HOW TO GROW AMARYLLIS BELLADONNA


Amaryllis belladonna is a beautiful late summer flowering ornamental bulb native to south and south-west Africa. It is surprising hardy and despite its subtropical origins will survive outside in the milder regions of northern Europe - including the south of England.

How to grow Amaryllis belladonna
They are usually purchased as pre-packed dried bulbs in late spring. They can be planted as soon as the threat of late frost has passed but historically they are usually kept in a cool, dry position until being planted in June or July. Plant them  6-8 inches deep in a well-drained soil making sure that the tops of the bulbs are covered.

Amaryllis belladonna will do best at the foot of a south facing wall where it can receive the maximum amount of heat and light from the summer sun. It will also require a certain amount of protection for the young leaves as they emerge in late winter and early spring.

If left undisturbed, new bulbs will develop and form clumps of plants over a period of years. Despite their long delicate-looking stems they will not require staking. Remove flowers as they die, but allow the stems and leaves to die down before removing.

Amaryllis belladonna has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

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HOW TO GROW AUTUMN CARROTS FROM SEED

Autumn carrots - http://cdn.shopify.com/

The majority of carrot cultivars are direct sown outdoors from March to July and can be cropped 3-4 months later. However there are specific carrot varieties which can be sown in the inset of autumn and harvested in the spring. Perhaps the most popular of these autumn sown varieties is Carrot 'Autumn King 2'.

Image credit - http://awaytogarden.com/
Carrot 'Autumn King 2' is a tried and tested variety which has received its Award of Garden Merit (AGM) from the Royal Horticultural society in 1995. It produces excellent quality roots up to 12 inches long, with a deep rich red colour inside and can be harvested from late summer onwards or left in the ground throughout the winter without fear of splitting.

Autumn sowing carrot varieties are sown July to August but can be sown as late as October. Sow under cloches to protect against attack from carrot fly, the cloche can stay in place as a measure for cold protection over the winter.

Autumn carrots will require a weed free, sunny position in fertile, light, well drained soil. Do not grow carrots in freshly manured soils as they will be prone to fork.

Sow autumn carrot seeds thinly at a depth of ½ inch in drills 12 inches apart, and gently water in. Water well to encourage germination, and in the warm soil you can expect it to be relatively quick taking 10 to 15 days for the first seedlings to emerge. Once germinated, carrots should be watered only when necessary to keep the soil moist. Strangely, excessive watering tend to encourage leafy growth rather than root growth.

Once the seedlings are large enough to handle they can be thinned out within each row to 4 inches apart. Make sure that you remove all thinnings to minimise carrot fly infestation.

Your autumn sown carrots will be ready for harvesting from December onwards. Pull a single carrot first to assess the size of the roots, when they are ready for harvesting watering beforehand as this makes lifting easier.

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HOW TO GROW THE CALIFORNIAN POPPY


The Californian poppy - Eschscholzia californica, is a popular hardy annual native to the United States and Mexico, and is the official state flower of California. It is a dwarfing in habit, has finely cut blue-green leaves, and will grow to between 10 and 50 centimetres in height. It is particularly suitable for garden edging and for rock gardens although it may become invasive overtime.

How to grow the Californian poppy
The Californian poppy is notable for its bright, orange-yellow blooms which are borne in profusion atop of long stalks from June to October. The flowers are saucer-shaped, approximately 3 inches long and followed by 3-4 inch long, blue-green cylindrical seed pods one pollinated. The flowers of the Californian poppy have an interesting habit as the petals are able to open and close depending on the time of day or weather conditions. They will close at night or in cold, windy weather, and will sometimes remain closed in low light levels such as cloudy weather.

They will perform best in poor sandy soils, in a sunny position. They are also suitable for exposed or coastal areas. Like many annuals, if you deadhead the flowers to prevent the seed pods from forming you will encourage further blooms. However this can end up being a rather labour intensive performance.

Californian poppies are easy to grow from seed and can be sown in either September or March in their permanent position outside. September sown stock may require the protection of a cloche over winter unless the site is sheltered and well drained.

