Everything in the garden has grown about a foot in the last week! The great spring push is definitely on now, even in the far North of Scotland where I spent a lovely few days with the youngest Growbag 🐣 in her new Highland home and garden from her.
The Natural World is surging forward, and so must we, attending to tasks like growing some edibles and sowing some half-hardy annuals for summer zing…
Try growing something you can eat!
I am a unfortunately novice veg-grower compared with many of my friends (plus Laura’s husband Tim and our Growbags brother Mike) They all have THE most jaw-dropping patches full of luscious purple cavolo nero, waving sweet corn, and 8 different sorts of beans. Their vegetable garden is their pride and joy, and quite rightly so. I basically can’t find the time, inclination or indeed skill to be that dedicated, even though I’m in awe of their gorgeous produce.
But I do grow a few simple edibles and if you have never tried it, I would URGE you to do the same. The pleasure of picking something for the family to eat that evening is truly worth the small amount of hassle. In these cost-conscious times, you can really save yourself a lot of money, by sowing some veg seeds or buying little plug plants and growing them to harvesting size.
Dig over a small sunny patch of soil – you only need about 4′ x 8′ (1.2mx 2.4m) to grow plenty of things. Take out the weeds and stones, and improve the soil by digging in some good compost. No soil available? Use pots, window-boxes, fabric planters, anything with drainage holes will work fine.
Then just HAVE A GO! Start off the seeds of tender things like courgettes, tomatoes and French beans inside, but hardier plants like salads, peas, rocket, pak choi, carrots, beetroot and radishes can go straight into the soil. (Shove a finger down into the soil about an inch (2-3 cm) – if it doesn’t feel chilly, you can get going with the sowing or planting) .
Follow instructions on the packets about spacing etc. and keep the plants watered. Being able to protect them from marauding pigeons, squirrels etc. with netting is extremely useful (at least, it is round here). Sow a new crop as each one is harvested, to keep your harvest going through the summer.
In your first season you won’t produce anything to rival my mate David’s veg patch (unless you’re a gardening GENIUS) – and I am personally never going to get there! But growing some simple edible goodies in the garden is a wonderfully satisfying and money-saving pastime. Please do try it.
For lots more detail of the whys and wherefores of beginner veg growing, look at the course we brought out in 2020 during the pandemic, or the accompanying book in our shop. Links at the end.
Easy Pelargonium cuttings
Have you got some leggy old pelargoniums that you still love, but are looking tatty now? I certainly have. This is the time to cut them back into shape, and you can use that material to make cuttings that will root very readily.
Take off healthy shoots by cutting immediately above a leaf. Strip off any lower leaves, and tuck your cuttings, four to a pot, into very gritty compost. Water the compost but not the leaves, and keep the pots in a warm place (a heated mat is perfect if you have such a thing) until you see signs of new growth.
Potting on the toms
My seedling tomatoes have outgrown their first little pots and are now ready to move on into larger ones. I have checked that this is the case because their roots are beginning to poke through the holes at the bottom of the pots.
I put compost mixed with vermiculite at the bottom of a larger pot, tip the tomato plant out into my hand and place it into the new container. I then tuck more compost around the plant, burying the stem right up to the first (seedling) leaves – this is because the plant will make more roots from the buried stem and you’ll end up with a stronger plant.
A nice drink of water to settle the roots and then positioned back in their bright indoor spot – the job’s done, and we can move on to the next one! I made a short video of the process – link at the end.
- If you have a nice warm spot or propagator indoors, sow some half-hardy annuals now for color in high summer – zinnias, morning glory (ipomoea) Amaranthus caudatus, thunbergia….. – all will make a gorgeous splash which can last right up until the first frosts of next winter.
- Indulge me for a minute – just writing that last entry, made me think again about botanical Latin, and its superb way of telling you what a plant is like or where it likes to grow. ‘caudatus‘ means ‘tailed’ – precisely what an Amaranthus flower looks like. The accuracy can be mind-blowing – botanical Latin dictionaries give FIFTY different words for white – snowy-white (levels), chalky-white (cretaceous) etc. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Amaranthus is Ancient Greek for ‘not fading’, which certainly applies to many of this species. Isn’t that brilliant! Sorry, these old Classics teachers just can’t help themselves sometimes!
- Caroline and I bought delightfully cheap camellias from Lidl last month, but there’s no way that I can grow mine in my light chalky soil – its leaves would turn sickly yellow, and it would eventually just turn up its toes in disgust. Camellias are acid-lovers, as are trilliums, Pieris, most magnolias and heathers and lots of other plants. So I will be growing it in a large pot filled with specially-mixed ericaceous compost, and hope that it will find a very happy home there.
Here’s our course on growing edibles which proved so popular during the pandemic.
This is our little book on veg growing which is on offer at the moment.
This is my short video about potting on tomatoes
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