• Sunday, January 31st, 2010
Planning my sowings for spring is one of my favourite activities in the winter time. It’s been too cold to dig my vegetable plot, and the new seed catalogues have arrived full of new ideas for growing flowers and vegetables. One newcomer in the 2010 seed catalogues is the sweet potato, which is available as cuttings or slips. Last year sweet potatoes were very much in fashion with gardening tv presenters like Joe Swift keen to give them a try on his new allotment plant.
Unfortunately it strikes me that the sweet potato cuttings are rather expensive so I shall wait until next year when they have become a more widely grown crop.
I’ve been scouring through my seed boxes and I still have a wide selection of flowers and vegetables which I shall use again this year.
I intend to start sowing later in the year. Chilli seeds can already been sown in February but since we still have negative temperatures in the garden I fear that my window sills are too cold for germination.
I have also pencilled in broad beans, peas, and sweet peas in the coming months, to be followed by tomato seeds which I will start off indoors. I may also sow a few passion flower seeds which develop into an exotic climber. And garlic is also next on the agenda. There is still plenty of time to consider all the other seeds that I would like to grow during the month of February.
Early spring is calling already with the first few lesser celandines starting to sprout from the snow (I have spotted a few growing in at the back of the university colleges in Cambridge). For now I am enjoying the yellow hyacinths which I forced back in autumn and which are signaling the gardening joy of the months to come.
• Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
At the peak of summer, August is when we’d rather make the most of the holiday season or just relax in the garden, however there are still a few seeds that can be sown this month.
In particular I need to grow more lettuce and with the current rainy weather it’s not going to be to hard to grow the following seeds:
Lamb’s lettuce: I grew some lamb’s lettuce last year and I find that it is a useful lettuce to grow through the winter months. It is fairly resistant to cold weather and although right now you may have a lot of vegetables available from your garden, it’s good to have something for the colder bleaker months to come.
Radicchios: this is a variety of chicory with red leaves which can be mixed with other type of lettuces to add a bit of interest to any salad. It’s not to everybody’s taste but worth a try as a change.
Christmas potatoes: I am considering growing some Christmas potatoes because my current harvest of potatoes does not look as bountiful as last year. And I do enjoy having a large supply of home-grown potatoes which I store in a dark and cool area of my shed.
I will probably buy specific winter varieties from catalogue or online. Apparently you can plant these in containers or pots late August – early September. more…
• Wednesday, July 01st, 2009
This month you can continue to grow your own vegetables in your garden and I recommend the following July sowings:
Beetroot: there’s still time to grow beetroots in your garden. They tend to be a slow growing vegetable from my experience.
Lettuce: I am currently growing an Oriental mixed lettuce selection which includes Pak Choi, Cima di rapa, Red mustard, Mizuma and Rocket lettuce. This is supposed to be an imaginative salad blend for people who are looking for an alternative to the usual salad leaves with new textures, colours and tastes.
I have not tried these before so hopefully this is a tasty and slow-to-bolt selection of lettuce. And it looks like I just need to harvest the young salad leaves as required.
Carrots: they tend to prefer light soil so you may need to prepare the bed before sowing and since the last few weeks have been fairly hot they will need a good soaking to get started too.
Herbs: basil, coriander, and lots of other lovely herbs to accompany any barbecue delicacy. I had lost my first lot of basil sowings because of the slugs but my second sowing is now doing well.
Beans: this is my third sowing of beans and this time I am trying a different variety from the Alan Titchmarsh Organic dwarf green beans range. Hopefully this one will be more prolific than the current variety which is currently in bloom in my garden and which I mention in my previous post about what to do in the garden now.
How about sowing a few flowers too:
Honesty : I have never grown these but I chose Honesty because this flower seems to be quite popular in cottage gardens. They look fairly basic but the faded pods look so nice in autumn and according to the packet the flowers are scented too.
Wallflowers: it may seem a bit too early to start thinking about spring but you actually need to sow your wallflowers now. They are best sown in pots as opposed to outdoors. The advantage of growing them from seeds is that you can actually choose the variety and in particular I am fond of the chocolate coloured type.