 If you are growing the Californian poppy for cut flowers then the stems should be removed from the parent plant at bud stage.

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HOW TO GROW MINT PLANTS

How to grow mint plants- http://dewdropsanddragonflies.blogspot.co.uk/

The common mint - Mentha spicata, otherwise commonly known as spearmint is a hardy aromatic perennial herb. It is native to mainland Europe, including Great Britain, where it is often used fresh or dried to make sauce and jelly to serve with lamb, or to make a refreshing tea.

How to grow mint plants - http://gardenamateur.blogspot.co.uk/
The are best planted as pot grown stock in March or April in a warm, partially-shady position. Mint prefers to grow in a rich, moist soil, however it will happily take in most garden soils including heavy clay. Before planting your mint, prepare the ground earlier in the spring by adding a liberal amount of well-rotted farm manure. During periods of extended drought additional watering will be required to prevent the leaves from scorching.

To maintain a compact habit with plenty of new shoots, pick the leaves regularly.

Mint plants can be prone to being invasive as they have a running root system just below the soil surface. With this in mind you may consider planting new mint plants in a bottomless pot to restrict their spread.

During the spring, clear the surface of the bed of debris and apply a top dressing of well-rotted manure or garden compost. Mint plants have a habit of exhausting the nutrients within the soil and so after a few years their harvest will begin to decline. At this point it is worth planting new stock in a fresh position. Alternatively, older, less vigorous clumps can be rejuvenated by splitting the root ball in half and replanting each section using fresh compost.

Pruning

Some mint species and cultivars can become straggly as they mature, so prune back spent flowered shoots to 5 cm above soil level.

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HOW TO GROW THYME - Thymus vulgaris

How to grow thyme - Thymus vulgaris



The herb thyme - Thymus vulgaris, is a hardy, aromatic, evergreen dwarf shrub, the shoots of which are used as a culinary herb for favouring. Commonly called the 'garden thyme' or 'common thyme', it is native to the Mediterranean regions including north Africa growing wild on mountain highlands

The fragrant leaves dark-green leaves are long and narrow and are used fresh or dried in bouquet garni and in stuffing for rich meat or fish, and in casseroles.

How to grow thyme - Thymus vulgaris
Thyme will grow best in a hot, sunny location in any well-drained soil. It is generally planted in the spring so that it has time to establish its root system before the hot, dry summer months. It will need watering in its first year, especially in the warm summer months and during periods when there is little or no rain. By the second year it should be surprisingly drought resistant. Thyme is also tolerant to salt spray making it suitable for coastal areas.

After it flowering period in June, cut back thyme plants to maintain compact bushy growth, however you may well find that if ignored your plants have become straggly after a couple of years. Unfortunately mature plants do not tend to respond well to pruning so you may wish to consider replacing them with new stock in this instance.

It can be propagated by seed from February to April, heel cuttings in May or June, or by dividing rooted sections in March to April.

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HOW DO YOU GET SUNFLOWER SEEDS OUT OF A SUNFLOWER?

How do you get sunflower seeds out of a sunflower

If you are looking to collect your own sunflower seeds then you need to get organised. The seeds will be ready for harvesting once the flower head has fully dried. If you live in a warm and sunny climate then collecting the sunflower seed is a relatively simple affair as all you really need is a large brown paper bag. To begin with, the bag is placed over the flowerhead and secured at the base. It is there to both protect the drying seeds from being eaten by birds, and to collect the seeds as they begin to naturally drop from the flower head. It should only take a few days from the flowerhead to wilt until it fully dries and is ready for harvesting. Do not use a plastic bag as this will raise the humidity around the flowerhead and can encourage fungal rots to take hold and damage the seed.

How do you get sunflower seeds out of a sunflower
Periodically check the flowerhead because once it has fully dried it will be ready to be removed from the plant for harvesting. There are a number of signs that will tell you when the flower head is ready.

1. The flowerhead will significantly droop on the stem
2. The old petals would have dried up and fallen off.
3. The back of the flowerhead would have turned yellow or brown.
4. The seeds will be hard and would have swollen to their recognisable shape as well as having their trademark black and white stripes.

