Well, here I am again after an extended break during which time we have all suffered one way or another, the effects of the pandemic. Fingers crossed, it is beginning to look like a much more manageable issue and we have a reasonable expectation of returning to something resembling normality although, I suspect some things will never return to their previous state.
One of the positives to come out of our experience of the pandemic is that there has been a massive increase in interest in gardening together with a desire to do it in a more sustainable, environmentally friendly manner. I been asked to address such matters in future ramblings. I don’t pretend to be an expert in such matters but have attempted to garden in way that intuitively I believe to be both environmentally friendly and sustainable. While I shall continue to give a commentary on what I’m doing in the garden at any particular time, I shall try to include such tips as I think appropriate. I’d be pleased to hear from anyone who has any knowledge or experience which can add to or enhance anything I have to say.
As I write this at the very beginning of March, signs of life are beginning to emerge from a fairly mild but wet winter, giving hope of what we can achieve in the coming seasons. Only a few days or so ago, I was out walking in the Parish on a beautiful sunny day, enjoying the sound of skylarks in the fields and admiring the emergence of celandines, snowdrops, pulmonaria and primroses in the hedgerows which filled me with eager anticipation of things to come. As we all now know, we were subsequently hit by a succession of storms which quickly quelled that anticipation of an early start to the main gardening activities. Hopefully, we are now entering a more settled phase.
As many of you will have realised, my main gardening interest is the growing of vegetables. It is beyond doubt that home grown produce is far superior in taste and quality than that bought from your local supermarket and has no associated food miles. It’s time to start seed sowing in earnest. (Don’t forget to sow some extra for the Hort Soc plant sale coming up in May). Hopefully, you will have all the seeds you need for the coming season but if not, it’s not too late to purchase. Garden centres have full ranges of seeds and on line, seed companies have tempting offers. I have started by sowing three varieties of tomato, sweet peppers, chillies and the first of a successional sowing of cucumber, all in a heated propagator. These will be grown on in the greenhouse. I think we all know the importance of peat bogs as a carbon store so when sowing your own seeds and planting on, you can do your bit by using peat free compost. They may be a little more expensive but surely worth it.
A must for my gardening is a heated propagator. Costing around £40-50 with very low running costs and lasting many years, it is an excellent investment giving a head start to many crops.
Days are lengthening and soil temperature rising so this month will see major sowings, in my case of broad beans, carrot, leek, beetroot, cabbage, sweet corn, onions shallots and the first of a succession of salad crops.
A small diversion, if I may….I have always believed soil condition to be important in achieving good results and have previously applied horse manure, spent compost from crops grown in the greenhouse, my own home produced compost and green manures. I have noticed over the years an increase in the worm population, a sure sign of improving soil health. In the autumn of last year, I sowed two of my vegetable beds with Mustard Caliente, a green manure and was heartened to see a very good germination. I was planning to dig this in Spring but since the turn of the year, the local pheasant and pigeon population have decimated the entire crop. This is the first experience I’ve had of this nature and don’t know whether all green manures are similarly susceptible to such attacks but if you are thinking of using a green manure, it would be best if you protect the crop.
In the ornamental garden, things are also moving at a pace. Crocus and snowdrop are in abundance. I’ve noticed daffodils out in some more sheltered gardens. Mine are a little behind; tulip leaves can be seen in the borders. It’s time to finish off clearing dead and decaying material from perennials, splitting as required and generally tidying up. This last autumn and winter I left a lot of perennials unpruned thus leaving seed heads for birds. I’m pleased to report I have seen many goldfinches in the garden feeding off
these. Previously they have been fairly rare visitors to my garden. Roses are beginning to sprout new growth so time to complete any pruning that wasn’t done in the autumn. This month will see the first cutting of lawns so if not already done, ensure your mower is ready to go. As we are all being encouraged to make our gardens more wild life friendly you might like to consider leaving an area of lawn uncut.
Finally, we all know we are gardening in a changing climate. The Hort Soc has as its first event of the year arranged a talk entitled “Climate change gardening.” This is being given by vastly experienced horticulturalist, Sally Morgan who lives locally in Somerset. The talk is to be held in the Village Hall on Thursday 31st March at 7.30pm. Members free, Guests £4. Not to be missed!
Wishing you a happy and productive gardening.
P.S. Since writing this, I’ve just read that the RHS are to no longer class slugs and snails as pests, apparently, this is because they help recycle dead leaves, other plant matter and are misunderstood as only nine of the recognised species totalling forty four, eat garden plants. They recommend growing sacrificial plants that we don’t mind them nibbling on……. No doubt this will generate considerable debate!
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