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

Planning the 2018 garden

I’m planning my 2018 garden. Always have a plan!

This April, it will be 1 year since I bought and moved in to this house.

During that time, I have broken a garden laid entirely to a tired lawn, moved fences, planted a hedge, and enjoyed a lot of homegrown vegetables and flowers.

Now that I’ve begun to understand my garden a bit, I’m creating my plan for 2018, based on what I’ve observed so far.

Above is my 2018 Google planner for the seeds that I want to sow this year – helping me to keep on track.

 

1. There’s a shady bit

Close to the fence, patio and house, there’s a shaded area which is also pretty heavy clay. The water sits here sometimes for a while, trying to escape the patio. My potted Ferns like this area, and I successfully transferred a few self-sown Foxgloves that had tried to make home in my garden pots that I moved with me from my previous house.

This part of the garden will be getting some Aquilegia ‘McKana Giants’ in 2018, which apparently enjoy more shaded moist conditions.

2. There’s an old shed

The old decrepit shed needs to be demolished, as it’s empty, somehow has stood the countless gales we’ve had with little more than an occasional door swing, and it’s taking up precious growing space. What it is doing though, is helping to provide some privacy between the bottom of my garden and the houses who back up to my fence. I’m thinking about having a new fence installed, but first I just need to take it down. I hope it’s not concrete under that!

3. More raised beds

Having demolished the old shed, then I’ll have space and a pile of wood from which I aim to make some more raised beds. This part of the garden fared really well for my French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ and my ‘sow-by-2012’ salad crops. It also gave me the occasional courgette, although these were the only ones grown in the ground (rather than a raised bed) so they were a bit slower. The new raised beds will fit in the old shed space.

4. Blackcurrants

I’ve bought a couple of Blackcurrant ‘Ribes Nigrum’ bushes. They’re just budding at the moment, but I hope to eventually get a crop from them in the next couple of years. I think these are also going near the shed footprint.

5. Birds

This morning, I participated in The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch with my independent adjudicator, RubyCat. The garden is busy this weekend – now that the snow, wind, and rain, gave everyone a few hours break. I noticed that there’s a reasonable range of bird life coming in, and so I hope that my B&Q birdbox (which incidentally split) will get its first use, and I hope the birds are enjoying the 4 bird feeders and the sunflower heads I left on. I’ll be growing more sunflowers for them and the bees.

6. Up

Last year I learned that Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ loves to crawl, climb, grab, grasp, and strangle. That was my first ever year of growing squashes, and they gave me plenty out of just one plant. This year, I need to make that plant go upwards, instead of letting is maraud its way over, through and around a 20ft radius of garden. I shall be looking for either a trellis, or an arch that will suit my needs.

Elsewhere in the garden, I also want to solve the issue I had last year with the reluctant Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ and Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mix’. They were happy to flower and grow where i’d planted them, but they refused to climb. I put it down to the climbing ‘frame’ being made of string rather than wire, and so I will swap my intricate string grid with wire, and see if I can finally persuade them and my new Honeysuckle ‘Lonicera’ to reach upwards and give me scent and blooms this summer.

Flower and vegetable seed packets
My seed packets are raring to be opened!

Right! My seed packets are all alphabetically filed in a new storage box, and ready to go… c’mon budge over Winter, let’s have some Spring!

What are you planning for your garden this year? Are you trying anything ‘new’ in 2018? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, thanks for reading, and happy gardening,

Andrew

 

Pinching out the Sweet Peas

The Sweet Peas need some tough love in the form of ‘pinching out’, and the Tulip ‘Triumph’ flowers are about to open.

It’s been about 2.5 weeks since I sowed my Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mixed’ seeds, and about 10 days since I sowed my Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ seeds. Out of 12 seeds of each, I have 9 Royal Mixed, and 7 Cupani that have germinated. There could be more on their way, but those early Royal Mixed are now several inches long.

