It’s most definitely Spring and I am determined to use as much of the Walled Garden as possible and have it bursting at the seams with abundant vegetables and flowers. Roses dripping from every wall and bees drifting lazily over scarlet bean flowers and copper marigolds. Just like Monty Don or Sarah Raven. Ha. Ha. Ha.
Anyway! To that end, I’ve started off on a manic and rather unguided sowing programme. I only want to grow the things that we, as a family, are going to eat in quantity so that tends to exclude things like parsnips, turnips, celeriac, cabbages and cauliflowers (except the bright green romanesco ones) and concentrates more on peas, beans, cucumbers, kale (bizarrely), maybe carrots, squash, yellow courgettes, radishes, leeks, onions, asparagus (although only planted the bed last year so have to ignore for two seasons, so I am told), spinach, chard and new potatoes.
As for flowers, I would love to pick armfuls for the house and the Long House and not feel skimped. In the Autumn, we planted tulips (just five varieties), hybrid tea roses (gorgeous for cutting but I find them really hard to have in a normal flower bed without it looking like the local park), ranunculus (first time ever) and more dahlias. We took a gamble and left last year’s dahlias in the ground and mulched them as it’s pretty mild here. I’ll be livid if I got that wrong.
Tulips are just beginning and are stunning, big and beautiful with subtle changes of tone in the petals. They last a good week in a vase and look just as good on the way out, in an artistic, droopy kind of way (I’m sure this will feature in my Instagram, be warned). Last year’s planting of peonies look worryingly puny but I think it’s still early for them. Bloody rabbits have taken the tops of half the ranunculus so they may come back or need a little netting if it’s not too late. We also had some gladioli last year which were a very pretty pale cream and pink but they went brown quite quickly and I didn’t really get to grips with them. They have one more year to prove invaluable and they they’re OUT. Tough love at The Long House.
I dither all the time as to whether to start vegetable seeds off in pots and then harden off and plant out or wait until it’s warmer and direct sow. We’ve started some radishes and a bit of salad rather randomly under fleece and they are coming along but not ready yet. Seedlings of peas and beans raised in the greenhouse are hardened off and will be planted out this week. I am trying to be grown up and keep sowing new batches so they keep going all Summer.
Very excitingly two tiny tomato seedlings have appeared – I think we will try some inside and some out, this year. Last year we were stupid and didn’t prune of the side shoots early enough so the plants didn’t get very tall and needed more water to maintain all this extra greenery. Learnt lesson for this year. Mind you, we just did cherry tomatoes and they were lush, although the dog did eat a vast quantity before she was banned.
Got thoroughly over excited by www.realseeds.co.uk who have a network of farmers and gardeners who collect strains of vegetables that are in short supply or nearly disappeared. Imagine being THAT good to be able to collect seed?! That is another ambition for me but in the meantime I am frantically sowing seeds with names like “Cosse Violette” green bean and “Champion of England” tall pea.
I’ve also been getting some annuals going – hundreds of sweet peas, well, it feels like hundreds. Can never decide between the bright scarlet and cerise and purple or softer mauves and pinks. In the end I just choose the strongest smelling. Frankly I usually mix up all the labels so it’s a constant surprise what appears and I can’t remember what to re-order.
Cosmos too for pots and the large gaps in the new Long House flower beds. After being non-plussed with the deep red ones last year, I have decided to concentrate on a drift of white and the very palest pink. Quite who I think I am, I don’t know.
Mixed success with cerinthe, sweet william, delphiniums (v hard, I think). More success with hollyhocks and foxgloves which I sowed last Summer and are now big and healthy in situ. The wallflowers which I sowed at the same time and put in place in the Autumn are about to flower and I am feeling really quite smug. Have also decided to go large on sunflowers and see if I can get them all the way along the Walled Garden, well, wall.
This is an astonishing time of year when you feel like you can see things growing in front of your eyes and I feel a little bit out of control. But then that’s the point really, I suppose. It really can’t be beaten.