Birds are telling you brighter days are coming

Torbay Weekly

Inching closer to Spring you can almost share the excitement of the birds trying to outdo each other by chirruping the loudest, somewhere deep in a nearby bush.

Fill up those bird feeders to encourage more life into the garden. Brighter days are within touching distance and that means getting busy in the garden.

Start to sow another group of sweet peas in pots ready to plant outside. You’ll be glad of a production line in the summer months to provide colour and heady scent. Mine get trained up a climber outside the South-facing back door, where the scent drifts in and gets more intense on a hot day. Sweet peas are a no brainer and no garden can call itself complete without them. Keep them coming by sowing some every month until late June if you can.

Another old stager of the flower garden is the rose. You can prune them when the next decent day comes along and give them some rose feed or, less commercially, you could give them an acidic drink like tea or diluted vinegar, or even pick up some coffee grounds and mulch them with that.

Banana skins work well too, I’m told, but to me it seems counterintuitive to encourage beauty by surrounding them with what is essentially rotten fruit. They go in the compost and that can go on the roses instead. ‘Better looking by far’ as someone used to say in the 80s.

Lillies and nerine bulbs can go in the ground now, along with gladioli corms to provide a blousy dynamic to the border. This won’t take too long on a sunny morning and you can stretch it out to a decent potter under the heading of mindfulness and being a good friend to yourself.

Like a chef might stir a sauce longer than necessary because its relaxing, us gardeners have a potter to keep us grounded and relaxed. My children would call this ‘chilling’ but I would only ascribe that to gardening in the winter months because I’m old.

Despite getting ‘constructive feedback’ about encouraging people to sow indoors, keep doing it where you can. Promising to clean up any soil and sticking to it is what gets me through indoor spring sowings.

This week, sow kale if you can. It will provide you with firm crinkled greens all winter and is hard as nails. It can withstand all the summer arsenal that caterpillars hold, as well as beating the coldest of winters. Plant the seeds in 7cm pots in regular compost and then keep moist. They can be planted outside in mid-summer and will grow so slowly you won’t even notice until they are waist height in December.

Also indoors, sow celeriac, (Prinz or Giant celeriac), lettuce and cabbage ready to plant out when the final frost is well and truly in the rear-view mirror. Keep them moist and you can plant the lettuce out somewhere sunny near the house, so you can nip out conveniently and cut them and eat them in the same half hour.

Planning for the future is a large part of gardening, which makes it a good metaphor for life. It’s pretty much guaranteed most people will be in need of horseradish at some point later in the year.

Plant some of the root in deep pots now, but only transplant it into deeper pots and not outside unless you want a field of it. Horseradish spreads like wildfire, so treat it like bamboo or Jerusalem artichokes by keeping it gaoled in pots.

Once it’s established, you’ll be surprised how often you nip out and pull up a root up to return with it aloft like the triumphant hunter gatherer you might fantasise about being. Sadly, I know I do that far too often.