New gardeners & new growth
Spring is all about new beginnings, so it’s the perfect time to pick a trowel for the first time or to get the kids started with the gardening bug
Let’s take a look at what’s sprouting in the garden this month and ways you can make garden easy-peasy so it’s a breeze for new gardeners and new growth alike.
You don’t need a big vegetable plot to get started a simple raised veg box can be tucked in the corner of a sunny garden. Raised beds cut out most of the strenuous work of winter digging and weeding. Make the bed 1.2m wide and as long as you can accommodate, so that crops can be tended from either side of the and ideally 15cm deep so that you can grow kink-free carrots and parsnips. Fill it with well-draining, quality topsoil and you will get crops off to a good start.
It’s worth investing in a Kent & Stow border spade as you’ll find cultivating the soil easier with the extended shank to reduce back strain and as you won’t be able to load it up the smaller blade with soil until your arms ache, so you’ll likely not feel too tired at the end of a busy day in the garden. Buy a spade made from rust-resistant stainless steel too and it’ll make light work of slicing through the heaviest of soils.
Newbies to gardening will particularly enjoy the challenge of growing peas and beans, as these crops shoot up quickly, are trouble free and easy to pick. The seeds don’t cost the earth either and give quick returns, so what’s not to like.
You can plant out runner bean seeds that have been started off in the warmth on a windowsill indoors in late May and early June, one plant per cane. Alternatively, sow your chosen varieties from mid-May until July, 5cm deep, two seeds to a 2.4m cane, spaced 15cm apart then thin to one seedling per cane. The stems of bean plants will twine around the canes for support, but you may need to offer a little guidance for them to grab hold of their support. When the plants reach the top of their supports, pinched out the growing tips, so that all the plants’ energy goes into producing pods filled with beans. These will need to be picked almost daily otherwise they’ll become tough and stringy.
When planting seedlings and young plants you’ll find Kent & Stowe’s stainless steel dibber, which has a T-handle making for a comfortable grip, a must-have and their carbon steel heart-shaped trowel with a pointed tip will slice through harder to work soil. Its cranked shaft protects your knuckles too, so you’ll have fewer scrapes and blisters to attend to at the end of a busy day planting.
You can buy young vegetable plants from garden centers and specialist growers in late spring. Onion sets are planted out in March, followed in April by carrots and turnips, brassicas and sugar snaps or mangetout and peas.
Runner beans should go in two weeks before the last frost is predicted in your area and finally plant courgettes and sweetcorn, which can be given a head start by raising them indoors on the windowsill. Salads can also be sown outdoors every two weeks throughout the summer for a continuous supply of fresh leaves until autumn.
By October, the last of the runner beans should be picked and the foliage cut back and put in the compost bin. The roots, however, which will have produced nodules packed with nitrogen should be left in the soil to re-charge it with this essential nutrient, which is mostly responsible for making healthy, green leaves.
Gardening for kids
Gardening isn’t just for grownups, children enjoy planting too and especially love growing their own food; tapping into the fact that there is nothing quite like the fresh taste of home grown. This pleasant pastime will no doubt encourage them to eat more healthily—even with fussy eaters. Just make a game out of hunting for pea pods and digging up buried treasures like potatoes and carrots. You can find out more about great gardening activities for kids on my blog.
As well as keeping you fit and healthy, growing your own is a good way for children specially to learn about nature. Soil is teaming with wildlife and there are good, bad and ugly bugs to learn about plus the successes and failures of growing plants from seed are certainly character building for everyone, no matter what age you are!