What our family will be growing this year...

As her family gears up for their sixth year as amateur gardeners, EIMEAR HUTCHINSON shares what they are up to this Spring and plans to grow veg and flowers in the months ahead
What our family will be growing this year...

It’s time to get planting as Spring is here... Eimear Hutchinson tells us what she’s planting this year. Picture: Stock

THERE is nothing like the flapping of clothes in the gentle breeze or the swaying of the daffodils to alert you to the fact that spring has arrived. The doors and windows left open without a frantic rush to close them to stop the cold whipping in around your ankles.

We have the same argument in our house year on year, with the girls insisting that Spring starts on the first of February. My husband (originally from England) is utterly perplexed as to how we could possibly consider that August is in Autumn as a consequence.

We have merged the old with the new and decided that Spring does start in February and that summer is simply four months long!

We are gearing up for our sixth year as (very!) amateur gardeners and we are taking on a new challenge again this year and building ourselves a greenhouse. We have had a mini greenhouse for the last few years and I start most of our seedlings in there. In my limited experience, I have the most success with germination that way if we want to be able to start harvesting a good crop of vegetables in mid-July. I have also found that slugs and snails seem to absolutely love small green bean shoots, so I like to get them to a decent size before planting them out to give them a good chance of reaching maturity.

We had great success with our usual rotation of vegetables last year, so I don’t think we will deviate too much from that this year – green beans, peas, various salad leaves, courgettes and a few carrots (rarely have much success with these, but we persevere!). We also grew lots of tomatoes last year for the first year. I don’t even really like tomatoes but when you pick them off the stem and put them straight into a salad, there is nothing as sweet as the satisfaction and taste of that. 

They do require the most attention of all the food we grow in terms of feeding, watering and pinching out, but one plant alone can provide a very plentiful crop so it is worth the effort. 

This year, we are going to grow the tomatoes entirely in the greenhouse so hopefully they will ripen a little quicker than they did last year.

I don’t generally have as much success with flowers as I do with vegetables. I probably should pay better heed to the instructions on the packets and consider things like soil acidity, drainage, light and shelter, but I’m more of a ‘lets just plant it and see how it works’ type of person. I also have a tendency to be impatient and plant things in spaces that then turn out not to be spaces, so plants get crowded out.

I seem to have the most success with bushes that flower, but flowers like hydrangea and rhododendron seem to buckle under the weight of attention I give them. I killed off a lovely mop head hydrangea plant last year by giving it too much feed. This year, I will resort to a more neglectful approach to tending to flowers.

The greatest success we have had in recent years were the areas that we gave over to wildflowers. We scattered seeds across two patches of muddy areas, places the dog had dug a few holes in, so it was a great way to cover these.

For the minimal amount of effort that went into sewing the seeds, the colour and variety of flowers we got was just incredible. They lasted for months and if you stood close by you could literally hear the patch buzzing with the hum of bees. We will most certainly be doing it again this year and I’m hoping to find a few more spots to give over to wildflowers too. If you have any space in your garden and want a burst of colour with very little work, I would highly recommend scattering some wildflower seeds.

I’m also going to attempt to grow sweet pea, which is a beautiful flowering climbing plant. I bought a few different varieties in the local co-op and have planted the first two batches, one an annual and one a perennial, so I am hoping they germinate over the next week or so.

We have a flower bed out the back of our house against a high wall that we fixed trellises to a few years back. It is a breeze block wall so we tried to cover it with a variety of climbing plants like roses and ceanothus, but have found we don’t have the knowledge for roses and the plants tend to climb more than they flower.

This year, I am hoping to swap out one of the rose plants and put in the perennial sweet pea plants and it should hopefully provide the area with a fantastic burst of colour. Sweet pea flowers are great cut flowers too, so I am hoping I will have pops of colour from the sweet peas both inside and outside the house. Let’s just hope they germinate for me now!

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