If ever there was a time to feel glad that we have a mutual interest in gardening, this is it. Not being able to share our hobby physically at the moment, we can still get on with the myriad jobs of spring, like seed-sowing, herb-growing and fern-titivation………
Calm in the Chaos
Last year’s angst about Brexit seems almost twee by comparison with the fear and anxiety around in this coronapocalyptic atmosphere.
Much has been written recently about the importance of horticulture to enhance well-being. I’m sure that I can’t ever remember a time when I was more grateful for my small garden – a calm, safe, green space to be alone, to watch a robin search for worms, to admire the little chick-rosettes of tulip bulbs nosing through the soil, to feel the onrushing of a spring that cares nothing for hand-sanitisers, or stock-market collapses, or terrified self-isolation.
So I think what I’m really saying is USE your garden/window-box/greenhouse/houseplants as therapy. Whether you must stay at home or you are choosing to, plants can really help to still the turmoil for you.
Sow some microgreens on a windowsill, repot your bathroom aloe vera, do a little weeding, mend a fence, plan a new border or renovate an old one. And if the weather is against you, read a book about gardening, or a magazine or a catalogue. Or even better, look back at past posts on a marvellous gardening blog-site such as ours! Let the natural world soothe you in these troubling times. I’m a big fan of seed-sowing (I think you might have guessed!) because it conveys such a feeling of hope and growth – we Growbags had fun with the subject in a blog a while ago, which includes a tip on what to do with all those bog-roll tubes everyone appears to have been amassing……..
And who knows? It may just be plants that help us out of this crisis in another way in the end – to quote from the Virology Journal Dec. 2014 on the subject: “Plant-made or ‘biofarmed’ viral vaccines are some of the earliest products of the technology of plant molecular farming, and remain some of the brightest prospects for the success of this field.” To quote the name of that wonderfully futuristic Ikea garden at Chelsea last year (stay strong everyone) ‘Gardening will save the World’
Make this the year that you resolve to grow more herbs – culinary, medicinal, or just because they are pretty, smell lovely, are mostly beloved by wildlife, or make fabulous companion-plants to ward nasties away from your precious crops (I feel sure that it was my pots of mint and French marigolds that kept my greenhouse toms and chillies free of whitefly last summer).
You can sow Hardy Annual or Biennial herbs (dill, coriander, chamomile, parsley etc.) now directly on to the soil, and then repeat your sowings a couple more times at 3-weekly intervals to ensure a supply of fresh leaves all summer. You could also sow these seeds indoors ready to plant out later when they are bigger, but don’t try this with chervil or dill because they loathe the transplantation process.
Sow perennial herbs like fennel, rosemary, chives and sage indoors now, ready to harden off and plant out later in the year.
Herbs in pots look great and the root-restriction of a pot is fairly essential for invasive ones like mint or sweet woodruff. If you’ve already got pots of herbs and they are looking a bit manky, take them out, pull apart the congested roots and snip of them off, then re-pot them in some fresh compost and a touch of slow-release fertiliser.
And if you don’t have a garden or a window-box, you can STILL enjoy the magic of herbs. Basil, coriander, marjoram, mint, chives, parsley…..they will all grow happily in little pots on an indoor window-sill as a cut-and-come again crop. Put them in the sunniest place you can find – they can get a bit leggy and flavourless in darker spots. Keep them moist, but not soaking.
- Ferns are a lovely addition to shadier places in your garden (or in a weird stumpery, like Laura’s!), and they look better for a tidy-up at this time. Trim away any old ragged leaves, so that you can enjoy the lovely unfurling of the new croziers.
- Finish cutting back dogwoods, willows etc. so that they are encouraged to make bright new stems from the base.
- Prune out 1 in 3 of the old stems of established blackcurrant bushes especially if they are growing in the middle of the shrub – younger wood carries the heaviest harvests of those delicious berries.
At a recent talk we gave, Laura ran through her top 10 conservatory plants. I don’t think they’re ALL the high-falutin’, ‘broomstick-up-the-bottom’ kind of plants that she normally goes in for, though you’ll have to decide that for yourself. I know that she’ll tell you which passion flower (the lovely ‘Snow Queen’ is our feature picture this week) is best for growing under glass.
She’s written about her ‘Top 10 Conservatory Plants’ explaining how they have earnt their spurs with some tips on how to succeed with them..
WANT TO GROW SOME OF YOUR OWN FOOD?
You’ll find the crash course in veg growing that we created during the Coronavirus pandemic here. We might be over the crisis but with concern over ‘food miles’ and plastic packaging, growing your own veg is still a great project.
In preparation you might like to buy the following (in small amounts – and they’re not expensive!)
- Small sharp spade
- Seed potatoes – ones labelled ‘first’ or ‘second’ earlies
- Onion sets
- Seed packets: broad bean; dwarf green beans; courgettes; squashes; tomatoes, salad leaves.
- Plus: Around three bags of peat-free compost and some little pots – even old yoghurt pots will do.
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