AN ITALIAN EXPERIENCE - Our Garden Calendar
Gardening for each month of the year
Although the local contadini tell me that the phases of the moon make no difference to them, except in July, for the past several years we've planted with the phases of the moon.
Each year, we take out our planting calendars and consult with locals as well as Tia and the folks at the mercatos to see what to plant and when to plant it.
So in this part of the site, I'll give you an idea of what we plant, what we cultivate, what we harvest, and what we do with what we harvest. Separately is a guide of how to plant by the phases of the moon, in case you're interested!
Using calendars, reference books and a little luck, I'll update this each month. We'll start with the month of January, which is as good a beginning month as any.
-Reorganize garden shed and greenhouse
This is a sleepy month, with frost often on the ground when we wake up. So it's not a good month to do much in the way of planting, unless it's agretti, that wonderful spring green that looks like long grass, but is so delicious when dropped in a pan with a little olive oil, clove of garlic, swished around and served before it is cooked for long.
I keep telling myself to plant it, but each morning we're busy doing non-garden things. This month is so cold, and the ground so hard, that any excuse to stay away is good.
We take walks on the terrace and in the garden, amazed at how wonderful the round globes of lavender look.
We also plant rucola, or rugghetta, which is known outside Italy as arugula. This is a sometimes tough little green for salads, and can be quite bitter. The Italian variety is sweeter, and it is good to pinch off the newer leaves and use them right away on a salad, or as a trendy base for something more exotic. It can be grown all year.
I have to pinch myself to ignore the older shoots. If we always pick the older shoots, we'll never taste the more delicious newer leaves and there are plenty to choose from. Instead, we need to plant them more often, and not worry about using the older leaves. We also plant lettuce all year.
I look guiltily at the roses, thinking they need their winter clipping of the leaves, but Tia as well as our pals at Michellini, our favorite vivai, tell me to wait until February. January is too cold. Sounds good to me.
January is an important month for pruning the trees. So do we do the pruning ourselves, or bring in an expert? Last year, we pruned them ourselves, but perhaps it is a good idea to bring in someone we trust, like Mario, to do any serious work.
For now, I'll ignore the details of tree pruning here, but when we do take that on this month, will post something in the journal. But do not prune stone fruit trees this month! Wait until March or even April.
January is a month of beginnings, and on those mornings and early afternoons when the sun is warm, we take out our Felco shears and miscellaneous favorite tools and clip and clean. With our style of garden, I like the look of sparseness this month.
With many evergreens, including cypress and boxwood as well as the neatly round orbs of lavender, it's a great month to imagine the space in full flower, similar to those guide books of Rome, with overlays to show what the various historical monuments looked like tens of centuries ago. I squint and imagine what the space will look like in May and June with the two roses we just purchased. Lovely.
I'm also imagining the iris, spread out over several areas of the garden, as I pull off the long dead leaves. I leave the rest of each iris plant alone, as it does not like being moved or fussed with. Iris is a good flower to plant in areas of bright sun with dry soil. Although it sometimes takes a few years to settle into its growing pattern, it's worth including in a garden for its surprises during the year.
The vibernums are at their best this month, with tiny round globes of soft pink against dark green leaves. In December, those globes were dark blue berries, which are now open buds. I like to shape the vibernum into globes, but new plants take time to mature.
The first two large vibernums originally flanking the front door are now growing in the ground by the far tufa caves. After six years or so, they grew too large for the big pots. So now we're tending younger plants in their places, and these will take another year or two to reach the optimum size for the pots.
Shoots of narcissus have begun to appear. Planted in late November or early December, we expect to see them in flower in another month or so. We did not plant tulips this year, but if we can find the French blowsy type of bulbs next fall, will do those as well.
Fava beans are growing in the two areas where we will grow our tomatoes. Felice counseled us to plant three seeds in each hole two months ago, to assure that at least one will come up. In many spots there are three.
In April we'll shell fresh favas and serve them in a low basket with pieces of salty pecorino cheese. We expect to grow many tomatoes this year, and the favas will be harvested just as the tomato plants are ready to plant, providing very rich nutrients for the soil. Now, when we look over the beds, we have a feeling of pride in our work, and a great appreciation of the natural world all around us.
Sarah Hammond counseled us years ago to take care of our tools, especially the Felco #6 shears we use every day in the garden. We should sharpen them often and clean them with alcohol after each use. But we are not that compulsive. This is a good time, however, to take out tools and clean, lubricate and sharpen them. This will prolong the life of the tools.
