It is a really busy time in the garden with no risk of frost now (I hope) and thousands of plants waiting to get their roots into the soil. The sweetcorn and squashes are not quite ready to go out and I will sow the beans this week. I would have sown the French and runner beans a week or two ago but there is no rush and I just didn’t have the room for more trays so as I make room by taking plants out of the greenhouse to harden off (get used to outside conditions) for a few days before planting out, I will fill it with more seedlings while I also hope to have some room to start planting out the tomatoes, as soon as I can see they have formed their first flower buds.
The main areas of raised beds are being planted in circles this year. I marked out circles with sand and beetroot has been sown just inside this ring. Each circle has then been planted with flowers and/or veg and outside the beet is a ring of marigolds. I have grown two varieties, ‘Scarlet Sophie’ and the old ‘Naughty Marietta’ and these have been planted to form a linking line between the circles. The areas in between are planted with a variety of veg including a lot of lettuces in various colours as well as oddities including New Zealand spinach, asparagus pea ( a vegetable and not a symptom of eating asparagus – note the spelling!) and herbs. There is a triangle of violas between each circle too. These were grown from self-saved seed from Johnsons ‘Morning Dew’ I grew last year. I liked it a lot and the small flowers were fragrant and in a mix of yellow and soft red and I saved seed from the plants that had the reddest flowers. Of course the bees were busy and I couldn’t expect the plants to all be red-flowered but so far I have been happy with the plants. Saving seeds allowed me to raise a lot of plants – I have 700 to plant out and I can be generous with them and hopefully get a good display. (Johnsons sell 30 seeds for £2.10 so this lot would have cost a minimum of £50 for seeds alone). I have let the small plants produce a bloom to check they are a sutable colour and then I have been pinching the blooms off immediately to try to get the plants to make more growth before I let them flower properly.
Where possible it is a good idea to plant on a cool, cloudy day so the roots do not dry out. This is especially important if, as I have done, you need to space out the plants before planting and not put them straight in the soil as soon as they have come out of their pots or cell trays. It is also vital that they are watered as soon as possible after planting. It is best to direct the water at the base of the plants so they get ‘puddled in’ rather than just sprinkle the soil. This is so the roots are in direct contact with the surrounding soil. If there are air pockets around the root ball the roots can dry out and die. Also make sure the plants are watered sometime before you plant them so the compost is moist. I hate planting soaking wet plants but the compost should be moist or it can be difficult to wet it once the plants are in the ground. Puddling the plants in also prevents you wetting the rest of the soil which will encourage weed seeds to grow. If plants are vulnerable it is important to put down your favoured slug and snail control. I always sprinkle a few slug pellets on the soil a few days before planting to try to reduce slug numbers before I lay out a three course meal for them.