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

Sowing the seeds of 2017

The propagator takes its first batch of seeds, as I plan for a garden I don’t yet know.

Inspired by the warmer spring weather here in the midlands of the UK, I’ve just been sowing a few of the seeds that I want to see in my garden this year.

The recent media-fuelled panic of the Courgette Crisis really irritated me, partly because it was self-perpetuated by the press, and partly because I eat a lot of courgette as a healthier lower-carb option to eating pasta or spaghetti. I’ve done this for years now.

Therefore, I’ve just sown some Courgette seeds that I found in an old packet. No guarantee that they’ll germinate, but I like to give nature a chance as it can do some exceptionally amazing things when the odds are against it!

The last few years have been abysmal for Courgettes in my garden. The herds of snails and slugs have taken great delight in munching through main stems and baby courgettes, along with mildew, and also my neighbour’s careless midnight wheelie bin trundles (they have a right of access through my garden), and of course blasts of sudden strong winds that see the courgette plant act like an umbrella in a gale.

But this year, in about 6 weeks time, I move house and I shall have a larger, blank, enclosed garden, which currently has a tired lawn reaching to every edge and corner, that’s been the playground of a toddler and a dog. So, I’m keen to soon plant things in this so that I don’t miss a year’s worth of growing. The courgettes are sown and I’ve also sown some other seeds too, and placed them in my trusty little propagator.

I’ve planted:

  • Lupin ‘Band Of Nobles Mixed’
  • Hollyhock ‘Majorette Mixed’
  • Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’

The Salvia has always been a great addition to my garden – I love blue flowers, as do bees, and I like bees too!

The Lupins and Hollyhocks were amongst a bundle of seed packets that were given to me by friend Anne, who knew I would be moving in 2017 (and she gave me some smart new shears too). These plants will give me some flowering height and I’ll probably add some poppies and sunflowers too, but I’ll sow them another time.

Bergenia 'Cordifloria'
Bergenia ‘Cordifolia’

Yesterday I even ventured to my local garden centre, where the car park was almost full, and wandered through the lush green plants for inspiration, I stumbled across some Bergenia ‘Cordifolia’ which reminded me of my mother’s garden so I chose a couple of healthy looking plants and brought them home for planting out in my forthcoming garden.

Anyway, with 2017 garden plans and dreams forming in my head, I bid you happy gardening!

Andrew

Sunshine coaxes the Foxgloves and I am bee-seiged by ‘friends’

The garden has grown a lot thanks to rain and lots of sunshine – with Foxgloves and others coming into bloom… plus a surge of bees cause a problem!!

After weeks of dreary rain, and then days of hot sunshine, the garden has rapidly grown.

Foxglove 'Excelsior Hybrids Mixed'
The first Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ flowers

Today has seen the first flowers emerging from the lush green growth that has flourished in the recent weather conditions. The Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ that I sowed last year and have spent months nurturing, have finally opened the first of its flowers, having spent the last couple of weeks reaching skywards with long prongs of tightly closed buds. The first of these opened today, but many others have their buds ready to uncurl in the next few days.  It’s very satisfying to see these finally come into flower.

Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant'
The Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ survived the winter.

These Foxgloves were joined by the return of the Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ with its gentle blue flowers that lure bees, and the bright white of the Caraway ‘Carum Carvi’ herb – another survivor of the winter, which probably disgusts mistaken passers-by who wonder why i’m growing ‘Cow Parsley’ (Anthriscus sylvestris).

Caraway 'Carum Carvi'
The Caraway ‘Carum Carvi’ on flower

Anyone following me on twitter will know that after all my efforts to encourage bees to the garden, I have somewhat overdone it…. by getting bees in my loft. Whilst they pose no immediate harm, a bee-keeper will soon be venturing through the loft hatch to coax them out before they do any damage.

