IT’S the Royal Horticultural Society’s Grow Your Own Weekend tomorrow and Sunday, in an effort to persuade more of us to discover the pleasure (and thriftiness) of producing our own crops.
WHILE most Grow Your Own Weekend events are being held at the RHS’s four major gardens (nearest one is Harlow Carr, near Harrogate), you don’t have to travel a million miles to take part.
Although organisers must be groaning at the rotten spring we’ve had so far, now should be the time when you can think about sowing hardy annuals and veg out of doors.
If you buy cut flowers but wouldn’t think of growing them yourself, ask yourself how much you spend on an average bunch – a fiver?
For that much, you could have three or four packets of hardy annual flower seeds, which make excellent and long-lasting vase blooms – and they’ll flower all summer.
The dwarf sunflower Solar Flash (pictured above) that I trialled last year for Thompson and Morgan is a real stunner and produces new blooms on side shoots if you cut the main flower.
Other easy-to-grow annuals from seed are Calendula (pot marigolds), cornflowers, sweet peas, Nigella (love in a mist), Ammi majus (bishop’s flower), Godetia and Statice.
These are all a doddle – you can sow them from now to May in a sunny site direct into the soil where they are to flower.
Mark where you’ve sown them with sand so you don’t forget, label them and cover the soil with some twigs to stop cats using it as a toilet.
You can also sow them in pots or modules if you want to plant them out later.
As for veg, some are so easy, you don’t need a garden.
* “Cut-and-come-again” salads are the easiest to choose and can save you a fortune on supermarket pre-bagged rubbish.
All the big seed houses offer mixes with a range of textures and flavours.
It depends on the time of year, but T&M’s Speedy Mix is ready for cutting in just three weeks in the summer – and then they can be harvested several times.
The slower-growing lettuce Ultimate Mixed (pictured above) is a fabulous range I’d really recommend, for taste and colour, and they don’t bolt like some varieties in summer.
* Spring onions, such as White Lisbon, can be sown successively all throughout summer, so you’re never short.
* Radishes are not my cup of tea, but very easy – again, sow a few each week so they don’t all mature at once.
* Peas can be sown directly into the ground from March to June.
All they require is support, with either chicken wire or twiggy sticks.
The taste here is so good, you’ll never go back to the supermarket.
* Herbs are easy to grow from seed but for an instant herb garden, the nurseries are full of small pots now. Don’t forget to plant mint in a pot on its own, or it’ll take over.
* A surprise for me when I first started growing them was broad beans. They’re gorgeous, like nothing you can buy.
I’ve already started mine off under glass in 3” pots of compost.
You can sow them directly in the ground, but wait until next month, when it has dried out a bit and temperatures have risen, otherwise they’ll just rot. Try a dwarf variety like The Sutton for decent cropping in the North East.
* Runner beans are almost as easy, but far more robust – and pretty, with red, white or bicoloured flowers. If you sow directly, wait until the end of May, as they’re not frost hardy. Keep them well watered and fed and they will reward you with a constant supply in summer.
Regular picking is essential, as once pods reach full size, the “need” to form beans shuts off – and that’s your lot!