Gardening: The state of gardens at the moment

James Vaughan


James Vaughan

Gardening: The state of gardens at the moment

Blackthorn or sloe tree is great for spring flowers and also for sloe fruit later in the year

IT is nice to see the days stretch and to know that the long days of summer are not too far away.

Each year the seasons can be measured by the ebb and flow of plants coming into and out of flower. One tree that is still in flower is the black thorn or sloe tree. This tree is one of the first to flower with masses of white flowers.

These flowers are then followed by sloes. These fruit, which appear in the autumn, resemble mini-plums. They taste sharp but do sweeten after some frost. These can then be used to make sloe gin and can be ready in time for Christmas. To begin, take a half-full bottle of gin. Then simply fill the rest of the bottle with sloes. Shake the bottle once each day and by Christmas day you should have lovely sloe gin.

Lifting and dividing herbaceous plants

A job that I have been doing plenty of lately is lifting and splitting my herbaceous perennials.

Herbaceous perennials are plants such as sedum, rudbeckia, aster, crocosmia and nepeta. Herbaceous perennials are plants which grow every year but never get woody - unlike trees and shrubs.

In winter the plants die down to roots below ground. In the spring these plants sprout shoots and these continue to grow and provide summer flowers. If plants are chosen correctly you can ensure that you have colour in your garden from March right up until November.

For your own reference, aster are probably the last herbaceous perennial to flower each year. My all-time favourite herbaceous perennial is nepeta (cat mint) and the variety is ‘six hill giant’. It is a tough, low growing plant with masses of blue flowers all summer long.

Jobs in the Veg Garden

If you are on schedule with your vegetable garden then you will have already planted your seed potatoes. If, like me, you are behind schedule then you will not have planted the seed potatoes yet!

The dry weather earlier this week has made it ideal for preparing vegetable beds in readiness for planting. Potatoes and onion sets should already be planted in the ground. If you wish, you could also plant veg seeds either in a glasshouse or on a sunny windowsill.

For a beginner, the easiest vegetables to grow from seeds are: spring onion, radish and beetroot. Simply sow the seeds in compost in shallow trays. Keep the seed trays covered until the seeds germinate.

Once germinated, move the seedlings into a light filled windowsill. Keep seedlings moist until ‘true’ leaves appear. These are the second pair of leaves to appear.

Once the ‘true’ leaves appear they are safe to move to larger pots. Once the soil is ready for planting, plant the young plants out.

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