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Welcome to our Head Gardener’s Journal

In this monthly column, we will share technical aspects of our work and also keep you up to date about ongoing projects. If there is any topic you might want to hear more about, please ask during your next visit!

No more watering cans!

Feeding plants is really important to maintain healthy plant growth, promote flowering and fruiting and reduce susceptibility to pest and disease attacks. Feeding with a liquid fertiliser is a great way of controlling plant nutrition as the feed can be tailored to each plant’s specific requirements. However, this often means mixing the fertiliser in watering cans and lugging them around the garden to each plant. With hundreds of plants spread across 8 acres this was often a very time consuming tasks. This is why during the winter we invested in a new gadget to help us with our liquid feeding at Morton Hall called a Dosatron.

The Dosatron is connected to a tap and a hose pipe and as the water passes through it mixes feed into the water from a concentrate solution sitting below the Dosatron. As the water passes through the Dosatron it sucks up liquid feed from the concentrate solution mixing it with the water at a desired rate that can be altered depending on the requirements of the plant that is being fed. This means that we can water plants with a hosepipe with the liquid feed mixed in and the Dosatron has already been very useful in the short time that we have been using it!

The Dosatron in use.

Every year we grow around 450 summer flowering annuals from seed in our greenhouses which are then planted out in the borders in the planting pockets vacated by our tulips. These include Echium vulgare ‘Blue and White Bedder’, Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’, Zinnia ‘Giant Purple Prince’, Cosmos ‘Sonata Mix’ and Cleome ‘White and Violet Queen’. Each plant needs to be grown to the desired size in time for the changeover week where we remove the tulips from the beds and plant out the annuals in their place, and this is where the Dosatron came in handy. We used a high nitrogen feed to promote green growth to make sure that the annuals got to the desired size in time for planting out in the borders at the end of May.

Summer flowering annuals flowering in the South Garden.

Due to the flexibility of the Dosatron we were then able to switch over to a high potassium liquid feed to promote flowering and fruiting after planting which we are now using to bring the annuals into flower in our borders and in our pots and to feed the tomatoes and soft fruit to encourage them to produce a good display of flowers and also some tasty fruits.

But this has not been the only use for the Dosatron. At Morton Hall, we have a large collection of calcifuge plants including Camellia, Rhododendron and Hydrangea. As we are growing them on soil with a neutral pH, every month we feed them with sequestered iron which ensures that there is sufficient iron available to the plants to promote flowering and improve leaf colour as there would be when growing them in acidic soil. Historically this was done by diluting the concentrate solution in a watering can and walking around the garden feeding each calcifuge plant individually. However, using the Dosatron now means that it can be connected to the mains water points around the garden and each plant can be fed more quickly using a hose pipe with the sequestered iron mixed in.

Camelia and Rhododendron flowering in the Stroll Garden

We are excited to see what other uses the Dosatron will have and are looking forward to it continuing to help us grow healthy and happy plants in the garden.