In the meantime, their night-time buzzing and strange noises are fascinating, and there’s a distinct warm spot on my ceiling, caused by their nest, which gives an agitated buzzing reply if you gently tap it.

I’ve also planted out some of the Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’, the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ and the Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mixed’ – the latter two no doubt causing great joy amongst the snail herd.

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.

The seedlings, the survivors, and the casualties

Seedlings are thriving at the moment, and there are some surprise winter survivors in the garden, but also some unexpected casualties.

It won’t be soon until I can stop buying those expensive bags of Rocket leaves, which supermarkets seem to pollute with Watercress. I don’t particularly dislike Watercress, but it seems that any bagged salad that contains Watercress is like buying a tasty crop of green leaves, with a special handful of slimy, rotting waste thrown in. It almost feels like your bag of salad has become Baby Bio by the time you get it home.

The Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ seeds that I sowed in the Unwins salad kit, germinated within 4 days of sowing, and the seedlings are now more than an inch high.

Rocket 'Skyrocket' seedlings
The Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ seedlings are growing fast.

Meanwhile, the seeds for the Parsley ‘Moss Curled’ and Chives (from the other Christmas gift) are happily growing on the next windowsill along. These will need pricking out soon. I’ll have more than enough of these plants.

Parsley (left) and Chives (right) have germinated
Parsley ‘Moss Curled’ (left) and Chives (right) have germinated in their BBC Gardeners’ World growing kit.

Last year’s Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’ has continued to thrive in its pot, so this afternoon i took some of the top soil out and replaced it with some fresh compost. I’m really pleased that this survived the harsh winter, as it was last seen completely covered in snow alongside some bright blue/indigo Polyanthuses that sadly didn’t survive. When the Salvia flowers, I hope that it will once again attract the bees into the garden.

The Salvia survived
The Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’ survived the harsh winter and is lush with growth for 2012.

My second wave of 2012 Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ seed sowings seems to be more successful. I’d previously managed to prick out the paltry four seedlings from my January sowing into some 3″ pots to grow on, and now my sowing from a couple of weeks ago is beginning to see the lush green leaves poking through the compost.

Garden discoveries

I managed to spend some time in the garden lightly digging and removing some of the weeds that had managed to take hold. These weeds will easily take hold at this time of year, so it’s important to remove them now.

I discovered that a Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ has self-sown and a small but healthy plant is merrily growing halfway along a border. The Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ has self-sown – again, another flowering plant popular with bees.

Sadly, my Rosemary Upright Rosemary Officinalis (which I often use in cooking as it grows fast and is very aromatic) was unable to survive the hard winter in its pot, so I’ll aim to replace this soon.

The first of the 2012 seeds are now sown

The first seeds have been sown in 2012 – a mixture of Aubergines, Peppers, Salvia and Sweet Peas.

I’ve just sown my first seeds of the year!

Six pots containing newly sown seeds.
The first seeds have been sown.

Yesterday I popped over to the wonderful Twenty Pence Garden Centre where I picked up a new propagator and a small bag of compost. I managed to somehow resist even touching seed packets – knowing that I’d already done my buying for 2012 and that there were also plenty of seeds in the secret santa gifts and my farewell present from CBM.

As last year’s Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’ plants just didn’t seem to be far enough ahead, and following the suggestion from fellow blogger Barry at The Gourmand’s Progress, I decided that I would sow the seeds in January to give them a head start.

I took the opportunity to see what other plants in my seed collection were recommended to be planted in January and it turned out there were a few… so after some rummaging for pots, I ended up with a propagator full of sown seeds ready to start life.

The seed packets
The four types of seeds that have been sown.

Having seen the bees swarm around the one Salvia Nemerosa Ostfrieslan plant I picked up by chance last summer, I decided to hunt down this vivid blue flower for myself. So I’ve planted a small number of Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ in a bid to replicate this for myself.

