Hello to you all and I hope you’ve had a great gardening week! I am feeling the panic rising now as May strides ever onwards and there are still seedlings un-pricked-out, seeds unsown and pots unfilled. But, the calming voice in my head tells me, there is still time. Spring is still with us, it is cow parsley season in the hedgerows and all is well with the world.
I hope your lawns are bursting with flowers too now that No Mow May is also upon us: in this week’s premium content I’ve been talking about how to manage a monthly mowing routine to bring your garden alive with biodiversity.
There is, sadly, a great deal of misinformation around when it comes to No Mow May: if you’re on Twitter regularly you may have seen people discouraging it, saying it simply lures in wildlife only to destroy it when you do come to mow again.
Well that may be true if you’re doing a full rewild – letting your grass grow for a whole year before cutting it back – and I will be talking about how to do this successfully in this week’s premium content (sneak peek: it’s not as hands-off as you think).
But when you mow monthly, all you are doing is providing nectar, not habitat. There is very little extra habitat for insects in grass that’s only three or four inches high: what there is, though, is a lot of nectar from all those lovely dandelion, daisy, clover and buttercup flowers which are now finding there’s enough space to grow and bloom.
So by monthly mowing you are providing a nectar bar for your local pollinating insects (and helping your soil sequester a bit more carbon by encouraging your grass to develop deeper roots): and that’s it. You are doing little harm with a monthly mow: and a lot of good, as you’re stopping the grass from swamping the flowers again.
Anyway: elsewhere in the garden, it’s been tomatoes all the way: all are growing on apace, though as discussed earlier this week, the combination of peat-free, low-nutrient compost and modern varieties seems not to be a happy one.
So this week I am getting ahead, and making plastic-free grow bags: I took delivery of a big box of second-hand hessian sacks the other day and I’m looking forward to putting them to good use. Also coming up in premium content this week – my how-to on upcycling these incredibly useful ‘waste’ items.
And in other news: I’ve just crossed the halfway point in the new book (yippee!) and getting really into sharing all those little insights and practical solutions you come up with when you’re growing veg the sustainable way. The finish line is in sight now – so I’m looking forward to getting my evenings back and resting my poor over-worked fingers.
I’ve also discovered there is a German version of my last book, RHS Can I Grow Potatoes In Pots? which is fun to see. The title in German translates as “If I water my tomatoes with sugar, will it make them taste sweeter? And can I eat my weeds?” Which is even more wordy than the English title but does list a couple more of the many questions I answer in the book!
So what’s happening in the garden?
I have sown all the winter brassicas now, into a nursery bed: this is a little 1.2m x 1.2m raised bed which I use for salads all winter, then once they’re cleared it morphs into a seed bed where I can sow Brussels sprouts, kale, purple sprouting broccoli and winter cabbages direct into the compost, and out of the way of summer crops in the main garden. I’ll transplant them to their final growing spaces once they’re about 10cm (4”) tall.
I have a few slug problems doing it this way – more than when I sow them into pots and raise them under cover – but I find it’s quite hard to keep brassicas happy in containers in a cool greenhouse as they’re anything but cool whenever the sun comes out. And if you put the pots outside, the pigeons raid them. In a nursery bed, though, I can protect it quite easily – it’s only a small area so it’s easy enough to construct a little mesh cage over the top. A slug pub in one corner helps control slimy visitors a little, though they always seem to cause some damage: but then I only need a dozen seedlings to survive from each row.
And out in the garden all is little rows of baby seedlings: carrots, coriander, chervil, and cornflowers. (Not everything I sow begins with C: the poached egg plants are poking up their squiggly seedlings too). The new potatoes are getting bigger by the day and are starting to need earthing up. I try to do this ‘no-dig’ – heaping garden compost or lawn clippings over the top rather than pulling up the soil – but I don’t always have enough raw materials, so we’ll see how I get on this year. I will report back!
If you’d like to receive the premium content referred to above do consider signing up for a paid subscription: you don’t have to commit yourself for a whole year, as there are monthly subscriptions too. They cost considerably less than a magazine… or if you want to put it another way, it’s about the same price as a couple of cups of fancy coffee. In return you get access to the whole of the archive right back to January this year when Greenery started; plus of course all the added extra content during the week. Thank you… and happy gardening!
Greenery is a reader-supported publication and relies on you to keep it going! Please consider becoming a paid subscriber - it helps me keep doing what I do. Thank you!
I have been enjoying your posts. My wife and I are doing a yearlong landscaping project on our new house that is designed to provide habitat for caterpillars, pollinators and a variety of other beneficial insect life, which then of course will benefit birds and other wildlife while also playing a small role toward improving our planet's climate. I wish everyone had the time and resources to do this. If every single one of us did this to our own yards, it would have a hugely positive effect.