So gardening is getting competitive. How exciting. More and more people are sharing my passion for gardening on their boats and not allowing the lack of obvious space to put them off. Canal and River Trust is launching the Boats in Bloom Campaign and, I hope, this will encourage everyone to make a special effort this year and give gardening a go.
I always give my boat a good spring clean, those spiders really do leave a lot of mess, but as soon as it is all clean and tidy my eyes are turned to my compulsive collecting of plastic trays and containers – usually fished out of the bin! It is seed sowing season, especially if you are developing a competitive streak, and old fruit and meat trays, yoghurt pots, loo rolls and plastic bottles make the ideal containers for sowing seeds in, then when they are done, they can be recycled back into rubbish. No space wasted on my boat! Make sure you make drainage holes in the base and use good seed compost; you can even place a clear tray over the top to create mini propagators, again make holes for ventilation to prevent seedlings from damping off.
It is time to plant all sorts of vegetables now, don’t use the whole packet of seed all at once; some crops need a successive of planting such as salad crops, annual herbs, radish and carrots, this ensures they don’t all mature at once. Give your seedlings space to mature by thinning them out, enabling them to grow nice and big, essential for radish and carrots. You can always do a bit of seed swapping or give away your excess plants.
Annual flower seed can also be planted now as long as there is a little warmth in the air and by around the middle of May most areas should be frost-free so instead of opting for the usual bedding selection, why not try for something a little more exotic this year? I know height is a big issue, but many of our flowering annuals are just as happy trailing as growing up a trellis. Morning Glory (Ipomoea) are so easy to grow, (soak the seeds overnight to help germination) they have beautiful flowers in blues and pinks and will trail happily down the side of your boat; as will a plant called Billardiera (B. longiflora). This plant has pendant creamy white bell shaped flowers which are followed in late summer by beautiful purple berries. Another of my favourites is Cobea Scandens, sometimes called the cup and saucer plant. This is a fast-growing trailing plant with large purple or white bell shaped flowers. All these can be grown easily from seed and give you an enchanting almost tropical display all summer long.
So, come on, there are prizes to be had, if you want to make a show it is time to sow!