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giving plugs some space

Plug Plants
Why to grow them and how to handle them
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plugs grown on and ready to plant in final positions

Busy Lizzie Accent Mixed F1"Plug plants"  or just "plugs" are the names given to small module grown plants that can represent great value for money.

Impatiens walleriana Bedding Supreme - PlantsYou will need:

  • Plug plants - Buy plug plants
  • Seed trays
  • Multi purpose compost
  • Plant labels if required
The picture to the right shows a block of 84 busy lizzie plants that takes up less space than a standard sized seed tray.

The great advantage of buying plants in this way is that germination - the most difficult part of growing some varieties from seed has been done for you in ideal conditions by the grower. Correct germination temperatures, humidity and water levels can be difficult to achieve at home without propagation equipment. Even if you do have these things, the cost of seed in the small quantities needed by the home gardener can mean little if any cost saving and significant savings in effort.

They are not no-effort however and you should prepare for dealing with plug plants before they arrive. Plugs can be bought from garden centres, online and even from the supermarket.

They are usually sold at the point where they are just ready to pot on to be given more space and compost to grow in. So they need dealing with in this manner within a few days maximum of them arriving with you at home. Leave them any longer and they will start to grow leggy and weak.

A small tray of plugs will need a lot of space when potted on, make sure you have the room for them. These 84 plugs will completely fill these 3 seed trays.

As I received these half-hardy busy lizzie plugs in March which was far too soon for them to go outside, I did what I usually do in plant them into seed trays. This gives them room and nutrients to grow before planting them into their final containers for the summer later on in May.

You could plant them directly into their final containers as long as you have the space to keep them protected under cover until it is safe to put them outside. I have lots of containers and restricted space for protection so I go for this intermediate stage. It also works well to grow the plants on if they will eventually be planted into your soil in beds.

Fill the trays to within 1cm of the top with multi-purpose compost.

The plants are small and delicate, pulling from the foliage can result in separating top growth from roots if you're unlucky! Soak the plugs in water for half an hour or so before removing them to soften the compost they are in.

Tilt the tray up and gently squeeze the bottom of the plug to loosen it, it may then start to fall out or can be readily pulled from above without fear of damage. If it's a bit stubborn squeeze in one direction and then in the other.

You'll need to do some sums before you start to make sure you have enough space for the plugs to be planted into. I have 84 here which is 3 seed trays of 28 plants. Each tray has 4 rows of 7 which is 28 plants. make a hole in preparation with your finger, gently place the plug into the hole and then push the compost together with your fingers.

When you have filled your seed trays, the young plants should be watered. I recommend that you use tap water for this first watering rather than rain water from a butt. Water in butts will build up bacterial and fungal spores that are gathered in the run-off and also from organic material that gets in the butt. While larger plants prefer rain water and cope with this, it's best not to make life more difficult than needs be at this stage for these transplanted and somewhat traumatised young plans.

I prefer to water from below rather than above as it disturbs the compost the least.

I use my wheelbarrow for this purpose. Fill it to a depth of 2 inches or so with water and carefully place the tray of plants in it. It will float to begin with and then slowly sink, keep an eye on it though I've never had one go below the water level! They sit with the water level with the compost. Lift the tray out and place it on the ground to drain fully before placing it in a bright protected place such as a frost-free greenhouse or similar.

The plants can be put in their final positions by the beginning of May.

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