The long Easter weekend celebrations traditionally mark that point in the calendar where gardening really begins in earnest. Brighter days and warmer weather creates an explosion of growth all around us.
Pretty much anything can be sown now, inside and out. There is an old saying that one shouldn’t directly sow until one can put a bare bottom on the soil and feel the warmth radiating. I prefer to simply notice when seedlings are germinating readily themselves in the beds before sowing directly. But you do you.
There is around 6 weeks until the end of the frosts which is about the time a plant takes to grow from seed to planting out. For many tender plants like cosmos, sunflowers and zinnias, this gives you just the right amount of time to sow, tend to then plant out just as the night temperatures stay above zero. This year, I’d like to encourage you to have a go at growing lots of different vegetables, fruit and flowers. And I will tell you why.
Growing a wide variety of different plants from seed is one of the keys to excellent soil health. We are beginning to understand how important this is but did you realise that actually growing food for yourself and flowers for the table actually improve the soil? And in turn improves our environment.
We grow a lot of fruit and vegetables here, mostly for meals on the farm for classes, workshops and farm days but I’ve also used the decorative blue flowers of peas, herbs and tendrils of beans in arrangements. Though, much more than feeding us and my creativity, these plants also contribute to a healthier soil and better plant health all over. A classic win win.
As all plants grow, they take in carbon dioxide, actively removing it from our atmosphere, converting it into carbohydrates for food for themselves and also sending a huge amount out into the soil for the microrganisims to consume. In return, fungal networks respond to plants needs by exchanging water, minerals and nutrients. This mutual exchange and symbiotic relationship is essential to healthy soil and healthy plants. One does not exist without the other. And the more variety in the garden, allotment, and farm, the more variety of microbes and fungi feeding those plants and protecting them from pests and disease. It is utterly mind boggling and wonderful to know all this is going on beneath our feet. All we need to do is make sure we don’t do anything to kill the microbes in the soil. That includes not using any chemicals, keeping the soil covered with plants (even weeds will take in carbon and keep the soil alive) and occasionally add some homemade compost to stimulate microbial activity.
So in your own gardens, sprinkle seeds in among your shrubs and perennial to create colour this summer and food for your plate. We are growing kale among our sweet peas, calendula and sunflowers around our tomatoes and radishes between the cosmos. I can’t wait for the plots to be buzzing with insects, scents and productivity. It all starts with a packet of seeds and a long weekend…
Originally Published in Cambridge Edition April 2022
Californian poppies, nicotiana and wild alpine strawberries.
Sunflowers and tomatoes
Patch of Chard and Beetroots with tasty and very pretty leaves.
Late Summer bounty providing suitably atmospheric colours for table decoration.
I really love tomatoes
Perennial Artichokes and cephalaria. I cut artichoke leaves from January for arranging with and still cutting in April.
Tidied Tool shed worth showing off.