralds the start of spring. Newly planted daffodils usually grow and flower well, but in subsequent years flowering may be reduced or fail completely, although leaves are healthy and numerous. Daffodils that come up with foliage but no flowers are referred to as ‘blind’. This condition may be due to the growing conditions or pests and diseases. Allowing seed capsules to form after flowering means that energy is diverted from the process of bulb rebuilding. It can be remedied in several ways depending on the cause.
Always prepare the site well before planting, alleviated compaction, poor drainage, and adding moderate dressings of general fertiliser. Select good quality bulbs, plant bulbs at two to three times their depth. If planting daffodils in turf, ensure you select cultivars suitable for naturalising such as ‘Peeping Tom’, ‘Fortune’ or ‘February Gold’. Flowers should be removed or pinched off (deadheaded) as they fade, failure to do this will mean that the energy goes into seed production rather than next years flowers.
Avoid tidying up the foliage by tying the leaves into a knot; leave them to die down naturally, after flowering, leave a period of at least six weeks before leaves are removed or mown. In dry conditions after flowering, water thoroughly until the foliage shows signs of dying down naturally.
Improve dry soil by mulching around the bulbs in early spring with organic matter. Avoid planting bulbs in very dry areas under turf or near trees. A site that is initially suitable may become less so over several years due to encroaching trees and shrubs, making it more dry and shady.
Where flowering rapidly declines try feeding the bulbs. As the growing points emerge in the spring apply Growmore at a rate of 70g per sq m sprinkled evenly on the soil surface around the bulbs. After flowering, especially for container-grown bulbs, apply a high potassium liquid feed, such as tomato food at one to two week intervals from when the blooms have faded until the first signs of yellowing of foliage.
If overcrowded groups of daffodils are not flowering, lift them when the foliage dies back in the summer. Improve the soil with organic matter and a little general purpose fertiliser e.g. Growmore at a rate of 70g per sq m, and then re-plant the bulbs so there is a 5-7.5cm gap between each one. Replant small bulbs in more fertile soil (e.g. a vegetable plot) to encourage bulb build-up.
Where narcissus bulb fly is suspected, bulbs can be lifted and examined for signs of attack and the presence of larvae. There is no treatment and affected bulbs should be destroyed. As the leaves die down, firming the soil around the stems and leaves, raking to fill in any holes and covering plantings with an insect proof netting, from mid-May until early July, may help discourage the female flies from laying eggs. Diseased bulbs should be discarded.
Jobs for this week in the garden.
Fig trees should be pruned now, in a similar way to other fruit trees if they are over grown, cut back to a 5cm bare stub to encourage new growth.
Feed shrubs now with 50-100g per sq m of general-purpose fertiliser every late winter to early spring will suffice. Shrubs in containers need feeding from early spring until late summer.
Control weeds now without resorting to weedkillers. Cultural or organic control measures rely on killing or restricting the weeds by physical action, from manual removal to smothering, burning and using weed barriers.
Martyn Davey – Head Grower