The Garden in May and Other Chat.
Our history in gardening.
We have both always loved gardening. Something we no doubt inherited from our Mother and Grandmothers. Whatever the size, from tiny front garden to long thin strip behind a terrace, from a walled garden with just raised beds, a wrap-around garden on three sides of a house, to a substantial plot overlooking fields. Each piece of land has been loved and cared for with equal measure, and with the knowledge that they don’t belong to us, we are just the caretakers, until the next person comes along!
Neither of us pretend to be knowledgeable horticulturalists! We have picked things up as we have gone along. In fact, until we both had our own gardens, we had no desire to garden or had very much interest in gardening! It became apparent though that we must both have taken in some of what our Mum was doing year after year. We sort of knew what to expect at certain times of the growing calendar, and when to start seeds or get planting…… clearly paying attention without even noticing!! As for remembering plant names, the ones we love are usually easy to remember but it can often be a bit of a guessing game and sometimes a plant will be recalled as “the tall one with huge pink flowers that we bought at that garden we visited”!!
THE LEARNING CURVE.
Over the years we have learned so much from trial and error, discovering plants that we love and would always have in the garden, and trying new things to see how they work and if we like how they sit in the garden. It really is ok to get things wrong, as gardeners it’s often how we learn. I have always loved Lavender and planted about thirty small plants in my raised bed. Those small plants became huge plants over the years and although it smelt amazing and the bees loved it, it had to go in the end! And we have both fallen into the Mint trap, putting it in the ground and watching it take over…it has only ever lived in a pot since then! Sowing too many seeds is also something I bet we are all guilty of, I always sow a few more “just incase”! Someone will take those extra plants off your hands however, if you ask around, which is a good thing at this time of year when you are overrun with seedlings!
THE GROWING CALENDAR.
My seed sowing started at the end of last year. Sweet peas, Cornflower, Ammi and Orlaya, to name a few. As well as tulips bulbs going in, I planted Ranunculus corms that grew steadily in the greenhouse over the winter and are now in the front garden, about to burst into flower.
The tulips have been spectacular this spring too, even though it’s been so dry, and I’ve had enough for vases in the house. One of the reasons I grow so many flowers is to pick them for the house and to give to family and friends. An advantages of winter sowing means you get flowers earlier! My sweet peas have been in the ground for some weeks now as a winter in the greenhouse toughens them up, and hardening off of all the other winter sown seedlings means they get to go out early too.
From the middle of April it’s a bit of a seed sowing frenzy. Some things get done earlier as they take time to germinate and remain small when they do, but otherwise there is no point doing things any earlier as I’d run out of space! I’ve learnt this the hard way… May is for potting on and nurturing the seedlings into healthy, strong plants that can withstand the move out into the garden. I feel this year it will be much later as we were still getting frosts moving into the second week of May! Many things can still be sown in May of course, it’s not too late, and if you live further north it’s probably advisable to leave it later until things warm up a bit. Some vegetables like squash, courgette or beans should be left till now anyway, they grow so quickly and the last thing you want is a huge courgette plant taking up space in the greenhouse or kitchen table. I started peas in April and they are already in the ground, but I’ve yet to get anything directly sown in the veg patch. I will get round to carrots, salad leaves and some spinach at some point and I’ve some rainbow chard seedlings waiting to go in. I really must remember that I only have limited space and not an allotment! There is also the question of space for the dahlias which are currently taking up most of the floor space in the greenhouse.
Is all the kit necessary? Do I need a greenhouse?
Well the simple answer to those two questions is no! We both got our first ever greenhouses last year. Vanessa was lucky to inherit hers with a house move and I bought a tiny one to fit in a small space in the garden. Previously to this we both managed perfectly well without, the kitchen table and windowsills have been perfect for germinating seeds, and my dahlias were always kept on the kitchen floor!
I still start most things off in the house as they need the warmth to germinate but for many, once they have popped up through the soil and have a few true leaves, they get sent to the greenhouse. Although I hope we have seen the last of the very cold nights, the greenhouse shuffle is still very real! As its so small I invested in a cold frame, they were on offer in Aldi, and I have started to move bigger seedling into this to free up space in the greenhouse.
Winter seems to have dragged on this year and its been very cold for prolonged periods of time, so some things are very behind from last year. If you remember last year, April and May were very warm (how could we forget…?!!) and the garden really got going. Aprils unseasonably dry weather has been a big topic of conversation on social media and the reason, probably, for the short stumpy tulip stems that everyone has been talking about. Mine are all in pots and in a raised bed near the house so they have been easy to water from the water butt. But this lack of rain has made me realise I need to up my water harvesting game and get more butts around the garden. Vanessa recently did some work on her house and garden and had a huge rainwater reservoir put under the house, a great idea if you can think of it while the garden and house are in turmoil during renovations. I’d like to get hold of an old metal water butt, trough type thing to have next to the greenhouse for easy watering, I’ve yet to find one that isn’t at the other end of the country however!
Where to get gardening advice and ideas
One resource I have found really useful for when to sow things is the Charles Dowding Vegetable Garden Calendar. If you haven’t come across Charles he is the king of organic, no dig gardening and has a website, youtube channel and pages on both Instagram and Facebook. His calendar shows what he sows on certain days of each month and at the front he gives a guide of how to tweak those dates depending on where you live in the country. He has also written lots of books on the subject.
Vanessa and I have both started the journey to no dig gardening after hearing so much about it and doing some reading and listening to podcasts etc. At the end of last year I covered all my raised beds with a thickish layer of a good compost and left them alone through the winter. This spring I have literally one or two weeds in these beds and the compost has suppressed any coming through. There is no need to dig the bed over this spring either, I will just plant directly into the ground, disturbing the soil as little as possible, which is hugely beneficial to the soil health. Vanessa acquired an allotment last year and has also used the no dig method to start her fruit beds off there and has been pleased with how it has prevented weeds coming through on a slightly neglected plot.
There are, of course, loads of resources available out there, but one thing I do find helpful is the advice of seasoned gardeners, whether it’s veg they grow or flowers. For this, I have found Instagram a mine of information! So many people happy to give advice, share planting videos or tutorials, it’s fabulous. I couldn’t have grown ranunculus if it wasn’t for Zoe at @swancottageflowers, her flower growing knowledge is amazing and she shares it all! A relatively new podcast I’ve started listening to is @the.seed.pod , hosted by Becky from @sow_much_more and Richard from @sharpenyourspades. They talk all things organic gardening and not only is it really interesting, but it’s very informative too! I’d recommend a listen…
We will both be glad to see the end of this winter and are delighted that spring has finally arrived. The trees and hedgerows are in full leaf and everything is beginning to look vibrant and lush. The perennials are all showing their faces and beginning to bulk up beautifully, and I even have fattening buds on the peonies. May is such an important month for gardeners, “Isn’t every month…?” I hear you cry, with loads to keep us busy and such expectation of what is to come!
It’s all so exciting isn’t it? Enjoy the wonders of May and happy gardening!