If you live in a cooler, rain-prone northern European climate then drying out the flower head can take a little longer. This is a problem because sunflower seed heads are notoriously difficult to harvest if they are still moist. The same paper bag technique will apply but it will be done over a longer period of time. This means that it may need to be replaced periodically and if rain is due then you may need the added protection of a plastic bag. Just remember to remove the plastic bag at your earliest convenience.

How do you get sunflower seeds out of a sunflower
If a prolonged period of rain is forecast then it may be necessary to remove the seed head early and bring it in under cover to finish drying off. In this case remove the seed head leaving a good 12 inches of stalk still attached.

Still keeping a brown bag over the seed head, hang it upside-down in a warm, dry and well ventilated position indoors. It will need to be hung a good height above the ground to prevent the seeds from being eaten by rodents.

Once ready, the easiest way to remove the seeds from the seedheads is to rub them together. Alternatively use a metal spoon to scoop them out of the seed head, you may find this to be a particularly satisfying experience. Once collected, rinse the seed in cold water using a colander as this will help to remove any dirt, bacteria or fungal spores that may spoil the seed at a later date. Allow the seed to dry fully on some paper towel before placing in a labelled envelope. Remove any diseased or damaged seed before packaging.

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HOW TO GROW AECHMEA FASCIATA

How to grow Aechmea fasciata



Aechmea fasciata is arguably the most impressive and exotic of all ornamental species from the Bromeliaceae family. However, despite its bizarre appearance it has proven itself to be a popular and robust houseplant. Its alien-like appearance does has other advantages, as one particular Aechmea fasciata specimen has managed to make its way on to the Starship Enterprise where it is featured in Captain Jean-Luc Picard's ready room!

How to grow Aechmea fasciata
Previously known as Billbergia rhodo cyanea, the strange appearance of Aechmea fasciata is all down to the specialist environment within which it grows. It is classed as an epiphyte which means it is a plant that grows non-parasitically upon another plant (in this case a tree), and manages to receive enough its moisture and nutrients directly from the air, or washed down to it from the rain. In the majority of cases, there is plenty of accumulated debris around the roots structure which serve as both a source of fertiliser and water. Epiphytic plants do not take water or nutrients from the structure or plant that they are fastened to. Luckily, you can also grow Aechmea fasciata as a pot plant so long as you give it the right environmental considerations.

Native to the Brazilian rainforest, Aechmea fasciata it is the easiest grown of all Bromeliads and require little attention. As you would expect they will do best in a warm, humid environment that is bright but out of direct sunlight. When grown as a houseplant they will perform best with a temperature range of between from 15-28 degrees Celsius.

Aechmea fasciata are best purchased as side shoots during late spring to early summer. Use sterilized, clean 5 inch pots and plant them firmly into any open textured, lime free compost mixture.

Keep the rosette moist or full of water and water the soil freely over the growing period but do not allow waterlogging. You can apply fertiliser to the foliage using a mist sprayer at a 1/4 of the recommended dose, or directly to the soil using the same dosage rate. A regular dose of fertiliser will only damage the root system. Once the growth slows down in the autumn keep the rosette and the soil. In a dry atmosphere it will be necessary to mist-spray throughout the year to maintain a constantly high humidity.

You may need to periodically rinse entire plant with water as needed to remove any dust that may have built up on leaves. Remove the dead flower rosettes as needed.

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HOW TO GROW SHARON FRUIT - Diospyros kaki

How to grow sharon fruit - Diospyros kaki


Otherwise known as the Japanese persimmon, the hardy Sharon fruit - Diospyros kaki is a deciduous fruit tree rarely grown in the gardens of English, due in part to its strong association with far warmer mediterranean and Asian climates. Be that as it may, it is the most widely cultivated species within the Diospyros genus and is among some of the oldest crops still in cultivation. In fact its use has been recorded as far back as 2000 years in China.

How to grow sharon fruit - Diospyros kaki
The Sharon fruit tree is considered to be either a large shrub or a small tree, and grown for its edible, orange-yellow tomato shaped fruits. The flowers are diecious, not particularly showy, and appear in the spring. The female blooms are a creamy white while the males emerge pink.

