Ah Spring is springing, the birds are singing and the daffs are up despite the fact that it is still blowing an icy gale every other day.
Responsible and organised grow-your-own types are already well along with their heated propagators and other such clever cold weather jobs. Me, well, not so much.
I spent much of the summer out sick last year and by the time I was in a mental and physical state to take on the garden it was late September and everything was covered in nettles and frankly, I couldn’t be bothered. As always I got a good crop of rhubarb and some decent gooseberries but the rest of it was pretty much a bust. Although I’m getting back on track for a more produce heavy 2020, I’m also aware of how much there is to do and how easily I’m going to be put off doing it once the endless weeds and demonic slugs get going. Let’s not even go there with Moby Dick the Phantom Crapper and his ongoing deposits in my little green space. The bastard.
Thanks to some bright Essex sunshine and garden centre motivation from yesterday I made it outside this morning to start converting my weeded suburban jungle back to horticultural goodness. In brief, this mostly invovled wrestling with a budleja and ripping my gloves to shreds on brambles, punctuated with the joy of finding a happy patch of rainbow chard still doing it’s thing up by the shed. I’m motivated, and I’m optimistic despite the terrible failings behind me.
So if you’re looking to limit your casualties or even just getting started, here’s the back to basics tips and jobs from this green fingered foodie.
1- Know Your Onions. And your pears and your lettuce and basil and you get the idea. Do some research before you get started. Check your garden facing and learn where the sun gets through to. Check out what kind of soil you have and plant accordingly. Some edibles will grow almost anywhere but some of them are very pernickity so always check up onthe conditions needed before you start planting, including when and how to sow.
2- Know What You Like. Mint comes in many varieties and is very low maintenance but if you don’t like to put it in your tea/pimms every morning then why take up garden space, sweat and tears for it? Plant stuff you actually want to eat, it will make it all the more devestating when it gets devoured by slugs. Or satisfying if you actually get to harvest it.
3- Get Back To Nature. If you grow in your own garden then the chances are that you want some pretties out there too and flowers are a great attraction for our number one polinating buddy the bee. Successful fruit and veg need pollinators, especially squashes and tomatoes so get some bedding plants and flowers out there in as many bright colours as you can. Try to mix it up so you have an area of florals somewhere all through the year. Get into good habits like deadheading to prolong your flowering periods and for the love of all that is green and holy DO NOT EVER SPRAY FLOWERING PLANTS WITH PESTICIDE.
A quiet woodpile somewhere will make a home for beetles and other awesome crawly things and a bird feeder will attract some natural slug control into the garden. Just be prepared to net your seedlings if you get a lot of larger birds, especially partridges who put paid to an entire set of my beetroot plants one spring.
If you have an allotment without much ornamental space then consider some less edible companion planting, such as marigolds. Nasturtiums grow very well on most soil types without needing masses of light and produce plenty of flowers for the bees and some tasty salad leaves.
4- Know Your Limits. Are you really going to spend hours out there every single weekend until the winter? What are you going to do with all of those rainbow carrots anyway? There’s no shame in a small patch of something you really like and even less shame in reaping a dozen giant potatoes after a long summer of sitting in the sun reading a book and waving an occasional watering can.
5- Just Try. Seriously, what’s the worst that could happen? Don’t answer that if you’re prone to accidents with garden forks. But come on, give it a go. Seeds are cheap and fresh air is good for you and what better way to learn about nature than by watching all of your hard work get destroyed by flea beetles or over watering???
They’re only plants. You can plant more. Just get out there and start.