I AM very fickle when it comes to the months of April, May and June. As April begins I swear she is my favourite month, fresh and full of promise, alive.
But then I soon fall for the charms of May , lush and fertile with her forty shades of green. Again as the sultry and sophisticated June comes around I'm ashamed to say my head is turned once more with thoughts of the vibrant lazier days ahead.
These three months really are the pinnacle of the gardening year in my opinion and it's impossible to favour one over the other they all have so much going for them.
April is all about beginings, and there is nothing that epitomises this more than the sowing of seeds, from tiny acorns mighty oak trees grow. There is something very primal about it. There is a great leap of faith when that tiny grain is sown and we leave nature to take its course. It's quite the most satisfying way to grow and gives a wonderful sense of achievement.
There is a great advert on the television at the moment where a small boy sows some carrot seeds with his father. Out he goes every day checking on the progress, which is disappointingly slow for a young boy. Then up pops one seedling, the only one. He nurtures and cares for the seedling until a mature carrot is formed, a miserable one at that. It is harvested, cooked then carved like the finest sirloin roast and shared amongst the family who all appear to agree it's the finest carrot they have ever tasted.
Light hearted this may be, but the sense of achievement is there for all to see. Most of what we grow from seeds will either be vegetables or bedding plants. These are available in garden centres these days as small plants in plug trays in a selec- tion of varieties, but still limited. By growing from seed you can select colour, varieties and species unavailable otherwise, plus save money.
Plants such as the old fashioned Mignonette and Night scented stock, both sweetly scented annuals that are great grown near a sunny doorway, are difficult to find as small plants. A particular favourite of mine is the sweet pea. They seem to have fallen out of favour in recent years. This is possibly because they require supporting, which perversely is one of the reasons I enjoying growing them.
The construction of a bamboo frame work to support them I find hugely satisfiying and if done carefully is a thing of beauty even before it is hidden by plants later. This form of support can also be used for runner beans which give great return as they crop so heavily.
There are varieties of sweet pea now that are trailing bushes. I haven't grown these but my traditional values make me slightly adverse to the idea of them. Sweet peas are well worth the effort though, their beautiful variations in shade of colour not to mention scent will mean you'll not be disappointed. Cut and bring indoors to really appreciate the fresh summer fragrances.
Dead head for continuous flowering. I tend to sow directly into trays or plug plant trays in seed and potting compost for mostly everything apart from root vegetables. This enables better control over the early germination stage and creates less thinning out than is required when sowing directly into the soil. Creating these small independently rooted plants makes growing on far easier and the issue of weeding far less hazardous.
Most seeds for flowers and vegetables grow fairly
“There is something very primal about it, that great leap of faith when that tiny grain is sown and we leave nature to take its course”
easily, but some hard seeds like sweet peas can benefit from an over-night soaking in water to soften the outer casing. If growing in a greenhouse too hot a temperature can also stop germination although this is only likely to be an issue at the height of summer.
Buying seeds can still work out quite expensive if you are getting a number of packets. Some seeds like begonia which is dust-like are more valuable pound for pound than gold. So consider a seed swap or seedling swap with friends and neighbours.
Inevitably there will be more seeds than you require and hanging on to them for next year may reduce your germination rate.
Making sweet pea supports
Plant of the week: Acacia pravissima
A seed tray and plug plant tray