Sweet Pea 'Royal Mixed' need pinching out
Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mixed’ need slowing down.

I say long, because they’re long, not tall. The longest being 22cm, and this means I need to do something to help stop these getting too straggly. These Sweet Peas need ‘pinching out’.

When a Sweet Pea hits on something good, it goes up and up and up, or would do if these were planted against some wire, or sticks, but as they’re still too little to go outside, I need to stop them getting too straggly. By ‘pinching out’ the top growth buds, it will encourage the plant to throw out side shoots, therefore making a stronger, bushier plant.

The 'pinched out' Sweet Pea 'Royal Mixed' growth tips.
Some of the ‘pinched out’ Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mixed’ growth tips.

This will slow them down a bit, result in stronger plants, and also encourage more stems. More stems means more buds, and then more flowers.

This is a fairly common practice, and one that I’ve done in previous years. However, if you’re new to this, or new to growing Sweet Peas, then check out this handy little guide from Thompson and Morgan.

Elsewhere in the garden, the Tulips continue to bloom in a range of lilacs, peach, and now red and deep purple – with my Tulip ‘Triumph’ bulbs blooming for the first time – after I set them on 20th December last year.

Tulip 'Triumph' purple flowers
The dark crimson Tulip ‘Triump’ flowers are almost open.

The windowsills are still creaking with pots and trays, but we’re now back down to one propagator only.

It’s lovely and sunny this weekend, and as I type this I can hear the birds singing (and rowing under my eaves), and someone is mowing their lawn somewhere down the road.

As ever, happy gardening, and thanks for reading.

Andrew

The 3 Little Propagators

The third propagator came into action this weekend, as British Summer Time arrived and I fill another windowsill with seedlings.

I’ve been on a seed sowing frenzy these last few weeks, and now I have 3 propagators full of seedlings and freshly sown pots, and a number of other pots, taking up space on 5 windowsills.

The first propagator saw an early leap from a Hollyhock ‘Majorette Mixed’, with Sunflower ‘Helianthus Annus Autumn Time’ and a Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ close behind. These have now migrated onto windowsills, and more seedlings have since emerged from their pots. They’ll soon need pricking out so that they can grow on in their own pots.

Hollyhock and Lupin seedlings in pots.
The Hollyhock and Lupin seedlings were soon up.

I loaded propagator 2 up a few days later, and that swiftly followed with more seedlings – the Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ seedlings in particular sprang up (and have now been removed), with a slower appearance from the Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’, but then this is older seed, so I’ll keep an eye on the progress and re-sow with newer seed if they fail to grow much. My original sowing of these seeds still inhabit my garden, so even if this fresh batch fails, I will still be taking them with me to my new garden, as they’ve self-sown into my garden pots. The Antirrhinums have been joined by Parsley Laura ‘Petroselinum Crispum’ – a flatleaf parsley I like to use in the kitchen, and Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’.

I realised that I had a couple of single-pot tall clear plastic domes, so I commandeered these into action – becoming micro propagators for Tomato ‘Minibel’ and Monarda Austromontata ‘Bee’s Favourite’ also commonly known as Bergamot. I’ve never grown Monarda, but apparently the bees love it and from the photo on the seed packet, they do look a bit like dead nettles with little delicate flowers. The seed was tiny, and I think it takes ages to grow.

Tomatos and Monarda inside propagator domes.
Tomatoes and Monarda inside propagator domes.

Meanwhile, on a cooler windowsill the Sweet Pea Royal Mix have nearly all broken the compost – there’s just three seeds left to appear. These haven’t needed a propagator, but like the rest, I’m making sure that they have enough light and water.

I’ve just filled up propagator 3. This time I’ve given in to previously hopeless attempts, and sown some Aubergine ‘Early Long Purple 2’ seeds after being re-inspired by GoTropical’s video on them and how he’d has had luck with them. I’ve only sown three, but I’m determined to get at least one fruit from them… ever, as they’re another great alternative to pasta for me.