It's also time to reorganize our storage space. Now that our gardener's shed has been cleared of Dino's tools and tool bench, there will be more room to work in the good weather. So on a warm day, we'll do an inventory and restock the shelves, adding clips to the walls to hang tools.
I've just read not to prune stone fruit (that means plums, peaches, cherries or nectarines) or flowering cherries and plums now. To prune them, wait until April or later, when the sap is flowing freely. This bleeding will prevent the organism responsible for silver leaf disease entering the sap-stream. Once that happens, the tree will probably die in a few years. So this year, we'll wait to prune our cherry and peach and plum. You may want to do the same.
And I've just come across something about how to chit potatoes". "Chit" potatoes? Never heard of it. Anyway, here's what it says to do, in the event you're bored and wanting to get those potatoes going early...
1 - In a clean seed tray lined with newspaper, or in a compartment of an egg box, place seed potatoes up on end with the tiny buds facing upwards.
2 - Stand the box in a warm, dry place in the house, ideally where the spuds will receive a reasonable amount of light.
3 - When the shoots are 1-1.5 inches long, the potato tubers are chitted. Planting won't take place until next month, as it takes the shoots time to develop. This can also be done in February, or even early March.
-Clean roses, taking off all older leaves and cutting back as necessary; discard all leaves in garbage: Never put dead or decaying rose material in compost pile.
-Clean up bedding areas
We're waiting for the narcissus to flower and prepare to plant heirloom tomato seeds.
Mid-month, we've planted our tomato seeds. By the last week of February, 52 of our 77 heirloom tomato seeds have poked their heads up out of the soil. So we expect a good crop this year. By the end of the month, there are 60.
I've read to "dig over" the soil, to prep it for spring planting. This means to keep lightly turning over the surface of the earth regularly every couple of weeks. This is a simple soil prep technique that kills of a lot of weeds and gets rid of soil pests naturally. We'll be able to spot and remove bits of root as they start growing. Sounds good to me!
I'm taking Mario's cue, and he prunes the stone fruit trees (peach and plums) when he does the other pruning in early February. Books say to prune in March or April. We'll see if he's right.
I've planted Sweet Peas, Datura, Cruel Plants (plants that capture moths at night and release them in the morning to pollinate plants), but by the end of the month only the Sweet Peas are ready to grow. The Datura should be a monster vine, so we'll see what happens to it next month. I have no idea what to think of the cruel plants.
-Finish pruning all roses
We need to start forking the soil over between plants to loosen it up and start to weed again. Sigh. There are so many rocks in the soil, that picking up rocks is a never ending chore while we weed.
This is a time to dig up and divide perennial plants. I've not done much of this before, so perhaps this will be a good year to start, instead of throwing them all out and starting again.
Mulching the Soil
To mulch it well, cover it with a generous layer of organic matter, such as garden compost, manure, or mushroom compost. Don't start to add fertilizer until the end of the month, in the event we still have a hard frost ahead of us. I'm sure we have compost because, as a friend told us, "compost happens." As Alan Titchmarch advises, "Mulching is a good habit to get into as it benefits the garden in several ways, all of which will save you work for the rest of the season. It covers annual weed seeds, keeps them in the dark so they can't germinate. It reduces evaporation so you save on watering, and it is the lazy way to add "roughage" to ground that you can't dig because there are plants growing in it - by mulching, the worms do the job instead." Brilliant!
We don't have a lawn per sea; so don't look here for lawn advice. The closest we come is a ground cover, which we sow each spring and it takes or doesn't take.
We're going to be planting our potatoes in big rectangular plastic pots. Some potatoes are purchased here, some we'll get from Candida next week when she returns from San Francisco. Here's what we'll do: The potato "seed" is a section of the potato itself. All potatoes, and especially the ones certified for seeding, have what are called "eyes". These are the little dimples from which the potato vine eventually "grows".
For planting potatoes cut a medium-sized one of certified stock into blocks, each one of which must have at least one eye, but no more than two.
Dig a furrow 8 inches deep, set the potato seeds in it eye up, spaced about 18 inches apart, and cover them with 6 inches of soil. In 3 weeks or so, the potato plant will appear. Speriamo!
When it is well established and about 10 inches high, bank each plant with about 2 inches of soil. Each seed will produce about six large potatoes. As they grow toward maturity they may outcrop above the ground, so cover them then with an inch or so of soil. This kind of exposure to the light will turn the potato green and make it unfit to eat.
The potatoes will take about 4 months to mature. We'll be harvesting ours toward the end of June. As we get closer to the warm weather, water the potatoes more. They require a lot of water. Also refer to our earlier information on "chitting potatoes".
