ESSENTIAL GARDENING : By Jake Coltman

THE secret to a successful show with bedding plants is to feed and provide ample moisture. Well in this gardening season so far the latter has been amply catered for by the heavens opening with some really heavy downpours.

Even thought feeding may have been added to a bed or border prior to planting last month, the rain will have weakened much of it. Multi-purpose composts bought for use in containers have feed incorporated but again this will be affected by th excessive rain, and actually, in any year it only last for about four to six weeks.

To keep plants thriving and rewarding the purchaser, feeding is really necessary. Adding a soluble feed to a can of water is all it takes and there is quite a range of these on the market, including Miracle-Gro and Phostrogen, and applying every seven to 14 days.

The best time to feed plants (and this applies to watering as well, should it be necessary), is in the evening when both the nutrients and moisture will be of the greatest benefit to plants.

Watering should never be done at the height of the day when the sun is shining – should that ever happen in abundance this summer! Watering in the sun when plants are in full flower also damages the blooms.

In a mixed border the foliage is now at its most prolific and, if planting has been carefully selected, there should be plenty of interest in both colour and form.

Shrubs and hardy herbaceous perennials also benefit from feeding and this is the time to do it.

A granular feed such as Growmore or bone meal applied around each plant and forked in will give them a boost. Should it not rain for a few days, it is best to water it in. Alternatively, a soluble feed can be used and is equally beneficial.