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This week, Alan Titchmarsh and the ITV Love Your Garden team were in Waltham Abbey, Essex, giving Vanessa Taylor’s garden a welcome makeover. Vanessa was an assistant head teacher at a primary school before she was diagnosed with leukaemia. While undergoing treatment, which included three years of chemotherapy, Vanessa started writing a children’s book.
Vanessa also regularly campaigned to raise awareness of blood cancer and the importance of stem cell donations across all ethnic groups.
Alan’s aim was to create a “calming sanctuary” for Vanessa, who loves yoga, while keeping a trampoline in place for her 12-year-old daughter, Raya.
Alan, with the help of Katie Rushworth, Frances Tophill and David Domoney created an entertainment area, a yoga deck and a writing studio for Vanessa.
The gardening expert also added a central water feature with a plank bridge.
During the show, Frances shared some “simple” rules for looking after houseplants and helping them thrive.
Frances shared what and how to feed your houseplants.
“House plants do need feeding. This is a weeping fig or ficus and it’s quite foliage heavy.
“What I’m going to do for this one is use a slow release fertiliser – this is a granular fertiliser.
“It’s about £3.50 for a pack of 10 so for 35p all I need to do is push this into the soil.
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“It [the plant] only grows through the spring and the summer so that’s when it needs its feeding.
“In the winter, you should never feed your houseplants because they will basically be dormant because it’s a lot colder.
“Give it a water and it will start to release all its nutrients into the soil.”
However, if you have more than a couple of houseplants, you may need to find a cheaper method to feed your houseplants.
Frances said if you have a “jungle” then you may need to invest in liquid feed.
She explained: “A more cost-effective way of feeding your houseplant is using a liquid feed.
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“This is another ficus, this is a rubber plant and it’s really beautiful with big lush leaves which is a good clue it may need some feeding.
“It was £8 for the bottle so I make that about 4p per watering can.
“Pour one teaspoon full in your watering can and that really is a tiny price to pay to keep your houseplants looking their absolute best.”
Alan said the “second rule” to keep your houseplants in top condition is to know when to water them.
For lush, leafy plants you will need to water them at least once a week and less often in winter.
“It’s okay if the top of the compost dries out a little bit,” Frances added.
Frances recommended trying the “finger test” if you’re unsure when to water your houseplants.
Get the tip of your finger and stick it about an inch down into the soil.
If you feel moisture there you don’t need to water them, but if you can’t, then your plants need a drink.
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