ROOFTOP GAR­DEN­ING

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

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!

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