March crept in softly but blew out quickly in a whirl of wind and rain. My resident wild rabbit who has spent many days nesting from the wet and cold has begun dashing about as mad as any March hare! I too like him have been racing around the garden – so much has to get done. The recent dry spell occurred at just the right time for cutting back everything hard- particularly scraggy mature herbs such as lavenders, fennel and cotton lavenders. Weeding had to be done in haste before the rains returned and another generation of weeds burst forth. This year I am top dressing all my plants with a mix of compost and wood ash from the stove. This ‘potash’ will be superb for flowering and fruiting plants, I am just putting it around everything.
I have had to diligently examine certain plants in pots for signs of the dreaded vine weevil. These nasty little maggots eat the roots of certain plants and some of their favourites include strawberry, mint and primula. They get cast into the pond as tasty snacks for the goldfish. I am delighted to finally observe massive clumps of frog spawn which has taken several years to colonise. I know the fish will also enjoy munching on these but hopefully some froglets will get to escape and go find their own slug snack! Then the cycle of prey and predator will have been established and harmony will prevail!
Seed sowing has begun in earnest in the polytunnel and every few days I sow at least another half dozen varieties mainly of herbs and vegetables. It is important to sow seed in batches at ten day intervals to maximise success: do not sow the entire packet at once. Leftover seed may be stored successfully in a biscuit tin and placed in a cool shed or room for at least one year. Exercise some caution at the moment when planting out as temperatures remain erratic. Purchased plants should be left outside in their pots for at least one week to allow them to develop a strong root system before transplanting.
At the end of last season I did a trial run on using the organic compost Living Green and was happy with the results. This year I am using it for sowing and potting up all the herbs and vegetables. It is on sale at Foxy John’s, Dingle and Miltown Organic Store alongside my herbs! It is made from worm casts and has a lovely texture. I am hoping it will live up to my expectations.
April is the month I concentrate on the ornamental perennials such as lupins, poppies and aquilegis. I have finally sown the plant Centaurea macrocephala which I have been meaning to cultivate for several years. I have come across it on rare occasions and it has always grabbed my fancy. Its common name is giant knapweed but I prefer its other more descriptive name Armenian basket flower. It is a wild plant from the Caucasus which is a mountainous region on the borders of Europe and Asia and it is listed as hardy. This herbaceous perennial (many years) produces impressive yellow thistle-type flowers and can reach a height of five feet. It will grow in any well drained soil; excelling in full sun but also tolerant of partial shade. The shaggy blooms attract an abundance of beneficial insects and can be elegantly used in fresh or dry floral arrangements. Similar to teasel but perhaps not quite as prickly – the unpicked flower heads can provide a winter supply of seed for hungry birds. It has germinated easily so hopefully it will transplant successfully and create the vision I anticipate!