Hello from the Kitchen Garden!
Welcome to the first instalment of our Kitchen Garden blog. It’s great that you have taken the time to find us! However, before you go imagining an idyllic vegetable garden in the heart of the countryside, we need to come clean…. We are urban gardeners and ‘The Kitchen Garden’ of our title is our lovely little cafe and garden shop in Kings Heath in Birmingham.
Don’t let that put you off though! Our garden shop is truly a wild oasis in a busy city environment and we hope that you will enjoy reading about the ups and downs in our attempts to help our fellow Brummies to enjoy and make the most of their gardens. Of course we sell plants and garden equipment, but we want to do more than just that…we run gardening courses and art courses and try to promote sustainable and wildlife friendly horticulture whenever we can. So stick with us as we discuss what we are doing in the shop, and how we are managing (or for most of the time, not managing) our own fairly large urban gardens and city allotment plots.
But, how rude of us – we haven’t introduced ourselves! We are Tracey, Alison and Martha. Tracey (the owner of the shop) and I met whilst studying for our RHS qualifications at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens – and I was lucky enough to be asked to join the team, which included Alison, a year and half ago. Since then, we have been busy setting up a new gardening club and this year we aim to expand this with a specialist ‘Grow your own veggies’ club. Alison is responsible for the arty side of things…looking after all of our lovely artists who exhibit their work with us and running fabulous courses of course! So if you live in the area and want to give your garden some special attention this year or you want to master a new arty hobby- then come on over and get involved! We always welcome new faces.
It’s a strange old March really isn’t it? For most of us the coronavirus outbreak has meant that we are staying at home as much as possible. The shop has been closed in accordance with Government guidelines and all of our lovely workshops and our Garden Club have been postponed ..to…who knows when??
Whilst this is a rather odd and perhaps scary state of affairs, it also has it’s upsides! For example, we don’t usually have this much time on our hands to spend in our gardens. So why not use this gift of time and truly get to know your garden this year….
There are LOTS of things you can be doing in the garden in March:
- Sow seeds for vegetables and flowers this summer (see our handy ‘how to’ guides on our Facebook page)
- Plant out summer flowering bulbs – dahlias and lilies for example
- Plant out new perennials as the soil heats up
- Divide any snowdrops you have and replant them in other parts of the garden
- Prune roses – remember 3Ds and X – take out any diseased, damaged or dead branches then any that cross each other (as this can lead to wounds which invite disease). If you have a tea or large flowered rose then prune to 10-15cm above ground. If you have a Floribunda or cluster flowered rose then prune to 15cm above ground. Ramblers and Climbing roses can be left unpruned unless you want to re-train them. They may however need to be tied in at this stage.
- Divide summer flowering perennials such as hemerocallis (see pictures)
If you have already sown seeds – now is a good time to move your seedlings to a new home where they can stretch their feet and grow on strongly. This is called ‘pricking out’. Make sure that you only handle your seedling by the leaves and NOT the stem. Gently push a teaspoon or a plant label under the root and using the leaf, lift the seedling up and out of the soil (don’t worry if a little clod of soil comes too!). Then transfer the seedling to it’s new home. This could be a recycled plastic pot or better still, a homemade pot using newspaper. (see below for directions on how to make these). Your seedlings still need to be kept warm – at a temperature of about 16 degrees and you will need to continue to water them regularly. In early May it will be time to ‘harden off’ your seedlings – do this by putting them outside during daylight hours and bringing them back in for a week to ten days. Then, by the end May, when all danger of an overnight frost has passed, you can put them outside.
Follow the step by step instructions below to make your own bio-degradable seedling pots…have fun!!
Well, it’s been a strange old April so far really. Not only has it been HOT and distinctly lacking in April Showers up to now, we are of course in lockdown!
Whilst lockdown has meant hard and heartbreaking work for some who work on ‘the front line’ – for others it has provided a period of enforced confinement at home which has been perfect for getting on with the garden!
We at the shop have of course been closed in line with Government requirements, however, Tracey has been busy delivering plants to people who are using their time horticulturally! We are still taking orders, so it’s not too late to select your perfect plants and and have them delivered to your door.
In the meantime, you could be getting on with other jobs in your garden. For example, for most of us our lovely daffodils have started to look a little tired and dried up. To tidy them up, simply remove the shrivelled heads, but do not take the stems and leaves as the plant needs these to replenish the bulb for next year.
You could also get on with pruning any unwieldy forsythia once it has finished flowering (cut stems back to a strong new and leafy sideshows and remove one or two of the oldest stems all the way to the base) and Cut back Lavender plants now to prevent them from looking straggly. Snip off old flower stems and shoot tips (take off about 2.5cm) – but don’t prune too hard into the old wood, as this will prevent new growth.
Now that the weather has had a chance to warm the soil, you can also start to direct sow hardy annuals – for example marigolds, poppies, nigella, etc. – make sure to sow in drifts to create a more naturalistic effect.
Another great way to propagate more plants is to divide them. We looked at division of summer flowering perennials last time, but you can also now start to divide spring flowering plants – once their flowers have faded. Great plants to try are snowdrops and primroses. Divide them carefully and replant to create a natural looking woodland effect.
In the veg garden…
At this time of year we usually have a great selection of veg plants in the shop. However as this year is rather different, you may need to rely a little more on growing your veggies from seed.
You can direct sow salad leaves, carrot and beetroot now – but be careful of the carot fly once the leaves start to show. To avoid an infestation ruining your crop, you need to erect a fly proof barrier which is at least 60cm high (the carrot fly cannot fly above this!). I have erected wooden stakes around my bed and will fix a fleece barrier before the carrot fly can get to work. Apparently they can smell carrot foliage from miles off and come especially for a good munch!
You can also sow some pumpkin, squash and sweetcorn seeds now – remember, sweetcorn will need supporting eventually. If you have them, plant out second early potatoes now and start chitting your main crops
If you have already sown some tomato or cucumber seeds then you will need to pot on the seedlings into bigger pots-(re-use old plastic pots, but remember to wash them first) however, you should still keep them protected until after the last frosts – you may need to support them with a short cane as they grow.
If you have them, now is the time to prune stone fruited trees such as plum, cherry, peach and nectarine when the plants are in leaf and after flowering – however you need to be sure to immediately seal all cuts greater than 1cm with wound seal – this will stop the tree from succumbing to disease.
Well….what ever you decide to do in your Garden this April – it’s sure to be time well spent. Enjoy!