Deborah Hele, of GardenShop, shares her sowing guide and top tips for planting and caring for seedlings, seeds and bulbs

One of the most rewarding things about gardening is watching plants grow.

Seeds, seedlings and bulbs can add splashes of colour to garden beds. They can be used to edge beds and, using a variety of colours, create different looks. For example, a garden can be made to look cooler by using blue and white coloured flowers while a warmer look can be achieved using red and yellow shades.

Planting Seedlings

Soil Preparation: In order to achieve the best results the soil should be prepared correctly. First, loosen the soil to a spade depth and then add half a bag of compost per metre square.

Then add two scooped handfuls of superphosphate or bonemeal to the allocated lot. Alternatively, scatter 200g of seedling food over the area.

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Lastly, work the fertiliser in and water the area to settle the soil. Leave the ground to dry out slightly and plant the seedlings in the ground.

Tip: If the seedlings are in a polystyrene tray, pop the seedlings out from below. Gently remove the seedlings and plant out into the bed, taking care to bury all the roots but not the stems. Firm the soil down around the plant. When the area has been planted, water it well.

Seedlings also look beautiful when planted into pots, hanging baskets or window boxes.

Watering: Seedlings enjoy damp and well-draining soil. Seedlings such as pansy, viola and petunia do not like wet feet.

Tip: Do not over water as this will cause fungal problems.

Fertilising: A monthly foliar feed with Multifeed Flowergro will ensure that the plants blossom for longer. Other fertilisers that are very effective are Margaret Roberts Supercharger and Wondersol Colour Boost.

Seed Planting: It is more economical to plant seeds but it is time consuming and the wait is longer in comparison to placing seedlings directly into the ground. Seeds can be planted in the area where they are to remain, or set into sowing trays and when they are large enough they can be planted out into the garden (the soil preparation is the same as for seedlings).

When sowing seeds, scatter them evenly over the surface of the soil. If the seeds are very fine, mix them with maize meal before planting in order to see where they have landed. Thereafter, gently press the seeds into the ground and keep them well-watered. It is advisable to cover the germinating seeds with some kind of protective net to prevent birds from eating them. Most seeds will start to flower about three months after planting.

Tip: If the seeds require a little more care, use seedling soil when preparing the soil.

Working with bulbs 

Soil preparation: The soil should be well-drained and rich in organic matter. It can be prepared in the same manner as seedlings.

Tip: Well-rotted manure can also be added to the soil.

Planting: It is essential that bulbs are planted at the correct time of the year for the best flowering and results. Mass plant bulbs to give a good show of colour. Whether planting in pots or into the ground, use Hadeco Bulb Food when planting as this food contains all the nutrients that bulbs need.

Tip: Any bulbs that are to be planted in pots should be planted in potting soil.

Spring flowering bulbs are available from March until May and include Dutch iris, freesia, hyacinths, daffodils, ixia, sparaxis, anemones, ranunculus, waterblommetjies, leucojums, muscari, chinchirinchees, tritonias and tulbachia. Late May heralds the arrival of the summer flowering liliums, gladiolus, begonias and amaryllis. In August arums and dahlias are available.

Tip: If the bulbs are well-watered and the soil is correctly prepared, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking show of flowers.

GardenShop has stores in Broadacres, Bryanston, FloraFarm, Menlo Park and Parktown North. For more information, visit www.gardenshop.co.za