Blue poppy: also known as Meconopsis – I know that they are difficult to grow and they are fairly expensive to buy from nurseries. I tried sowing some blue poppies last year but failed to see any germination so I need to follow the instructions more closely this time.
• Thursday, May 28th, 2009
One of my favourite gardening months: June, and there’s still time for some more outdoor sowings. Most of my sowing activity took place last month but I intend to have a go at the following seeds:
Nasturtiums: are so easy to sow directly in the ground, and do best in poor soil.
The flowers and leaves are edible in salad but since they have quite a peppery taste I think it’s best to mix them with other types of lettuces if you want to jazz up your salad.
This week I also want to have a go at taking cuttings from the geraniums which I sowed earlier in the year. I’ve never done geranium cuttings before but it would be useful to make a few additional plants to use in my patio pots or flower border. I did however make some delphinium cuttings last month and they seem to have grown roots nicely.
Carrots (Amsterdam 2 Sweetheart variety): there is still time to sow some carrots. I prefer to grow them in my raised bed since it allows me to fill the bed with a lighter soil structure made of sand, compost and more refined soil.
Snap peas: home-grown peas are so delicious that I even eat them raw! (likewise this year I have tried eating garden-grown Fresh asparagus and it tasted great).
More basil: the slugs had the better of my last sowing of basil. Sowing basil now means that it should be still be ready in good time for my first crop of home-grown tomatoes which it accompanies nicely in salads.
Busy potting, planting and feeding plants, I shall make the most of the longest days of the year before we leap into summer.
• Tuesday, April 28th, 2009
Many flowers and vegetables can be sown safely outdoors in May as the risk of frost is diminishing. Last month I made a lot of indoor sowings of plants which I currently have sheltered in my greenhouse and should be going out gradually by mid May. This includes tomatoes, chilies as well as a wide range of flowers such as cleomes and geraniums.
Below is a list of plants which are easy-to-grow and I shall start sowing most of them outdoors in May if the weather allows it.
- Outdoor sunflowers: bring a bit of sunshine in your garden with tall sunflowers. May is a better month to grow them outdoors. I did sow some sunflowers seeds in my greenhouse in April but they did not germinate and it looks like a slug ate the tender shoots.
- Love-in-a-mist: easy to grow annuals usually available in shades of blue and pink.
- Sweet peas can be planted outside and trained to climb on a bamboo wigwam for example. Mine are already out.
• Friday, March 27th, 2009
Outdoor sowings can really get started in April and I have already started to sow the following flower seeds in my garden which are annuals:
Clarkia: this elegant cottage flower is one of my favourite annuals. It reminds me of my childhood in the garden when I was as tall as the flowers and enjoyed walking through the flower border.
Otherwise hardy annuals like nasturtium, lavatera, and calendula can also be sown in April. In fact, I noticed this morning that calendulas from last year had self seeded and started to grow near my greenhouse!
I shall probably wait until the next sunny week end to sow more annual flowers. Unfortunately it’s been raining here and it is now cold but soon I shall sow these flowers: Phlox; and Californian Poppies – these are so easy to grow and self seed so you usually benefit from free flowers the following year.
Vegetable seeds to sow outdoors:
Potatoes: now is a good time to start planting your potato tubers. I have already sown some of my potatoes as you can see in my last growing potatoes update but I haven’t sown the Desiree maincrop variety yet.
I have also just sown some carrots (Amsterdam forcing variety), parsnips and Kale (black Tuscany variety) in my raised bed.
• Wednesday, March 04th, 2009
This was probably the discovery of the year 2008: curly kale. I had never cooked it or grown it before and the idea came about when I watched a television cooking programme.
Curly Kale Seeds
Also, I like to try new vegetable seeds every year and since the purple curly kale seeds were on offer with Thompson & Morgan I thought I did not have much to lose (69p).
