Gardening, the Big Sky and our clever acros­tic cross­word

Canal Boat - - Contents - with Julie Clark

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.

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