I have finally removed the twinkly lights from the box hedge at my front gate. The homemade Christmas wreath on the front door stood up to heavy rain, gales and snow storms and it too has been removed allowing me to look forward beyond the bare beds and leafless shrubs and trees and dream of spring. And so begins a new year in the garden.
While we’ve been distracted more than once this winter by the beauty of heavy snow all the way down to the lake our gardens have not been slumbering. The bulbs planted last autumn are beginning to poke through the drenched, cold soil preparing us for the colours of spring. The garlic too is pushing through reminding me to think about the vegetable plot and what I want to grow this year. The seed catalogues and gardening books are spread all over my desk tempting me with the beauty of another growing season. But where to start …
I’ve been in my garden this weekend giving it the once over. I cleared out some of the old growth on the fallen perennials damaged by the snow. I also moved some narcissus into the ground from pots where I had quickly planted them in November as I didn’t have enough time to get them into the ground – not ideal but we’ll see what they do. The lawn is completely sodden in parts which is saying something as I garden on a significant hill and am often fooled into thinking that drainage wouldn’t be an issue. With the clay soil now soaked it is best to avoid walking the same way every time you go outside – vary your path. The clay soil becomes very compacted and you’ll end up with an area where the grass is slower to come back. Although there does not seem to be too much growing going on I can tell you that the weeds are already making their presence known. I remember making a note to increase my mulching this year so I’ll be busy doing that next weekend, 5-10cms if you can. My elephant garlic has started to show which I love to see so between that and the red robin keeping me company I had a great time.
February is the perfect time to start planning out your ideas. I’m hoping to convince he who digs the holes to build me another raised bed. With they whole family at home again certain members have been pushing for very specific vegetables in the raised beds. Said member was not at all impressed to see my dahlias taking up precious potato growing space last summer! I tried to placate this family member by buying two very hot varieties of chilli seeds this weekend to encourage them to get growing themselves as chillies take up a lot less space than potatoes – they did not take the bait! Follow this space for an update later in the spring.
Speaking of seeds, I’m about to get started planning my cutting garden. A number of people have asked me to let them know what I plant in my cutting garden so here are a few of my favourites: Cosmos, the tall variety, Nigella love-in-a-mist, Calendula, Sweet Peas, Peonies, Roses, Zinnias, Dahlias, Phlox, Scabiosa, Ammi Majus, Orlaya, and Sunflowers. Cosmos have got to be one of my favourite flowers for a cutting garden, I had only three plants last year and I think I cut flowers until October. You may wonder about the three plants! When you buy a packet of seeds you invariably get lots of tiny seeds, sometimes over 50 depending on what you are buying. Unless you want to go into mass production you will not need 50 cosmo plants; don’t plant all the seeds. If stored in a dark dry place the seeds will last for at least a couple of years, the germination rate will decrease but as many of us found this past year even old and expired seeds can come true. Read the seed packet carefully, you’ll find lots of information on the back, when to plant, ultimate height, spacing of plants etc. I continue to stock a small supply of seeds from Grace Alexander Seeds, I am happy to send you the list of current stock if you are interested. There are a number of companies with a great variety of options for mail-order including Zollinger bio Saemeiren and Mauser in Switzerland and Sativa bio in Germany. Don’t forget there are also plenty of seeds in all of the local garden centres and home stores giving you lots of choice. It seems that many of the smaller UK-based seed companies that I would usually order from are unable to ship seed outside mainland UK (not even to Northern Ireland) at the moment due to complications with the new customs and plant health controls – fallout from Brexit – let’s hope arrangements will be made to resolve this situation soon. I am a sucker for a pretty packet of seeds here are some of my favourite companies, but first a disclaimer before you browse they do not ship here but you can always gift them to family or friends: Floret, Sarah Raven, Grace Alexander Seeds, Thompson & Morgan, Milli Prost, Brown Envelope Seeds.
Wishing you a gently return to the garden but with more chilly days ahead planning from the kitchen table with a cup of hot tea might be the best bet for the moment.