12:37 Friday 25 January 2013

House plants and potatoes

Written byBen Smith

Welcome to Garden King's Plant Doctor Blog, where our experts discuss and answer all your gardening questions. This week I'm talking about winter birdcare, tending to your houseplants and starting off your seed potatoes.

Hello - are we all still here? I'm sorry I've been quiet the last few weeks, we've been so busy re-building our centres after the Christmas takeover. I love Christmas but it's nice to see everything back to normal.

We've taken delivery of some exciting new products which I can't wait to blog about later in the season. Anyway here's this week's blog, as always I'd LOVE to hear from you - so please send me your questions and comments (you'll find all the details at the bottom of this page).

Winter Birdcare

Let's talk about... SNOW! It was lovely to see when it first started to fall - but if you're like us, you can't wait to see the back of it now! This freezing cold white stuff is causing havoc everywhere - but most of all for our wild bird friends. The cold weather will have brought an influx of birds to your garden looking for food and water, so it's important to keep feeders and feeding spots clean and topped up.

Like most garden centres, we're stocked up with suet snacks, seeds, feeds and treats which will keep your birds happy and well-fed during these snowy days. The snow makes it near impossible for birds to reach food naturally - so it's vital that we all do our bit to help out.

Tending to your houseplants

Whenever I think about houseplants I automatically think orchids, they're gorgeous with delicate flowers which provide a stunning explosion of colour. Orchids need to be looked after and cared for routinely, many people think it's difficult to do - but fear not!

Phalaenopsis don't need re-potting that often, only re-pot them when your orchid has completely outgrown its container. When you do re-pot, use a chunky, barky orchid compost and don't choose a pot that's too much bigger than the old one. Finally allow the fleshy aerial roots to protrude above the pot. Throughout the year, wipe dust off the big flat leaves with a soft, damp cloth.

Cymbidium should be re-potted in spring every 2 or 3 years. Cymbidium grow better if they are slightly pot-bound so like Phaelaenopsis - don't go too much bigger when you re-pot with orchid compost. Once again allow the fleshy aerial roots to protrude above the pot.

Dendrobium (nobile types) can be repotted after flowering. If necessary, cut off the old canes and lie on damp sand once they've been removed. This process may encourage "keikis" (baby plants) to grow. The baby plants can be removed and potted up individually. When caring for your dendrobium, use individual canes to support flower spikes and use a heavy planter or pot to anchor the plant a bit better as they can get quite top heavy.

Keep your indoor cyclamen tidy 

Your flowering cyclamen are probably still going strong, keep them deadheaded when the stalks begin to keel over and remove any dead or yellowing leaves to reduce the mould setting in. Your cyclamen needs a fairly cool room to be at their best, between 11 & 13C - but overnight they need to be kept a little warmer (so move them off cold windowsills). Finally try not to overwater them, let them dry out between waterings and your cyclamen will continue to brighten up these chilly days.

Seed potatoes are available now - get chitting!

We've got plenty of seed potatoes in stock and it's time to start chitting your tubers. Chitting is the process of starting the tubers into growth before your plant them. Stand the tubers in an upright position and leave them in a bright, but cool place. Fat green shoots will start to grow and when the ground is warm enough - you're ready to plant. You can get them in the ground at this point and they'll be off straight away. Recycle your egg boxes! Egg boxes make great little compartments to stand each chitting upright. Chit the early varieties now as they go into the ground before the maincrop ones later in the year.

If YOU have any suggestions, questions or comments - feel free to drop us a line (we'd love to hear from you!) You can email plantdoctor@gardenking.co.uk, call us on 01283 550 516, add us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Happy gardening x

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