However as an ornamental tree is should alway be considered a worthy garden plant if only for the large, exotic and lustrous leaves and their glorious orange-yellow to orange-red and plum-purple coloured autumn-effect foliage. Should you chose to, the brightly coloured fruit can be left unharvested on the tree as a decorative effect. Alternatively harvest the fruits when the skins reach a deep orange colour.

When growing the Sharon fruit in a more northern European garden it will need a sunny position, sheltered from northerly and easterly winds. It will grow best in a deep, moist, slightly acidic and well-drained loamy soil. However while it is surprisingly tolerant of varying soil types, it will prefer moist, sandy soils. Water during its first year, particularly during periods of drought or high temperatures. However once established it is reasonably drought tolerant. Avoid planting Sharon fruit trees in heavy soils or those soils which are prone to waterlogging.

The Sharon fruit is prone to root sucker. These should be removed unless a naturalized effect is desired.

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HOW TO GROW BASIL IN THE GARDEN



Sweet basil - Ocimum basilicum, is one of the most commonly used of all the culinary herbs, especially across Europe and Asia. Of course you can readily purchase basil in the dried section of any supermarket but you will only get that genuine, aromatic flavour if you have picked the leaves fresh from the plant.

Native to subtropical Asia, basil is surprisingly easy to grow, even in northern European gardens. You can either plant pot grown basil plants, or grow your own from seed. Despite its subtropical origins, growing basil in the garden is extremely easy although you will need to treat it as a tender annual. It will be happy in any well-drained soil, and while it will be quite happy growing in full sun it will produce larger, softer leaves in a west facing or partially shaded position.

How to grow basil in the garden
Water the plants during dry weather, but let the soil dry out before you water again. Avoid getting water on the leaves as this can encourage scorching. Avoid over feeding fertiliser as this will encourage the basil to flower.

Flowering is a problem as it will divert the plant's energy away from producing the foliage. The stem will also become woody, and essential oil production will decline.

If you chose to grow your own basil from seed then sow your seed indoors during March in either pots or modular seed trays using a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting'. Do not cover with compost as basil will needs light for germination, although you can give a light dressing vermiculite. Gently water and place on a warm, bright windowsill.

You can sow basil seeds directly outside once the threat of late frosts have passed at the end of May. Sow them 1/2 inch deep in seed drills leaving a 18 inch gap between each drill. Once germinated thin out to the strongest seedling until they are approximately 12 inches apart.

In text image - Simon Eade gardenofeaden@gmail.com
Main film clip - http://www.openfootage.net/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/at/deed.en

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HOW TO GROW THE BLUE DIAMOND IMPATIENS FROM SEED - Impatiens namchabarwensis

HOW TO GROW THE BLUE DIAMOND IMPATIENS FROM SEED - Impatiens namchabarwensis





The Blue Diamond Impatiens - Impatiens namchabarwensis is a gorgeous new species recently discovered in the Namcha Barwa Canyon in Tibet. Unfortunately current availability of the blue diamond impatiens is sparse however it is sometimes possible to purchase seed. Luckily growing the blue diamond impatiens from seed is a relatively simple affair once you have gone past the stratification process.

Blue Diamond Impatiens - http://www.finegardening.com/
As with many things in life it is easy to say but difficult to obtain, but if you can it is best to start with seed that is as fresh as you can get it.

Using 3-4 inch pots, sow the seed immediately on the surface of a good quality soil based compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting', at a rate of 5 seeds per pot. Gently water in by placing the pot in a bowl of water and allowing it to seep up through the compost. Once the compost has changed colour on the surface you can remove the pot from the bowl.  Cover the seed by applying a light covering of horticultural grit or vermiculite on the surface of the pots.

Place the pots in a cool, frost-free position, but do not exclude light. Do not allow the surface to completely dry out and spray with water periodically to both water the compost and maintain humid conditions.

Unlike the usual Impatiens species that you would find in your local plant retailer, Impatiens namchabarwensis can be extremely slow to germinate, even taking several months before the first seedlings emerge.

