Canal Boat - - Boater’s Break - with Julie Clark

Yes, I can just hear it. The start of a rus­tle in the seed tin – and I hope it is not mice! Spring will be here soon and we will be able to get back to boat­ing and our pas­sion of rooftop gar­den­ing.

Early spring on my boat is the time to do an en­gine ser­vice, wash down all to get rid of the win­ter grime and start re­ally plan­ning what I want to grow this year. I have trips planned and fes­ti­vals to at­tend so I want my boat to look its best and have a few flow­ers and plants es­tab­lished.

The huge ad­van­tage of con­tainer gar­den­ing is that you don’t have to worry about crop ro­ta­tion and soil-born pests and dis­eases. All you need is a strong con­tainer with a min­i­mum depth of 15cms, ad­e­quate drainage, good qual­ity com­post and you’re away. It re­ally does not mat­ter if you have beau­ti­fully painted troughs or just an old bucket – al­most any­thing will do.

I like the plas­tic troughs which are self wa­ter­ing, they are eas­ily wa­tered down a side tube keep­ing com­post moist at all times dur­ing the warmer months – re­mem­ber them? This is an easy way to both wa­ter and feed your plants. Con­tain­ers can also be started off at home if you don’t live on your boat and brought along when they are ready for your planned hol­i­day.

As March ap­proaches some va­ri­eties of veg­eta­bles can be sown out­side for an early crop. Car­rots are a good choice to start with; se­lect the short rooted va­ri­eties such as Royal Chante­nay or Burpees Short ‘N Sweet or try globe va­ri­eties like Parmex and Paris Mar­ket – all ex­tremely tasty va­ri­eties whether eaten cooked or raw.

French beans can also go in now and there are sev­eral dwarf va­ri­eties to choose from. I like to grow the black or pur­ple va­ri­eties which are not dwarf but can be kept small by prun­ing and yes, they do still pro­duce plenty of beans.

Many va­ri­eties of herbs can also be set now in­clud­ing pars­ley, chives and co­rian­der which are all sur­pris­ingly hardy. Sow herbs again in a month or two to en­sure a con­tin­u­ous crop of sweet young leaves.

It is not all about veg­eta­bles in March, sev­eral va­ri­eties of an­nual flow­er­ing plants can also be sown in­clud­ing sweet peas, sun­flow­ers and stocks. Try a pot full of night-scented stock with their tiny four-petalled pink­ish flow­ers, not too spec­tac­u­lar to look at but wait un­til the evening when they will fill the air with their sweet, heady fra­grance. A tough of magic added to a warm evening.

Hope­fully you planted up some spring bulbs last au­tumn be­cause they should be com­ing into their own by now and show­ing us that win­ter is pass­ing and I, for one, will be very pleased to see the back of it.

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