As plants grow, so do their needs and their desire to outcompete their neighbours. As I mentioned above, it is still a little early to plant out any bedding plants you may have raised from seed or have just bought from the garden centre, but in the meantime, make sure they have plenty of space and light all around them.
I appreciate that windowsill space or room in your greenhouse is probably at a premium, but if you can move pots of plants from one tray and space them out into two trays, they will be much happier and stronger when it comes to planting out at the end of the month.
Two projects to plan
Ground cover plants for shade
It can be very frustrating to find that the majority of plants need fertile, free-draining soil in full sun. Most of us have areas of deep shade that are dry and inhospitable.
But don’t give up – may I bring to your attention the charms of Epimediums. They are tough, ground-covering plants for “problem” places, which gently spread via underground stems and form mats of heart-shaped, evergreen leaves with delicate flowers in the spring. Epimedium x rubrum, with crimson and yellow flowers, is a good “doer”.
Trim old leaves to the ground at Christmas to promote fresh spring foliage and you’ll see the flowers more clearly, too.
How to water seedlings
If you are a bit erratic when it comes to watering, and your seed trays go from a hot, dry desert to a flood following a tidal wave, then you will probably notice some damping off. This is a fungal condition that causes seedlings to collapse and rot. For more detail, visit rhs.org.uk.
Here is my tip: invest in a large tray into which you can pop seed trays (full of compost and seedlings). Fill the outer tray with water so that it comes half way up the seed tray – this allows the compost to gently absorb the water.
Remove the tray of seedlings after half an hour. The compost will only absorb what it needs and your seedling leaves will remain dry. I lose very few seedlings using this method.
Tom Brown is head gardener at West Dean Gardens, West Sussex