Once they are of a suitable size you can pot on the seedlings individually into 3-4 inch pots containing a good quality compost such as John Innes 'No2'. You may wish to add some horticultural grit or sand to improve the drainage further. They can be moved to a warm, shady position outside or if there is a risk of frost then keep them under protection. In Mediterranean climates they can be grown outside in full shade, or in cooler northern European countries it will be happy in partial shade so long as it is grown in a rich, damp but well-drained soil. Keep the compost damp through the growing season.

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HOW TO TAKE CUTTINGS FROM THE STRAWBERRY TREE - Arbutus unedo

How to take cuttings from the Strawberry tree - Arbutus unedo



While it is relatively easy to grow the Strawberry tree from seed it can take 2-3 years before you have a plant that is large enough to plant outside. A far quicker method is to take heel cuttings, 3-4 inches long of half ripened wood in July. Give the parent plant a good watering the night before and then take your cuttings early in the morning while it is still cool. Remove the cuttings with a sharp sterilized blade but only when you have your pots and equipment ready to use. If the cuttings are left lying around in the heat they will soon desiccate and failure will be guaranteed. If you have no choice but to hold on to your cuttings for a while before planting then keep them them wrapped in a moist paper towel and keep them in a cool position

How to take cuttings from the Strawberry tree - www.sisef.it/
Prepare new or sterilized 3 inch pots containing a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting'. Alternatively you can mix your own compost using equal parts by volume - moss peat and sand. Dip the cut end of the cutting into a rooting hormone powder, tap off the excess and then using an appropriately sized dibber pre-drill a hole before placing the cutting into the compost. This stops the hormone powder being wiped off when inserting. Gently water and then place the pots into a heated propagator with a bottom heat of 16-18 degrees Celsius.

Once rooted, remove the propagator lid and turn of the heat. Move the young plant to a cold frame and leave for one or two years, potting on as necessary into larger pots containing a good quality compost such as John Innes 'No 2'. The young plants will be ready for transplanting outside into their final position the coming March to May.

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Main image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license - Lucarelli.

THE PERFECT FISH FINGER BREAKFAST SANDWICH RECIPE


The fish finger breakfast sandwich is not only a miracle of nutritional engineering, it is a meal in itself. It is more satisfying than a bacon sandwich and surprisingly the flavours combine to make it superior to almost every other sandwich bar a double whopper with cheese.

It includes all the major food groups (so long as you are happy to ignore the fact that it doesn't contain all of the major food groups), and it can improve brain function*. More importantly it can cure almost all common ailments* and actually make you more attractive to the opposite sex, but only if the members of the opposite sex are attracted to fish breath. Did I mention that it is also suitable for vegetarians? Vegans need not bother reading any further.

The ingredients are specific otherwise you will loose the effect of the flavour combination.

4 x proper Cod fish fingers, not those naff fish fillet jobbies
2 x slices of soft, white, freshly made farmhouse bread
2 x large dollops of chunky tartar sauce, Asda extra special is one of the best
1 x egg
1 x enough cheese to cover 1 x slice of bread
3 x dobs of butter
3 x tablespoons of olive oil

Instructions

Place the olive oil and 1 x dob of butter into a frying pan and bring to heat. The reason for the butter/oil mix is that it will give a crispier coat to the fish fingers. Place the fish fingers into the pan and turn the heat down to almost low so that they are gently spitting. It takes about 15 minute to properly cook fish fingers, turn them over every five minutes.

While the fish fingers are cooking you can prepare the rest of the sandwich. Butter each slice of bread with its own dob of butter, then spread both slices with a decent coating of tartare sauce.

Now fry up the egg.

Position the cheese on one slice of bread and then add the fried egg. Now wait for the fish fingers to finish cooking.

Once cooked, add the fish fingers to the slice of bread which has the cheese and egg on it and then place the other slice of bread, tartar side down, on the fish fingers. Cut the sandwich in half and garnish with a sprig of parsley. Now enjoy the taste sensation that is the perfect fish finger breakfast sandwich.

