Despite the near constant rain, garden life has been going at full pace over the last couple of months; now you should see tadpoles in the ponds, lush growth in the garden, a lawn that needs regular mowing, birds nesting, fledglings bumping around the bushes, foraging bees, scuffling hedgehogs, scented lilac bushes, tulips, etc…
There are ‘open’ gardens and flower shows (e.g. Bath, Malvern, Chelsea) to visit, all of which are rich sources of inspiration for new varieties, exciting plant combinations and design ideas. But it is also time to get down to some serious gardening!
Seed sowing should continue but if you prefer garden centres usually stock a wide range of young herbs, bedding, sweet peas and vegetables plants which does make life easier. I will be sowing more seeds to ensure continuity of crops such as mangetout peas, salads, French beans, beetroot, etc… However I do cheat a bit! I believe in ’working with nature as much as possible rather than against it’. Therefore I tend to let some of my overwintering salads (e.g. Rocket, Mizuna, mustard) flower and seed; the early flowers are beneficial to the bees; it saves money; I end up with a free new crop of seedlings without much effort. The drawback is that the seedlings are not in neat rows but I can always lift and transfer them to a better place if I wish. Similarly if you have a gravelled area in your garden you will notice that seedlings love growing in it. Particularly I find Verbena bonariensis difficult to keep in the border as it prefers the free draining gravel of the adjacent path, I am forever gently lifting them out of the gravel and back into the bed (the principle at the heart of ‘gravel / steppe’ gardens).
If you sometimes have difficulty in differentiating your seedlings from weed seedlings then I have a little theory which might be of use: the cabbage family (including radish, rocket, mizuna, sprouts, cauliflower, mustard, wall flowers) tend to have round seeds and as a result the first two ‘seed leaves’ (cotyledons) which appear above ground tend to be roundish. Plants which produce long thin seeds tend to give rise to seedlings with long thin ‘seed leaves’ (e.g. parsley, fennel, celery, carrot).
With the birds in mind, I am usually happy to do a bit of digging and bed preparation this time of year – including emptying the compost bin – as it makes rich and easy pickings for birds with nests full of hungry chicks. The compost added to beds (either dug in or as a mulch) will help the worm population and a nice empty compost bin will make life easier this summer.