Two Hour Gardening Project: Stage 2
A fortnight ago we were sober and practical, planting a highspeed vine-type vegetable to hide us from our neighbours and improve the soil. Spring weather has made us more fun-loving. This time we’re going for the boldest brightest splash of colour you ever saw in a garden right in the very front of. All provided by two hardy . Calendulas and Shirley . With the first we sow the seeds individually: with the poppies we scatter them broadcast.
Needs list: 1 pktseed – preferably pelleted; 1 pkt Shirley poppy seed; ½ cwt/50 lb bag moss ; 1 pkt bonemeal.
Time budget: 4 hours in 2 weeks
Mid April weather/soil
An unpredictable season this, raising hopes of summer to come with clear blue skies then dashing them with bouts of late frosts. Weather typically showery, blustery, given to sudden dry spells (hard on new-sprouted seedlings). Avoid the temptation to plant tender subjects yet.
Flower of the Fortnight
The Shirley poppy belongs here because now’s the time to sow the seed. In the warmer parts of the country you’ll find it shoots up into flower so fast you may have your own seedlings in flower before fall. If not, save seed to sow again next year, for this is one of the easiest of annuals – one of those flowers no garden should ever be without. Collecting seed is easy: just tap the seedheads so the seeds fall into an envelope. Keep dry over winter. Plants look best near the back of a border, to show off the flowers in front. Though beautiful in them-selves, their greatest garden value is that they help make other plants look even more exciting. Grows to 2 ft. tall. Flowers June till September.
1. Continue picking stones out of the soil. Stack or store as before for future use.
2. Continue burning wood waste. Save ash for future use.
3. Put all vegetable waste from home and garden into your compost bin.
4. If you already have a lawn and intend to mow it, make sure your mower is oiled and that the blades are sharpened ready for cutting.
5. Mark existing plants in your garden that you may wish to keep. Do this with a stick beside the plant. Signs of life should be appearing all over the garden now, so make the decision on what to keep and what to throw out now, before the greenery becomes too lush and dense. Then, with all the plants you want to keep safely marked with sticks, as markers, you can safely pull up any stray greenery that appears.
6. If the weather has been very dry, make sure that the soil in the peat pots planted in the bean bed (Stage 1) are kept moist but never wet at all times. Check all pots for signs of life. Whip out any pot that has not produced seedlings after 15 days, replace with reserve plants germinated indoors. Plant as before.
Project work: Planting an annual bed with 2 colourful flowers
Dig over the entire bed as shown in Stage 1. Dig to a full 1 spit depth/a spade’s depth, turning the soil thoroughly. Sort out all the larger stones and any roots, especially the white, thread like roots of pernicious such as couch grass, , ground elder.
All these weeds will romp away if you leave so much as £ in. of root in the ground. Cover the soil with 1 in. moss peat = 7 lb/ yd2. Use double this quantity if your soil is very heavy clay or exceedingly fine sand. Using a garden fork, work the peat thoroughly into the top 6 in. of soil. Then sprinkle a top dressing of bonemeal over the bed; apply at the rate of 4 oz/yd2. If you don’t know what a yd2 looks like, lay strings at 3 ft. intervals along one side of the bed, then more string at 3 ft. intervals at right angles to the first lot and over them.
Apply 4 oz. in each square thus created. Next, make a criss-cross pattern at the front of the bed, using a dibbler or a stick. It’s just like drawing patterns in the sand. What you want are criss-crossing straight lines, each 1/2 in. deep with raised sides. Plant your calendula seeds individually 3-4 in. apart.
The aim is not a regular pattern but a seemingly random array of flowers. This way you sow the seed right, and the end result looks just great. Cover the calendula seeds by drawing the soil back over them with the back of the rake. Take a handful of poppy seeds and broadcast them – just sprinkling them loosely over the soil with your fingers. Do this at the back of the bed behind the calendulas. These poppies, too, will come up in a dense, random fashion. Rake over the poppy seed lightly, so that they are buried in no more than 1/8 in. Plant a few seeds of each in peat pots indoors. Use later as replacements where any patches of seed fail to come up. You should be able to tell by then.