Not fancy or tangy enough for you?

If you are feeling that your sandwich still requires a little something then I do have a recent upgrade that I have layered onto my recipe - a layer of sliced gurkins between the eggs and the fish fingers. So there you have it, the perfect fish finger breakfast sandwich.

* research has shown that the fish finger breakfast sandwich can not do these things, and is a misrepresentation of the facts. In fact, all facts and opinions presented in this article may be a bit wobbly.

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Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor'

Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor'



Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor' is a gorgeous, small growing succulent native to Mexico. Growing to no more than 60cm height and 60-100 cm wide it is a surprisingly tough specimen. Pot grown specimens tend to grow no more than 30 cm in height and 30-45 cm wide. Despite its size Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor' is capable of withstanding temperatures as low as - 10 degrees Celsius! In fact there are reports of them surviving even lower temperatures however the condition that there in afterwards was not mentioned.

Commonly know as the Quadricolor Century Plant, it produces dark green leaves up to 8 inch long, each one edged with yellow and a pale green mid-stripe. As a contrast the yellow marginal stripes are highlighted by dark reddish teeth, which will also flush red when grown in conditions of bright light giving the leaf four distinct colour zones.

Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor'
It will take several years for Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor' to bloom Flowering beings with the emergence of a tall green stalk which can reach 4 metres tall in will specimens. The top of the stalk produces greenish-yellow flowers and with most Agaves, each plant will only flower once, after which it will die soon afterwards.

In northern European climates, plant Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor' in either full sun or bright, filtered light. In warmer temperate regions or even sub-tropical to tropical conditions it is best to keep them sheltered from the full strength of the summer sun. Like most other agaves, Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor' will need to planted in a well-drained soil. If you can provide it, low nutrient, sandy soils will provide ideal conditions. They will tolerates dry conditions but will grow much faster with regular watering over the summer irrigation. Reduce watering over the autumn and then just keep moist, allowing the top couple of inches to soil to dry out before watering again. Keep it too wet and you are at risk of losing your plant from fungal root rots.

You will not need to feed Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor' as you would regular garden plants, in fact doing so can deform its habit and soften the leaves making them prone to insect and fungal damage. Be that as it may you can feed once every few weeks over the growing season with a low nitrogen fertiliser, or half dose regular fertiliser.

Pot grown specimens should be planted in a good quality potting compost such as John Innes No.2, although you can consider mixing additional horticultural grit or sand to improve the drainage further. Use preferably a porous terracotta pot when potting up, one that is no wider than 12 inches. Any wider and you may encounter problems when moving the plants to make the most of the seasonal temperatures due to its weight.

Over the summer place pot grow specimens outside in a sunny position, but one once they have been hardened off for a week or so. In the winter, bring Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor' back into a protected environment once temperatures start to drop below 5 degrees celsius.

Propagation is from offsets from the base of the plant.

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HOW TO GROW THE STRAWBERRY TREE FROM SEED

How to grow the Strawberry tree from seed



The Strawberry tree is a gorgeous, small, evergreen tree that is noted for its unusual strawberry-like fruits. usually propagated from cuttings, the Strawberry tree can be rather expensive to purchase but if you can get hold of ripened fruit then you have an excellent chance of growing your own stock of Strawberry trees from seed.

THE STRAWBERRY TREE
You should sow Strawberry tree seeds when they are fully ripe, usually in March. Use a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting' or create your own using 2 part moss peat and 1 part lime-free horticultural sand. Sow the seeds in pans, or large modular trays, water in and then place inside a cold frame.

Once the seedlings have emerged, they can be pricked out, but be careful so as to reduce any damage to the root systems. Plant these on onto individual 3-4 inch pots using John Innes 'No 2', gently water in and place back into the cold frame for another year or so.

The young plants will be ready for transplanting into their final positions in May to March. They will require a sunny sheltered position away from cold northerly or easterly winds. They are happy in an ordinary well-drained, but moist soil, but they will perform best in alkaline soils.

While young plants will benefit from some winter protection, the Strawberry tree will become progressively hardy as it matures.

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Main image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license - Lucarelli.