Despite being decimated by greenfly last year, I’ve sown some more Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ in a bid to get them that bit ahead of marauding pests. These were determined to survive (and they did) but the pests damaged their young leaves and buds, stunting them in their bid to scale the canes.

I’ve also sown a couple of Pepper (Sweet) Frigitello – apparently they are ‘vigorous plants with small, sweet tasting, thin walled conical, green fruits which turn red’. These will be joining the Aubergines in the wicker basket.

So there we go, 2012 has properly begun, and the propagator is now sitting on a windowsill waiting for the signs of lush green growth to push through the compost.

Have you sown anything yet? What are you going to try growing this year? – as ever, let me know in the comments below!

Planning the garden for 2012

Andrew looks back at the successes and failures of 2011, and plans for 2012!

This weekend, I once again found myself buying seeds for next year. This is a fairly addictive habit of mine. So whilst my local Huntingdon Garden and Leisure was thick with shoppers, pushing and shoving their way round calendars and Christmas decorations, I headed off into the opposite direction towards the pots, propagators and seeds.

2011 wasn’t great for my courgettes with both of the Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants succumbing to a mildew. This is perhaps partly because I planted my Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’ so thickly, that air wasn’t able to circulate around the courgette leaves to dry them and avoid the outbreak.

The Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’ plants were reluctant. Out of 7 plants (3 kept in a greenhouse, 4 grown outside), 1 died outside suddenly, leaving 6 plants. None of them produced a harvestable Aubergine, with one of the outdoor plants producing a fruit that you could practically inhale instead. It’s still there. The fruit hasn’t grown and the plant hasn’t died. It’s almost as if it’s just switched off!

Finally, the first Aubergine begins
Seven aubergine plants, and not one harvestable fruit!

Blogging chum ‘Scyrene’, who has a tomato addiction and writes the brilliant ‘The Gourmand’s Progress’, suggests that I sow the Aubergine seeds in a propagator in January in a bid to get that little bit further on. So, I will try again (on a smaller scale). If you have any tips on growing aubergines, please let me know in the comments!

My Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ took a real hammering from those pesky aphids / greenfly, with ladybirds moving in far too late to deal with them. This aside, I will try growing them again, as they tried hard to recover from the ordeal.

Speaking of ‘sweet’ – my little collection of Strawberry plants (Strawberry ‘Fragaria x ananassa Elsanta’ in particular), did well. Okay, so I only have 4 plants, but they kept going even when there wasn’t a great deal of sunshine around. I’ll hopefully find myself with an expanded crop of these in 2012.

Blue is the colour

My observations this year, is that everyone’s friend the bee, loves blue flowers. With this in mind, I took cuttings of the existing Lavender that was in the garden already, as it was very popular with them. In addition, I have one of those freebie packets of Thompson & Morgan Lavender ‘French’ from the Amateur Gardening magazine, which seems to be the same type.

Added to this will be Salvia ‘Farinacea – Victoria’ from Suttons Seeds – giving the garden another shot of blue. My Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’ was very popular with the bees this summer, so hopefully this will build on it.

…and the rest…

Foxgloves are ready to escape
The Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’, grown from seed, have been planted out.

Already planted out are the now matured Foxglove Excelsior ‘Hybrids Mixed’Wallflower ‘Ruby Gem’, and the Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ which should be flowering early next year.

I also picked up a packet of Suttons Seeds Night Scented Stock ‘Matthiola Bicornis’ – as I would like to see if I can get some plants that are fragrant. The Sweet Peas are supposed to be, but I never smelt anything (perhaps they were just stressed by the aphids?).

Having read many praises for their fragrance from Sean James Cameron on Twitter (a presenter on The Horticultural Channel), I’ve decided to give them a go too.

All set!

So, I’m already set up for 2012! 2011 has been great for learning in a new garden – which is both windy and shaded, and despite some failures, it has been very enjoyable to grow things from seed, nurture them to maturity and then see them grow and bloom for both myself and the wildlife to enjoy.