Well, that had to be one of the slowest, yet fastest and most surreal months on record. I don’t even know what to say about it and I’m sure you’ve been overdosed on news and information, so I’m going to go straight to gardening. It really has never been a better time to garden. I am so thankful for mine and the opportunity to contribute to the food needs of my family and friends. And that is my plan for the year; to grow enough fruit and vegetables to be able share with my nearest and dearest first, then to help out my neighbours if I can dependent on the size and success of the harvests. The whole process of planning the garden, starting projects and seeds has given me a renewed sense of focus, which has been very welcome especially during the first week of major uncertainty, when everything in our world was up in the air. It’s also been a great help in filling out our new daily routines as a family. The kids have each chosen a crop to grow from sowing the seeds to harvesting, and will keep a journal as they go.
So onto this years plans. I got my grid paper and colouring pencils back out this year, to help me immortalise my plans on paper. I can barely draw, but I absolutely love putting pen to paper and making colourful if not rudimentary drawings of my garden spaces. That brings me to my first tip for the beginner gardener, make a plan of what you’re growing and where you’re going to grow it. Especially if you have dedicated raised beds or borders for growing veg year after year. Its a good idea to keep a plan so that you can refer back to it especially so you can practice good crop rotation. You can learn more about crop rotation here. Its also a good idea to make sure you’ll be able to fit all of your crops in your garden. Believe me its easy to get carried a way sowing seeds then realise you have no where left to plant them out!
A major project of mine this year, is the new potager garden, the space directly on the other side of the kitchen garden. This project has been at the back of my mind since the end of last summer. I dream of a whimsical space to grow flowers and vegetables together, with an archway and cottage style gate at the entrance to create yet another garden room. The space is around 14m x 9m and on a slope. It takes the brunt of the south westerly winds hence planting a hedge is high on the priority list this year.
In terms of growing, I’ll be bulking up on staple items, foods that we use daily: potatoes, onions, green and root veg. And that would be my second tip to a beginner grower. It may sound obvious but only grow what you are likely to eat. Growing a lot of exciting ‘new to you’ veggies is all good and well, but if they don’t end up on your plate you’re just taking up unnecessary growing space.
I have started off most of the seeds needed for this year. The more tender/ fast growing crops will be started off in the next week. Our last frost date here in the Scottish Borders is around the 2nd week of May, so I aim to start off seeds around 4-6 weeks before our frost date. I should then have healthy, strong plug plants to transplant outdoors once the risk of frost passes. And that my friends was tip number 3. Learn when your last frost date is. You can input your town into this website and it will tell you when you last frost date is roughly and when you should be starting off seeds! How helpful is that?!
With a sharp increase of people wishing to grow their own in the last month, you can imagine the demand for seeds and all things growing related has surged dramatically. The online seed suppliers that I generally use (Marshalls, Thompson & Morgan, Quickcrop) are still supplying and restocking, but expect lengthy delays in delivery. So specific to this situation, tip number 4 is to check for seeds and sowing compost whilst you’re doing the food shopping. I’ve found a lot of supermarkets have seed stands at the end of an aisle and a few piles of bagged compost at the entrance. This is a great way to get started, especially if you are focusing on container growing, as this will reduce the amount of compost needed to get you going. You can also save seeds from market bought veg you already have at home, harvesting seeds from tomatoes, squashes, chilli and pepper seeds on hand is a cheap way to begin.
My last tip for beginner gardeners is to do your research. There are some fabulous growers out there, that give advice every step of the way. I still watch garden videos daily for inspiration and advice from getting a tough seed to germinate to garden design. My go-to Youtubers are Laura and Aaron from Garden Answer, Katie from Lavender and Leeks, and Claire from Claires Allotment
Excluding the new potager garden, kitchen garden, and what I’ll be growing in the greenhouse, the rest of my plans for the garden are mostly come what may. Andrew started work on creating a windbreak for the fire pit area, so he will no doubt be building a permanent fire pit fixture using stones already on hand at some point. We’ve been talking about a tree house and new steps built into the slope leading up to the back garden, but that all depends on the supplies we have on hand.
In the midst of everything going on in the world I hope to spend a lot of quality time hanging out with the family, teaching my kids practical things that often slip by in the business of our usual routines. I saw this poem on social media recently and it sums up what I hope this experience means for my family.
“And the people stayed home.
And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.
And listened more deeply.
Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.
Some met their shadows.
And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”
Stay safe at home or in your garden x