Sowing Sweet Peas, Salvia and Broad Beans in February

The propagator is fired up, and the sow-athon begins with Broad Beans, Sweet Peas, and Salvia.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been chomping at the bit to get gardening again. February can be one of the most bitterly cold months in the UK, and so when you get a little bit of sunshine, or a day without rain, snow, wind, or freezing conditions, it is so tempting to get out there and make a start.

In my last post I shared my seed planner, and I’ve found that really helpful in reminding me what I’m going to grow and how I can pace myself a bit. I’ve already added more seeds to the schedule!

So, with four days of February under our belts, I’ve decided to start sowing some seeds, and set up my little propagator again on a windowsill.

pots of cineraria and salvia seeds in a propagator
Cineraria ‘Maritima Siverdust’ and Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ are the first in the propagator this year.

First in today were my Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’ seeds – only 6 seeds so far, but I can go back and add more seed in a few weeks if they don’t germinate well, or add more a few weeks later just to stagger my crop.

As a child, broad beans were like nasty little warts and they tasted disgusting, yet, as an adult I simply cannot get enough of them. I’m frustrated by the lack of them in my local supermarket – and can’t even get them frozen, so I thought that I would sow some myself. I’m worried about the blackfly though, as they took great delight in attacking my tomatoes last year, but I’ve been watching several videos on how to deal with these on Broad Beans. I’m also looking forward to the benefits that they will give my garden by pumping nitrogen back into the soil. The courgettes and squash will love that!

packets of sweet pea, salvia, and broad bean seeds
The first seeds to sow in February – Sweet Peas, Salvia, and Broad Beans.

In addition to these, I also sowed a dozen each of Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ and Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mixed’. I grew both varieties last year, and whilst they flowered well over a long season, they didn’t climb. I think this was due to the garden twine ‘web’ that I put up for them, so I will swap that to wire before I plant these out. Past experience shows that these will germinate quickly, but last year the Royal Mixed variety were up first.

Finally, I’ve sown some more of my Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ seeds. I sowed some of these (same packet) last year, but only one germinated – although it did become a large striking plant in my new garden.

Salvia 'Farinacea Victoria' with deep blue flowers
The sole surviving Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ plant was covered in deep blue flowers.

Hopefully, they will be more successful this year, and help fill my new border with its beautiful deep blue spires that looked great, and were popular with the bees. This early sowing does at least allow me time to perhaps get some new seed if the germination is poor.

These Salvia seeds actually join my Cineraria ‘Maritima Silverdust’ that I sowed last week. Those will add an intricate snowy-leafed set of foliage to my garden.

Cineraria 'Martima Siverdust'
Cineraria ‘Martima Siverdust’

They worked really well in my previous garden where it was sheltered and shady, and they lived on for about 4 years! They contrast well with most other plants.

As I finish typing this post, the sun is blazing, the birds are feasting on my feeders, and I can hear a blackbird singing. It feels like Spring is here, but I’m not fooled by February – which won’t flinch about bringing deadly snow and ice.

Have you started your 2018 sowing season yet? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, thank you for reading, and happy gardening!

Andrew

Tune In, Pot Up, Plant Out

Music, sunshine, and a bank holiday weekend. This can mean only one thing – gardening time!

The sun has been shining today – somewhat unusual for a British Bank Holiday weekend – but I made the most of it by doing a few jobs I’d put off due to the recent rain storms, hailstorms, and cold weather.

Armed with iTunes Remote, garden wifi, and a strategically placed speaker, I set to work in the sunshine by pulling out some irritating Cleavers ‘Galium Aparine’ (or ‘Goosegrass’ as it’s also commonly known). Having had some warm weather, then rains, it had grown strong and woven its way through many of the plants. I have to wear gloves to remove this plant as I seem to have become allergic to it in the last few years. It’s an ever-lasting war with Goosegrass, but for now, I am winning.

There’s geese on the pond near my house – wonder if they actually like goosegrass?

Strawberry 'Elsanta'
Strawberry ‘Elsanta’

The Strawberry ‘Elsanta’ plants are doing well. They are a mixture of survivors from last year, new plants from runners from last year, and an extra plant that I bought last weekend. I have potted these on, so hopefully their flowers will soon turn into the delicious red fruits that I enjoyed last year, and have been plucking from my fridge more recently.

I also planted out the Lupin ‘The Governor’ plant that I bought recently from Twentypence Garden Centre. My mother’s garden has many Lupins, so hopefully this will self-seed like the Foxgloves and Antirrhinums have done.

Hopefully, the snails will leave it alone long enough to allow it to take hold of its new-found freedom.

Lupin 'The Governor'
Lupin ‘The Governor’ will have blue and white flowers

The Cineraria ‘Maritima Silverdust’ that I sowed last spring, and planted out, over-wintered perfectly, and are now strong plants, breaking up the lush green of the garden with their snowy white foliage.

Cineraria 'Martima Siverdust'
Cineraria ‘Martima Siverdust’

It won’t be many more days until many of the plants are planted out into the garden. The beans, nasturtiums, courgettes, and tomatoes are all impatient on my windowsill, whilst the Aubrieta ‘Cheeky Mix’ for next year’s garden, are beginning to germinate.

The next few days are crucial for the success of the garden. A herd of snails, or strong winds could wreck many of the tender plants. Fingers crossed that the single figure centigrade nights soon end.

Happy Gardening!
Andrew

Bank Holiday rain won’t stop the plants growing

Whilst the wettest drought continues with continuous heavy rain for yet another Bank Holiday, there’s still plenty of jobs to do indoors in preparation for this year’s garden.

