Spring is here and this week I want to focus on some really easy sowing of both flowers and vegetables. It's also the start of the planting season for some of the tougher summer bedding plants. Not forgetting the delights of attracting wildlife into the garden, I also have a tip that's essential for hedgehogs!
The cutting garden
- Sow annual flower varieties directly into the spot where you want them to grow. Make certain that you have prepared a good, fine seedbed. Try Cosmos, Antirrhinum, honeywort (Cerinthe major purpurascens), Verbena bonariensis, Calendula and annual dahlias. However, you might find it better to buy plants of Antirrhinum as it is a little late for them.
- Plant out sweet peas. Make sure that you have hardened them off well so that they establish without a check to growth. You can still sow them directly where you want them to grow.
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- If you have bought them online, unpack plug plants as soon as they arrive. Make certain that they are well watered and are in good light. These plants will wait a very short while before they need to be transplanted into something bigger. Modular trays work very well.
- Sow sunflowers into small pots and then transplant them, or directly sow where you want them to grow. Take note of how tall they get as most will need to be at the back of the border!
Here are some of my favourite varieties:
- When planting out young seedlings remember to scatter slug pellets thinly around them. Those pellets based on ferric phosphate are effective and also very safe to wildlife (I've used them for almost 15 years and can vouch for their effectiveness and safety).
Gardening for wildlife
- Sow a mixture of annual plants directly into well-cultivated soil. These will encourage bees, insects, butterflies and moths to visit your garden. Sow in full sun if possible.
Image: K. Sayce
- If your garden is surrounded with fencing that is flush with the ground, cut a small hole to let hedgehogs in and out.
- If you're a cat owner be aware that it is natural for them to hunt birds. This month there will be the first of many fledgelings that are easy prey for cats. Put a collar with a bell on your pet, as this gives the birds a warning of an attack or keep them inside for a while.
- Try to avoid using chemicals. However, some chemicals in my experience, are very effective and benign to wildlife. I'd recommend using Organic Garlic, and S B Invigorator sprays for insect pest control. Vitax Organic 2 in 1 Plant Invigorator spray contains fish oil which should control most diseases as well as common pests.
Home grown food
- April is a good time to plant outdoor grape vines. Plant in well-drained soils in full sun. A pH of around 6.5 -7 is preferred but not essential. Why not plant one on a sunny wall or pergola?
- When sowing vegetables, sow those that have inherent pest and disease resistance! Their flavour will be just as good. I grow beetroot 'Boltardy' because it doesn’t run up to seed, carrot 'F1 Resistafly' or 'Flyaway' because they are less attractive to carrot fly, parsnip 'F1 Albion' as it's resistant to rust and canker, cabbage 'Kilazol' because of clubroot resistance, onion 'Santero F1' for its downy mildew resistance, and blight resistant tomato 'F1 Crimson Crush'.