Here’s the main content of the Calderdale Council monthly gardening email newsletter. You can sign up to this newsletter and Calderdale’s other newsletters here – Newsletters
So glad that spring has arrived, early morning is now filled with bird song and is a joy to listen to as I wake up each day, feels like time to start sowing seeds. I must confess that I haven’t waited until spring to sow the first ones and now have a south facing windowsill full of pots but loads more in packets waiting! That is my task for over the next few weeks, helped I hope by my grandson who seems to like assisting with his tiny gardening tools and watering ca
- Make space for vegetables
- Look after wildlife
- Enjoy being outdoors
- Want to learn more about peat free gardening? Garden Organic are offering a free online course to find out more, visit Garden Organic | Peat-free growing
The cost-of-living crisis and the lack of vegetables available in our shops recently has helped bring into focus how much we rely on other people for the food we eat. Why not have a go at growing your own this year? It is the perfect time of year to start growing your own from seed or from plug plants and you don’t need a big garden, a yard or balcony will be enough to get you started; many herbs and vegetables can be grown in a very small space or container. To get started, you just need some containers (reusing mushroom or grape containers works well), some seeds (preferably organic) and peat free potting compost. On the back of a packet of seed is a chart which tells you what time of year to sow and whether you can sow directly outside or need to have somewhere warm to start the seeds on their journey – greenhouse, indoor windowsill, or cold frame.
There are lots of places to grow the seeds once they are plants or some seeds can be started in the place they will be for their whole life. Potatoes can be grown in a bed in the garden or in potato bag or dolly tub, they just need to be kept covered with soil as they grow (known as earthing up) to stop light getting to the potatoes and making them green and inedible. Other places to grow include hanging baskets (good for strawberries and some bush or hanging tomatoes), window boxes which are great for herbs and salad leaves and raised beds which can be made to fit whatever space you have available. One amazing growing technique is growing in a 1 metre square bed. Have a look here, it is incredible how much such a small space can produce. Whatever space you have available, give it a go. Not everything works every year, but it is a joy to be able to harvest your own fruit and vegetables
Pricking out seedlings (nurturing the babies)
One of those strange phrases that makes gardening sound a bit exclusive and like you need to have lots of knowledge to do it but easy to do once you have the task translated for you. Once you have sown some seeds and they are starting to grow, you end up with a pot full of lots of little plants (assuming the weather is kind, and you remember to water them!). If you leave them where they are there won’t be enough room to let them get bigger, so you need to split them into individual plants and put them in a bigger pot to grow on before moving to their final home in a bed or container in a few weeks’ time. All you need to do this is some peat free potting compost and some clean pots (recycled from last year or further back in time if possible). Fill some pots with some compost and then gently tip the plant out onto a solid surface and then carefully split the plants apart with your fingers. Once separated into individual plantlets, make a hole in the pot of compost (a pencil works well) and pop the roots of the plant in the hole.
Gently push compost in the hole, give the plant a little water and place in a warm place to carry on growing (the seed packet will tell you where is best, many will need a south facing windowsill, cold frame, or greenhouse, but some can go straight outside once the chance of frost has past).
The young plants are on their journey to becoming food or to making our lives better by producing flowers.
Plant out tender plants
The risk of frost has now passed, and it is considered safe to plant out things that aren’t hardy. This includes many bedding plants and vegetable plants which are raised in a greenhouse, cold frame or sunny windowsill which require ‘hardening off’ before exposing to night-time temperatures without protection. This means putting the plants outdoors during the day and bringing them back under cover overnight for a couple of weeks before planting them out permanently.
Plants such as bedding plants that fall into this category include some fuchsias, pelargoniums, dahlias, and salvia. Vegetables in this group include cucumber, peppers and tomatoes, some varieties of which can be grown outside but not all.
Check the labels that are on the plants when you buy them or read the seed packet if growing from seed to find out all you need to know. Making the transition between the warmth of a greenhouse etc to the great outdoors is a shock for plants so making the transition a gentle one gives the plants the best chance of survival.