Joining them in the propagator is Poppy ‘Coral Reef’ which is a pink oriental poppy, some Sage which I commonly use in cooking, and some fresh Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ seeds that I bought this weekend. I’ve had mixed luck with those in the past, but they’re very elegant, and historically they’re credited as the original Sweet Pea variety from 1699. These don’t really need the propagator, but I thought I’d pop them in, if only to encourage them along to the same stage as the other Sweet Pea plants on the windowsill.

Sweet Pea 'Cupani'
Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ – when they go right.

This is such an exciting time of year, and it looks like everything is go, despite it still being cold and misty some mornings.

How is your seed-sowing going? What are you growing this year? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy gardening,

Andrew

I’m sow excited

Last night I had a seed sowing binge.

I’d hope that I’m amongst friends here and that some of you can relate to this:

I had a sowing binge.

It was only because I ran out of compost that I had to stop.

I even accidentally sowed some French Bean seeds a month early, and then extracted them from the dry compost (i’d counted them), dusted them down, and returned them to the packet. I’ll sow them for real in April otherwise they’ll get long and straggly on my windowsills.

Pots of newly sown seeds.
Just a few of the pots jammed in one of my propagators.

Last night I filled a second propagator with some of the new seeds that family friend Anne gave me at Christmas, and I also sowed a few more of my favourite flowers.

First up was a tray of my trusty Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’. I first sowed these back in 2011, and they’ve self sown ever since – into small cracks in paths, into garden pots, into the backs of borders. They are tremendous value for money, and my Suttons seed packet is pretty much all I ever needed. They just keep turning up and flowering everywhere, with lush dark green foliage and deep red, yellow, or white and pink delicately brushed flowers.

antirrhinum-chuckles-on-flower
The Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’ plants over-winter, and have self-sown for 6 years so far.

I’m hoping that this new batch will give my new incoming garden the same successful generations of flowers… although I’ve got plenty of the self-sown ones already resident in my garden pots that are all ready for the move.

Next was a few Sunflower ‘Helianthus Annus – Autumn Time’ from Thompson & Morgan. They’re a kind of burnt orange short sunflower, reaching about 3 feet tall. I’ll be sowing the taller ones later. Like the Antirrhinums, these will probably find themselves self-seeding into the next season, but only if the birds let them – the packet notes that they ‘make great food for birds’. I need to persuade my father to make me one of his bird boxes.

This was followed by another new choice for me – a small tray of Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ from Mr. Fothergill’s. These are pink and white pom-pom looking plants that reach about 2 foot tall. They look pretty flouncy, but apparently these release their scent particularly when touched – so I thought i’d give them a go and I’d aim to plant these near my new garden’s patio and the path.

Add to the windowsill a few pots of Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mixed’ part of Mr Fothergill’s royal 90th birthday commemorations. I’ve really struggled with sweet peas in the last few years – it doesn’t seem to matter how many I grow, they’ll all die – either by being annihilated by snails and aphids, flattened by wind, or roasted by sunshine. My first year was great – Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ worked a treat, but they failed ever since. Fingers crossed with these.

Sweet Pea 'Cupani'
The successful Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ – hopefully ‘Royal Mixed’ will be a success this year.

Then, as I began to pack everything up, I found the old Secret Santa wooden Kitchen Garden mini ‘windowbox’ planter from 2011… so I threw some compost in, and sprinkled the last of the old Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ seed into it. This might come to nothing as the seed is old, but I’m giving it the chance. I can easily re-sow over the top with some other salad seeds.

So that’s it, as I sowed these pots and trays, the urgent sound of ‘Tony Ices’ ice cream van blared past my house with it’s off-key shrill tune. My mind wandered to hot sunny evenings in the garden as the flowers gently sway in the breeze. Surely that’s a sign of what’s to come?

Happy gardening,

Andrew