Gardening, the Big Sky and our clever acrostic crossword
April always seems to be the turning point of the year; it is the start of my year in both boating terms and gardening. The summer trip will be planned, as much as any boat trip can be, and I can at last get my hands dirty and sow some seeds for the summer.
This is the time to get hardy annual plant seeds started, particularly brilliant for boaters as they can be sown direct into pots outside. Hardy annuals include Sweet Peas, go for Pink Cupid a tiny variety especially bred for container growing; Alyssum, a much overlooked species with compact plants, very generous in it’s flowering habit and with highly fragrant blooms – try Oriental Nights with deep purple flowers. Old cottage garden favourites include Calendula, Love-in-amist (Nigella), Poppies and Virginia Stocks (probably one of the easiest hardy annual plants to grow) as well as wild flower varieties. Wild flowers are particularly rewarding to grow as any seeds can be returned to the wild as well as the beneficial rewards to wildlife. It is now possible to buy mixed packets of wild flower seed which are very good value. Sow the seed thinly straight onto the surface of the compost, sprinkle a little compost over the surface and carefully water thoroughly. The seedlings may need to be thinned out as they mature to give them space to grow to maturity.
Herbs can also be sown now and a couple I couldn’t do without are sweet basil and coriander. Try some of the different varieties of basil; Purple Basil makes a striking show as well as having a great flavour as does lemon and greek basil. Coriander is another ‘must have’ on my boat and in my kitchen. Coriander is actually fully hardy so can be grown all year round, try var. Calypso – slow to bolt and a most appropriately named for boaters! These two herbs can be eaten right from germination as seed sprouts, tiny leaves or grown on into larger plants so when you are thinning out the seedlings there will be no waste! Grow several pots a few weeks apart to keep the crop going through the summer.
Dwarf French Beans are a good choice for any roof or container garden, dwarf var. Speedy crops in about 60 days so if you start them soon it is possible to get two crops in the year or a quick one while you are out for the summer; be careful not to overcrowd your containers and remember to water and feed well. Edamame beans are also worth growing as they are not cheap to buy, try variety Elena which is best suited to our climate, grow in succession as the whole plant crops in one go. Also, if you have space indoors tomatoes and courgettes can be started in a warm place ready to plant outside when there is no danger of their being nipped by a late frost.