Photo credit: Adam Swift
Hoe weeds if the weather is dry
It is far easier than bending down to weed beds if you use a hoe to remove recently germinated unwanted plants (sometimes referred to as ‘weeds’). This works best if the weather is dry on the day you decide to weed as the plants the hoe removes dry out and die very quickly. Hoes are great for using on beds where the plants are in straight lines but can be used on flower beds too if used with care and the plants aren’t too close together. It’s better for your back and knees too!
What to do with tulip bulbs after flowering
You have two options here: the lazy way, which usually works but not always, where you leave them where they flowered or the slightly harder way which is best for successful flowering the year after and is essential if they were in pots you want to use again in the summer. Either way, when the flowers fade, remove the dead flower heads, and leave the leaves on the plant to create strong bulbs for next year. When the leaves die back (about 2-3 weeks after flowering ends), that’s when you need to decide whether to lift the bulbs to store until next autumn or leave them in situ. Much of this depends on whether you grow your bulbs in the ground or use pots in which case you may need to reuse them for the summer. There is information on how to store the bulbs here.
Gardening tools for beginners
If you are a new gardener then there is a certain amount of equipment that will make your new hobby easier. This kit doesn’t need to be new or expensive if you are searching around at car boots, second-hand markets or look online for things people no longer need. There is also the opportunity to make good use of birthdays and Christmas!
I have been thinking about what equipment would make it to my top 5 list and came up with the following:
1. Hand fork
3. Garden fork
5. Watering can
Talk to relatives and friends to see if they have anything in a shed they no longer use (I was lucky enough to get a long-handled hand fork from a friend whose Mum was going into residential care recently and it is great quality and free and best of all, his Mum loved the fact it was going to someone who would use it! The right tools make life a lot easier and help set you on the gardening journey.
Bats are emerging from hibernation now feeling very hungry so, why not give them a helping hand and make your garden bat friendly? Find out more here. There are lots of things that can help bats and many of them don’t cost a fortune or in some cases anything at all.
Enhance the planting for bats by introducing night scented plants such as night scented stock, evening primrose, tobacco plant and jasmine bats love these as do night flying moths, so it is a win win.Try to limit the amount of light in your garden, if you like lights for when you sit out in the evening, consider installing ones that can be turned off when you don’t need them or only light a small area of garden and leave some areas dark.
Putting up a bat box can help if you have a suitable space to install it. Find out more here. Whatever you choose, bats will benefit.
It is that time when most people who have a lawn start to think about the first cut. Try to leave some areas to grow until at least the end of May and be rewarded with meadow plants that benefit bees as well as bats.
Wild garlic is approaching its best now so if you fancy a walk in the woods there is a good chance of finding some to forage. Wild garlic is a lovely flavour and easy to identify. Follow the link here to photos of wild garlic and a recipe for wild garlic pesto and here for a recipe of wild garlic soup. Follow your nose and you will find this plant!
Easy Evening Meals
A one pot recipe which is a favourite in our house is this one which saves on washing up and is quick to make, perfect for a mid-week meal. We adapt this slightly for spring by including asparagus as one of the veg (be sure to place the asparagus under the chicken to avoid it getting burnt) or if you prefer a vegetarian diet, I suggest using quorn fillets instead. The following recipe for mushroom stroganoff – I can recommend it at any time of year, it is one we all love in our house
Good news for people who are looking for an allotment to rent in Calderdale is that we have vacancies on 3 sites at the moment. Sites available are Mixenden, Ainley Top and Marsh Lane at Southowram. Interested?
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Perfect time to get a crop off a new plot this summer. If you are interested, get your application in quickly before you miss the chance to get growing this summer.
Join us on the path to a brighter future
Calderdale is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. We can already see impacts like wildfires, extreme temperatures, and flooding. However, lots of brilliant work is taking place to tackle the climate emergency. People across the borough are coming together to take action. This is also reducing pollution, improving our neighbourhoods and saving money. Sign up for our climate newsletter to keep up to date on community climate news, climate action in Calderdale and more.
I just heard on Radio 2 that Liza Tarbuck is doing a series of podcasts called ‘Let it Grow’. Find out more here including how to get free seeds to sow.