If you haven’t actually started any work in your garden, it is never too late to begin. So maybe this week set aside some time to even have a walk around your garden and make some plans. Start with something a little easy, or that will make the biggest difference. This might be getting rid of some accumulated rubbish lying around; giving the grass its first cut; or you might have an overgrown vegetable patch that you can start to get in and dig. Any start is good.
If you have been sowing seeds and planting up your vegetables or shrubs, now is the time to begin hardening off these plants.
So what does hardening off mean – well there’s a bit of work in it, as it means bringing out our seedlings every morning to get used to the outdoor air and temperatures. But you need to bring them back in each evening in case the temperatures drop too low. This is to prepare them for being sown out into the garden in the coming weeks Last year I got over enthusiastic and planted some of my seedlings into an outdoor window box when it was sunny, but then the frost came back and killed a lot of them. Luckily though I have been taking my own advice this year and have been hardening off my young plants ready to go outdoors once I am sure the frosts have gone! So do keep an eye on the weather, but hopefully by now the worst of the frost is behind us, but you never can tell.
You can continue to plant up your seedlings into individual pots, and those that are in pots can be hardened off to go into our outdoor beds, or you can transfer them into an even larger pot to give them growing room until your outdoor beds are ready.
If you don’t have a dedicated vegetable patch, you can make or buy raised beds that you can line with a weed barrier and fill with soil and/or compost and grow your vegetables here. I have a low one for my salad leaves, beetroot and onions. And I have a larger one for any vegetables that need more depth.
Some things we plant in our gardens can just be left to fend for themselves, but many others will need constant attention.
Tomato Side Shoot Removal
One such plant is the Tomato. As it grows, it will need constant watering, feeding and attention to the growth areas. Especially side shoots – these are the shoots that grow between the main stem and side branches and need to be removed. I remember that this was one of my jobs as a child in my Dad’s greenhouse, and to this day the smell of the tomato plant on my fingers brings back vivid memories of my time with him working in the garden.
The reason we do this is to channel the plant’s energy into producing fruit rather than foliage and to do this we need to remove these side shoots.
Keeping your Garden well watered is vital from now on or all your hard work may be in vain. Your plants need heat and light from the sun, nutrients from the soil and water to grow and produce flowers and fruits. So it is important that you water them regularly and perhaps every week add a feed to this watering to ensure a balance of nutrients is available. You can use a water butt in your garden to collect water for this purpose, or whenever you run the tap in your house, keep a jug handy to collect this water, and then use that for watering. Conserve water where you can.
Earthing Up Potatoes
A potato seed needs to be surrounded by soil in order to produce a good crop of potatoes that aren’t green – a depth of at least 25cm of soil above the planted seed potato is required. To achieve this, plant potatoes at a 15cm depth and then after the potato has emerged start “earthing up” (drawing soil up to the stems) a further 10-15cm of soil. Growing them in the bags, every time the leaves begin to emerge, I promptly cover them again with a few centimetres of soil, encouraging them to keep growing towards the light.
If you don’t have the time (or space – seedlings take up a lot of room!) to grow your plants from seeds, then don’t worry, a trip to your local Garden Centre will sort you out. And if you have an interest in your garden, it is actually such an exciting time walking among the bedding plants and shrubs and making a plan for your own garden.
At this time of the year the summer bedding plants will be arriving in. And those lovely trailing ones for your hanging baskets such as trailing lobelia, petunias and alyssum among some of the most popular.
And with the vegetables, you will be able to buy your plants as tiny seedlings, or as bigger plants which are ready to go straight out into your prepared vegetable patch or containers. I usually keep a few items on my kitchen windowsill too. One of my favourites is to have a chilli plant growing there and picking a fresh chilli to add into my dinner actually gives me a great buzz!
One easy product to buy and grow in different ways in your garden are Strawberries. They can be grown in hanging baskets, upside down hanging containers, in the ground or in bags or tubs anywhere in your garden. There is something really lovely about picking and eating strawberries from your own garden.
This week’s herb – Sage
One of my own favourites, Sage is a great herb for cooking with and is easy to grow. All it needs is sunshine and good drainage. So plant it in a sunny spot with fertile, well-drained soil. Adding some grit or even some sand to the planting hole will help with drainage.
There are many varieties of sage including purple and variegated ones, which are nice and decorative in small places. You can harvest the leaves regularly to encourage more to grow. It is evergreen, so leaves can be picked at any time, but use sparingly, as they have a strong flavour. It goes well with most meats and can be added to a butter for flavour. Or try in a cocktail for an earthy kick!
Sage is high in many nutrients including Vitamin K and is high in antioxidants.
Now that it looks like the sun has finally decided to appear and maybe stay for a bit longer, make the best use of it and get outside and enjoy your outdoor area.
Whether you have a huge garden, a nice deck area, a balcony or simply a window ledge; there are lots of things you can do to brighten it up with colour, smells and ultimately tastes. Enjoy the journey and at the end of the day, the fruits of your hard work.