It's the beginning of March. Chives, mint and other herbs are showing an interest in poking their heads up though the earth for a whole new season. This is a good time to tidy the garden, including weeding all the pots and preparing for the year ahead.
The garden looks a bit rough at the moment, but we'll spend a couple of weekends in March when the weather's picked up a bit, and get it fully tidy and ready for us to start planting. Starting from scratch? Read on ...
Starting from scratch? Read on - there's advice below
We still have rosemary, bay, thyme and chives growing, and the mint will surface soon along with regrowth of the curry plant and sage. We also seem to have a welcome bit of flat-leaf parsley regrowth. We've got last year's strawberry plants looking healthy and waiting to re-flower, as well as our apple tree and, hidden in a lot of weed growth we allowed to act as a frog over-wintering zone, asparagus. I'll write about these as the year progresses. We've got visiting garden birds, too - robins, wood pigeons, blue tits, wrens, starlings and blackbirds. This is a small urban garden in very densely-occupied, built-up, crowded Fratton, Portsmouth.
If you're starting from scratch, think about the seeds you'll need or the small plants you'll buy at spring fairs or garden centres. You can re-use lots of objects as containers - I've got £1 buckets from Asda / B&Q / poundshop (drill or punch 3 pea-sized holes in the bottom for drainage), as well as the old chimney pots from my slightly dilapidated Victorian terraced house. If you don't have soil to grow in, you'll need bags of compost - look for deals at supermarkets like Asda.
Top Tip: the 1p packets of seeds at the end of the season. We went into Wilkinsons and the end of the season last year (September) and the courgette seeds were 1p per packet at the check-out, and many others were 20p. In Aldi, packets of seeds were 19p at the checkout. The use-by dates were good for this year and some are good for next year - so it's always worth finding out what those end-of-season bargains are.
If you're having to buy new, now, places like Aldi, Lidl and Wilko are still good value compared to some supermarkets and garden centres.
We've also kept seeds from last year's crop, such as dill and sweet peas, and this is a good cycle to get into - and with something like dill seeds, you can eat them as well. I use them in curries, or 'Viking' bread recipes - i.e. traditional food with a lot of flavour. We store seeds in labelled food bags, in old shoe boxes, under the kitchen table; and it was fun to get them out last weekend to see what we've got.
You honestly don't need to go overboard. It shouldn't be daunting. It really should be a lot of fun, a hobby, exercise and a very small rebellion against the corporate agri-industries. I think it's best to focus on a few things at a time, till you get the hang of it.
This year, we've decided to grow from seed:
Dill, Coriander, Basil, Flat-Leaf Parsley
Fruit and Vegetables
Courgettes, Chillies, Tomatoes, Broad Beans
Flowers to Attract Bees and Butterflies
Lavender, Nasturtiums, Sweet Peas, Sunflowers, 'Meadow Mix'
Help for Spiders (Optional ...)
Small boxes and 'spider houses' containing twigs, moss, dried leaves.
We've found that even on the south coast, there's really not much point trying to plant too early. Seedlings either become 'leggy' (spindly and weak because of lack of sufficient sunlight), or they get hit with a cold snap and fade. So March is the best month to start.