Saturday, 24 March 2012

Spring comes to our garden

The weather today has been stunning. It's as warm as a summers day. I'm suffering from the after effects of 3 pints of cider and half a bottle of rose and my cure has been a day pottering in the garden.

Getting stuff to grow is hard work! Every spring for the past 5 years or so, I have planted trays of seeds, opting for the Get-Them-In-The-Ground-And-Hope-For-The-Best tecnique, and results have varied! My biggest problem is with the hundreds of hungry slugs and snails who seem to have a taste for baby plants in particular. Most of my little seedlings never get bigger than a centimetre. Then there's the soil in our garden, which is pretty heavy and does that annoying thing of sitting in clay-like clumps when it's damp, and baking solid like ceramic when it's dry.

So this year I have taken matters into my own hands and have decided to try and learn to garden! The book How To Grow Your Own Drugs by James Wong has been really handy, as it's written for people like me who haven't got the first idea how to get things to stay alive, let alone grow from scratch.
It's so good to see honey bees again

It turns out, there's far more to gardening than just getting the plants in the ground. You've really got to take into account where you're planting things, because some plants will only grow in direct sunlight, some like dry soil, some like damp dark conditions, some get huge, some spread across the garden and take over everything else, some need support, some climb, some shoot straight up on their own, some last just one year, some die back and then grow again the next year... I could carry on but I won't.

I figured I'll take this one step at a time, so this year I am mainly concentrating on flowers. I love flowers. They make me feel good, and at this point, I want as much of that as possible. So I've been to the garden centre and stocked up on orange pansies, daffodils, aubritia, anemones, foxgloves and sweet peas. I also bought some marigold (calendula) seeds, which I planted today.

But actually the gardening started well over a year ago. We put a load of topsoil, grass cuttings and other bits of vegetation in a heap down the bottom of the garden where it's shady and damp. This was really just to get it all out of the way, but a nice side-effect has been that we now have a compost heap, which is very handy for growing stuff as it's basically plant food.

Following James Wong's suggestions, I dug up the veg patch a couple of months ago, broke the soil up and then spread on a layer of 'mulch' from our compost heap. Then today, before I planted my first veg of the year, I dug through it all again and mixed the mulch in. This adds nutrients to the soil, and helps stop it from doing the clay/ceramic thing. To finish I watered it with plenty of plant food.

And the first veg to go in? Maris Piper potatoes. I'm going to try and grow my own roast dinner! I've never grown potatoes before, so this will be interesting! I had to dig trenches, scatter in fertilizer (which is a delicious-sounding mixture of blood, fish and bone, and looks like grey dust), fill them to 3/4 full and then place in the seed potatoes. I'm interested to know if there's something special about seed potatoes, because to me they just looked like small potatoes that had been left in the cupboard too long and had started to grow those sprouty bits they get.

The flowers are in pots on our patio, since they all need lots of sunlight, and the patio is the only bit of our garden that's in the sun most of the day. And plus, it make the patio look pretty.

I have done everything I can think of go get my marigold seeds to grow bigger than 1cm! The pots have small pieces of polysterene in the bottom, which is another tip from James Wong. Keep hold of any polystyrene packaging you may have. Broken up into chunks, it can be put in the bottom of plant pots before you fill them with soil. It helps keep the pots light, the soil well drained, and is economical as you only need to fill the pot with as much soil as the roots of your plant require. I've also added fertilizer and sprinkled over some slug killer. I'm not a massive fan of the stuff but I'm at a bit of a loss to know what else to do.

And once all this was done, I made myself a cup of tea and sat down in the sun. Hangover? Not gone but certainly all the better for a bit of physical activity and a hearty dose of sunshine.


  1. haha if only the garden still looked as clean and fresh as it does in that photo!

    1. yeah... what happened to the grass since then?!