Well, here I have another post about gardening, and outside living for you today. I am loving that this gorgeous weather has opened up another room to our house, and we are using it to its full advantage at the moment :
Here is a guest post today brought to you in association with : The English Garden Magazine
Starting a vegetable garden, allotment or even attempting to nurture a humble pot of radishes can be a daunting prospect for beginners. Are you unnerved by soil pH or the ethical dilemma of using natural peat? Baffled by crop rotation and carrot root fly? Not to worry. You can leave all that technical stuff to the experts and the village fete competitors. Growing your own fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers just isn’t that complicated.
First things first, look at the space you have available. It’s easy to get carried away and buy seed packets of everything you’ve ever fancied eating or putting in a vase, but start small and keep in mind where you’ll be planting. If you only have room for tiny violas, don’t overwhelm a small pot with a sprawling cucumber.
Likewise, things such as blueberry bushes don’t actually need a lot of space, but will only thrive in a sunny spot (though, unlike most things, blueberries won’t produce much in the first year, so be sure to find out what you can expect.) Check the sowing instructions before buying.
If you have room to start a flower border or dig up a vegetable bed, get a basic sense of the soil type and how much sunshine, shade and moisture the area gets. You needn’t be too scientific, but you can avoid disappointment by not planting sun-loving tomatoes in clay soil under the shadow of a hedge, for instance.
Fellow allotment gardeners are often veggie veterans and delighted to give advice, or ask at any garden centre. There are also endless online resources and print magazines bursting with garden design ideas, tips and monthly planners.
Next decide what you like. And what your kids like, or at least what they’ll be willing to try once they’ve pulled up their first homegrown beetroot. Gardening may not turn them into the 5-a-dayers of your dreams, but you might be surprised what a little hands-on involvement will achieve.
Growing plants really is child’s play. Sure, you may not get prize-winning courgettes the first time around, but what’s the worst that can happen? In most cases all you’ll need is a bit of soil and a tray or some pots (little yoghurt pots – washed out, of course – work well to start with.) It should be warm enough now for most seeds to germinate on a windowsill or even outside, without too much tending.
Better yet, buy sets (onions, shallots, potatoes) or ready sprouted plants such as tomatoes, beans, leeks, pumpkins, salad leaves, cucumbers or strawberries. Even if the only outdoor space you have is a sunny step or a windowbox, herbs such as rosemary, parsley, chives and thyme will happily thrive with a bit of water and the occasional light pinching of dead bits and flowering tops.
Now comes the hardest part: the wait. Are your strawberries getting enough sunshine? Have you overwatered the potatoes? Will those French beans ever grow?
Gardeners are a friendly bunch and a simple online search will tell you whether that innocent-looking caterpillar spells doom for your cabbages (pinch ‘em off as soon as they appear) or how to keep your kale going strong until winter.
Also now that the frost risk is – hopefully – behind us, there are plenty of flowers that are easy to tend and will encourage little green fingers. It’s not too late to sow cheerful sweet peas, marigolds, nasturtiums, sunflowers or cosmos. There’s nothing quite like a chubby little fistful of flowers to bring a smile to mummies, grannies and neighbours, and many flowers do well for regular harvesting, even at the hands of overzealous youngsters.
Gardening is a great way to introduce kids to science, maths, nutrition and caring for animals and the environment. Mark how seedlings grow and which plants work well together: garlic, for example, discourages certain pests if planted near things like carrots. Watch and talk about bees and butterflies pollinating plants, look for toads or newts taking shade under a rhubarb leaf, or see whether a shy hedgehog makes a home in a quiet corner.
Best of all, the food possibilities for your home produce are limitless – fresh salads, wholesome soups, grilled veg, mash, carrot cake, chutney… what are you waiting for?