Flex those green fingers – it’s National Gardening Week! Whether you’ve never planted a thing, or you’re a seasoned gardener planning to try something new, April is the perfect time – especially as this spring sees us staying home. Any outside space has potential: garden, balcony or window-box. And if you don’t have one of those, dust off your sunniest windowsill.
Nothing to grow..?
In these lockdown days, locals are sharing and swapping seeds and plants by leaving them on doorsteps or driveways.
Check your neighbourhood groups or put out a message – there’s bound to be someone nearby with spare seeds or a nagging feeling that they’re going to be eating Courgette Surprise until 2021!
Many local garden centres and nurseries are taking orders for collection or delivery and will be glad of your support. Check the regularly updated Sussex Grown Facebook page.
Seeds and plants are widely available online, from specialist gardening sites to Amazon or eBay.
If you’re not sure what to grow – and you are able to choose – start with things that you like – either to look at, or eat.
Not a pot to plant in?
Lovely crumbly potting or seed compost is not easily available right now, but you can make do with garden soil – Monty Don says so, so that’s good enough for me. Break up any large clods and remove stones.
No flowerpots or seed trays? Recycled yoghurt pots or fruit punnets will do the job. I also like to reuse mushroom trays. Make holes in the bottom, for drainage. For homemade loo-roll or newspaper seed pots see our March in the Garden article.
Whatever you use, sit your containers on a tray, to catch the water when you give them a drink.
Veg and herb seeds to sow now
Seeds to start off:
- indoors: courgettes, cucumbers and squashes – big, fast-growing seeds that pop up in no time on your windowsill and can be planted outside later on.
- outside: carrots and peas can both be sown directly outside. Carrots and stones don’t mix, so unless you want wonky veg, make sure your carrot bed is stone-free.
See also: BBC Gardeners’ World – How to grow peas.
- strawberries – a windowsill that gets at least 6 hours of sunshine a day can be used to grow strawberries. Alpine varieties work well, as they don’t spread too much.
- basil, coriander and parsley are all easy to grow from seed and can be kept indoors or planted outside when they are ready.
Get expert advice from these Eden Project videos – Gardening for beginners.
Flower seeds to plant now
All of these annuals – blooming for just one season – will keep the pollinators happy and give you a brilliant display:
- Zinnia – bright, cheerful and easy to grow. Now the Sussex soil has warmed up, you can plant them right where you want them to grow, rather than having to start them off in pots. I’m growing these for the first time, this year – inspired by the ones I saw last summer at the Lost Gardens of Heligan while on holiday in Cornwall.
- Cosmos will reward you with a beautiful display of flowers in a variety of colours and lovely feathery foliage from June until winter sets in. Start them off in a warm sunny spot – a windowsill or heated greenhouse – and plant out around the end of May.
- Wildflower meadow – clear weeds from a patch of ground in your garden and sow a mix of wild flower garden seeds, keep well-watered.
Other jobs for April
- Support plants before they get too big
- Plant out summer bulbs
- Keep on top of weeding
- Water your houseplants more often
Gardening is not only good for wildlife, it’s good for mental health and well-being. Something we could all use a bit more of, at the moment.
Stay home, stay safe and plant stuff!
National Gardening Week runs from Monday 27 April – Sunday 3 May 2020.