It has always been a bit of a challenge for me to grow vegetables from the brassica family (i.e. any cabbage related plant) since wild rabbits regularly devour them. And my cabbages have also suffered greatly from the white butterfly caterpillar.
I seem to remember that it was Jamie Oliver who suggested cooking curly kale in a very simple way by blanching it and then frying it in olive oil with garlic and chilies. Now the taste is absolutely superb, it has a fresh mineral flavour and it accompanies any other vegetable such as potatoes really well. It’s really worth growing!
Since then, I have bought curly kale from supermarket but the taste is not as good as the home-grown one.
This year I plan to try the Tavola Nero kale since other chefs have recommended its great taste too.
If you have any tips that you would like to share for growing cabbages successfully I would love to hear from you.
• Saturday, February 28th, 2009
March is the month when the sowing activity really picks up for me. Already I feel like spring is just around the corner since I have noticed this morning that the crocuses are out; although my daffodils don’t look like they will be ready for St David’s day which is tomorrow.
Now is the time when a lot of seeds can be sown indoors on a warm and light windowsill ready to be potted next month and then transferred to the garden once we have had our last frost.
I have already started to sow a few seeds over the last two weeks however the majority of the flowers and some of the vegetables that I grow will be sown in March.
I have purchased most of my seeds online and selected carefully the following seeds which I will sow in this month:
- Marigolds : my old favourite, easy-to-grow seeds, perfect for the front of the border, and useful companion planting for tomato plants
- Tomatoes: I sow various varieties but I particularly like to grow cherry tomatoes because they ripen quicker in our variable British climate
- Cosmos: charming tall flowers which remind me of my childhood in the garden
- Sweet peas: easy to grow and right now there is still time to sow a few of these lovely climbers. You may want to soak the seeds in water beforehand prior to sowing them in a pot as it helps with germination.
Also, I have already started to sow some pea seeds in modules in my greenhouse. I tried sowing peas that way last year and it worked well for me. Since the modules are sheltered in the greenhouse, the peas tend to grow quicker than in the cold ground and suffer less from the bad weather. You can do the same with beans.
My top tip: if like me you grow peas, beans or sweet corn in modules/pots in your greenhouse, make sure that you protect the seeds by covering them with a protective plastic lid otherwise the mice will make a meal of it!
• Friday, February 06th, 2009
I am so eager to get started and leap into Spring that I tend to start my sowing too early and every year I make the same mistake. So my resolution each year is to not start tomato seeds in particular too early because the plants get leggy and take longer to get started in the ground.
Chilli de Cayenne seeds
Garden centres and shops are partially responsible as they start displaying plants and seeds too early. Potato seeds have been available since early January and in my personal opinion that is too early even if you are planning to chit early varieties. In fact looking at the cold weather that we have just experienced, I wonder if Spring is going to come as early as it did last year. So as far as spuds are concerned I have waited until last week – early February - to buy and start chitting my early variety potato seeds. I plan to purchase my main crop variety a bit later.
This is what I am currently sowing indoors:
- Chillies – are so easy to grow even for beginners and are an essential ingredient of curries and other exotic dishes.
- Geraniums – I have chosen a new variety called Moulin Rouge F1 hybrid by T&M which comes in vibrant red. Geraniums are worthwhile growing from seed since they can be expensive if you buy them as fully grown plants from garden centers.
- Portulaca – I have never grown these before but I chose them because they like a sunny spot and seem to stand the drought more than most plants I know. I have just noticed that the seeds are really tiny so I guess it’s going to be a challenge to grow these.
I may also grow a few cauliflower seeds if I have enough space in the sowing tray.
It feels so good to grow-your-own. Hopefully you will join me too in the sowing frenzy!
My top tip: I recommend sowing the right amount of plants that you need plus a few more just in case germination does not work so well (for whatever reason that it may be). In the case of chilli plants, they have been so popular over the last 2 years that I would recommend growing a few more just for your friends and because the chilli plants also look good!
Was it tip-top for you? Please leave a comment – thank you!