Over the last few days, the plants have been busily growing on my windowsills, but the heavy rain (which has led to my village being cut off from the East and South!) stops any activity in the garden.

With the Bank Holiday weather rain beating down, I decided to tackle a job i’d put off for a while – tidying up my gardening pots and tools. So I bought a cheap set of shelves and made use of the height – giving me loads more floorspace and some kind of order to the tools, pots and seeds.

Keeping the plants moving

It’s important to keep seedlings moving through the potting-up stages otherwise they can quickly suffer. I’ve just pricked-out the 40 Cineraria ‘Maritima Silverdust’ seedlings that I sowed back in late March. Of all the things I’m growing (apart from one exception), these seem to be the slowest growing, but they now have their own little plugs to grow into before being planted outside in a few weeks time once they’ve grown on, and the cold weather finally goes away.

Cineraria 'Martima Silverdust' seedlings
The Cineraria ‘Martima Silverdust’ seedlings.

The Dill has not surfaced – it’s been 3 weeks and there’s no green speck on the compost. Is there a trick to growing them? I’ve kept them in my propagator the whole time. Am I just being impatient?

Meanwhile, the two Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants and the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ seedlings are standing tall, with the latter looking for their first grasp of cane. I didn’t grow French Beans last year, but this variety did well for me in 2010.

French Bean 'Blue Lake'
French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ plants

The Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ that I potted up almost two weeks ago, are now getting used to their new pots and have started showing signs of a growth spurt too.

Out you go!

Last week I also planted out the Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’, so hopefully these are enjoying this wet drought and will be making good use of the wigwams. Fingers crossed that the snails don’t find them for a while.

Running out of windowsill to sow Courgette and Dill

Whilst clearing windowsills to make way for some newly sown vegetables, an unwelcome pest gets its comeuppance.

I’ve just sown a couple of Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ and some Dill seeds into some pots and popped them into my propagator with the Cineraria ‘Maritima Silverdust’ that’s busy germinating.

In a couple of weeks i’ll also be sowing some French Bean ‘Blue Lake’. I last grew these in 2010 and was kept in a steady supply of green beans for the whole harvest season. Fingers crossed that they will be as successful this time too.

Harvested Courgettes and French Beans.
My harvested Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ and French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ from 2010.

I’ve been rapidly running out of windowsills, so I’ve cleared an entire windowsill of my Spider Plants ‘Chlorophytum Comosum’ – which i often add to containers as bedding.

Scale Insects
Close-up of Scale Insects. Photo: Gilles San Martin.

However, whilst clearing the windowsill I’ve discovered that these plants had Scale insects – tiny brown/orange sticky bugs that suck the sap and secrete a sticky solution over the leaves and anything else they come into contact with.

So, I’ve really had to clear the windowsill with hot soapy water (and a blast of Dettol spray for luck!). Those Spider Plants are now outside where they’ll spend the rest of their days – dodging frosts.

Sowing herbs, salad crops and bedding plants

With spring upon us, I’ve set a load of herbs, salad crops and flowers for this summer’s garden.

With the birds busily singing and making nests and the semi-regular appearances of the sun, I’ve been able to enjoy being outside a bit more over these last few days. It’s given me the chance to clear away the final remnants of last summer’s season and prune a Buddleia and trim down the mystery rosebush to encourage the buds to grow into this year’s flowering branches. So, with spring well and truly here, I’ve decided to sow some more seeds for this year’s garden.

Gardening kits

If you remember back to December, I received two gardening kits for Christmas – one from Unwins (or should I say ‘Secret Santa’?) and one from the Gardeners’ World brand. I’ve unpacked these and set them going – with Parsley ‘Moss Curled’ and Chives set in the Gardeners’ World kit.

Three pots for herbs from a Gardeners' World branded kit
The Gardeners’ World branded herb kit.

The Unwins kit was a bit misleading – as it shows the great range of salad crops on the box, but when you open the box there’s just two packs of mixed seed. So, i’ve actually not sown them and have chosen to grow another crop of Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ in the kit instead. Maybe i’ll come back to the mixed seed – as I had been excited by trying the Pak Choi.

flowers you can eat

Last year I rescued a few withering Nasturtium ‘Peach Melba’ plants and they really did well and brought a lot of much-needed aphid-eating hoverflies into the garden. So, this year I’ve bought a pack of Suttons’ Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mix’ to replicate the effect.

Nasturtium 'Peach Melba'
One of last year’s Nasturtium ‘Peach Melba’ plants recovering in the garden.

I’m pretty sure that the packet for last year’s seed mentioned eating the leaves, yet these new seeds recommends eating the flowers as part of a salad. I’ve never tried it as it feels a bit destructive to me – much like eating the flowers of Courgettes – again, apparently a delicacy. Maybe I’ll try eating some this year though.

Don’t eat these though…

My first sowing of the Salvia ‘Farinacea – Victoria’ seems to have produced just 4 plants – a bit disappointing really. The packet does say germination takes between 7-21 days, so I’ll leave the pot alone for a while longer, but set a few more. The blue flowers really seemed to draw the bees in last year, so I want to be sure I get a repeat this year.

Thankfully, last year’s Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’ has survived the winter and has begun growing again.

I’ve also picked up a packet of good old Cineraria ‘Maritima Silverdust’ – in a bid to add that delicate silver/grey foliage amongst the blue flowers of the Salvia.