March is the harbinger of spring.
We notice signs of life in our flower beds, tree pits and on the commons. Snowdrops first (see some beautiful examples of snowdrops growing in RHS Gardens here), then winter aconites, anemones, celandines, daffodils, crocuses, bluebells, and finally the tulips. But if, like me, you enjoy a successful spring garden before it all goes rather quiet, you may need some help on how to bridge this next season into summer (as I often do)!
The answer is to plant summer flowering bulbs, and also the very versatile and
economical annuals sown as seeds. Make the most of what you have. As Clare Gogerty writes in the Observer Gardening Special, ‘Limited outside space needn‘t stop you growing an impressive display of flowers and edibles’, so think creative and get growing!
Summer bulbs such as agapanthus, begonias, gladioli, dahlias, crocosmia, lilies and ranunculus all put on a good show. Most of them enjoy the sun at some part of the day, but they can be planted in pots to move around the garden, or placed on a balcony.
As Balham in Bloom takes place in late June, here are some other tips to get your
gardens, hanging baskets and window boxes blooming in time for the event:
Sow some wildflower seeds – which are readily available online or in garden centres. Seeds that are easy, and which children will enjoy planting, are candy tuft, nasturtium, marigolds and cosmos. These can grow quite tall, so allow room if they are in open ground. Love-in-the
mist (Nigella) and poppies are easy too, and give a great splash of colour just when you need it. Seed catalogues are in abundance now, and can be found in the local shops in Balham and Tooting: Poundshops, Wilkos, Lidl and Aldi. They all stock seeds that are cheap and easy to grow. You can also read about some more unusual seeds in Capital Gardens’ latest blog post (and visit them at Neal’s Nurseries)!
Vegetable seeds are also readily available, and exciting too – including runner and
dwarf beans, courgettes, radishes, lettuces, ‘cut and come again’ salad
leaves, spring onions, tomatoes and chillies. Planted together with flowering plants they make a really good show, and are edible as a bonus! SimplySeed.co.uk has a great selection of vegetable seeds available.
So, get the soil ready by digging over, add extra compost (peat-free!) and some gravel for drainage if you can. Sow according to the instructions on the packet and wait. Keep watered if dry, and place on a sunny window sill to start them off or in a propagator if you have one. Label them or get the children to make their own labels and decorate them (wooden lolly sticks and plant labels are better than plastic)! Try to recycle old plant pots rather than buying new ones, or use empty containers that you are throwing out with a few drainage holes in the base. Enjoy being creative and foster the love of gardening with your children so they will grow up respecting nature and know how their food is grown.
Once you’ve cultivated some beautiful plants, enter Balham in Bloom 2022 with your front gardens, communal gardens, window boxes or hanging baskets! Last entries are on Sunday 29th May, for the presentation which takes place on Saturday 25th June. You can visit https://beautifybalham.org/balham-in-bloom/ for more information. It’s free to enter!
Please send any queries to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to answer them.
– Jean Millar and the Beautify Balham Team