Pruning roses in March
By leaving pruning until a bit later, the buds start to develop into young shoots, so its easy to see where to cut. However, don't leave it until the shoots are more than about 1" long.
Sarah Hammond counsels us to prune our Madame Alfred Carriere rose about 6" from a lateral branch. Because this rose is a vigorous climber, cutting back side shoots and tying in young and vigorous shoots to replace older ones, a few of which can be removed each year, is a good thing.
Trees, shrubs and climbers
Vegetables and herbs
In the Serra (Greenhouse)
-Slugs and snails on newly emerged perennials and vegetable seedlings, flea beetle on vegetables
In our garden:
Twice a week, I spray the roses from a large pump sprayer containing a mixture of denatured alcohol, liquid soap and water. I do this in the morning after any fog has cleared. If it rains, I'll repeat the spray after the rain clears.
Once a week, I'll begin the feeding of the potted hydrangeas with a general-purpose fertilizer.
It's a good time to feed the borders in between shrubs, roses, trees, evergreens with a general purpose fertilizer that you can sprinkle around.
This is the month to watch out for cold damage. On April 1st the weather is so balmy that we tend to forget that cold can return with a vengeance and damage or destroy our more delicate plants and trees. Damage is disastrous when there's been a wild winter that lulls plants into a false sense of security so they start growing early, in time to be damaged by a late cold snap.
I know we should protect fruit tree blossoms with horticultural fleece. We'll keep watching the weather forecasts, and will attempt to cover the peach and new apple and plum trees, at least. I suppose that's a reason not to let fruit trees get too large. The others we have are too large to cover easily.
I'm not particularly lucky with hydrangeas, but love them, so let's see if we can master them this year. I've just read that pruning hydrangeas should be done this month. I've already pruned them back hard a month or so ago, so this is a mistake, but they look great.
"Whatever you do" I read, "Don't cut off the shoots with the fat green buds at the end, as they're the ones that should have this year's flowers."
The guide also tells me that an old hydrangea that has a lot of woody congested sticks in the middle can be thinned out slightly, removing the thickest sticks close to the base of the plant. That will give you fewer but bigger and more spectacular flowers. Sounds good.
The book also tells me that this is the last time to prune modern bush roses. All right. But it's the climbers and ramblers that need pruning during the season after the first flowers. I think. Oh, drat. Will I ever figure it out?
I know about tieing in climbing and rambling roses to be horizontal, and to tie in shoots of newly planted climbers. So yesterday we did this with the Lady Hillingdons on the path. They are already showing signs of buds. We cut off one or two of the oldest branches, which are starting to look woody, and I think that's all right, as long as we don't take too many off each plant.
I love formal Italianate gardens, and so boxwood hedges are important in our scheme. Although the stars are the round boxwood globes, the hedges need care this month. Underneath, we make sure to clean out any weeds, snails and rubbish, and then sprinkle a generous helping of general fertilizer about 12 inches from the stems. Sure, I'd love to add compost, but we don't have much. Yes, Sarah, I'm working on Dino. He's getting much better about composting, and last year I think he even started to enjoy the process.
In a week or so, it will be time to start the hedge clipping. I've started the clipping of the round box, and this is a long process. We have more than sixty, and I clip several a day. That makes the process not an unwieldy one, especially since I don't have the ability to hoe or weed anymore with my lame shoulder.
I'm imagining an assortment of evergreen balls of different sizes, if that makes any sense, on our property. So we'll begin with putting them in the pots we purchased a month or so ago. Later, probably in the fall, we'll plant some or all of them in the ground.
Because spring bulbs "need time to recharge their batteries", I hope we can ignore the leaves once their flowers have died. Six weeks. That's a lot of time for them to take in the sunlight they need and store it in their bulbs for next year.
So we'll try to ignore them until the third week of May. We'll even feed them with general purpose organic food to give them a good start. It's recommended that we give them a high potash tomato supplement. We'll see if we have that.
We take a walk over to the raised orto bed, and are ready to pull out the spring onions and cauliflower. That means we can start from scratch there, so we'll turn over all the soil, add any compost we managed to develop during the winter and add some general purpose organic fertilizer. Then we'll (I'm talking Dino here) fork it all in together. He'll rake it over several times, making is smooth and stoneless and rootless.
So will we sow seeds? I'm thinking we'll pass this year except for arugula, and will check out the various garden supply yards to buy plugs of what we'd like to eat later. Sedano (celery) is a must for all those summer tunafish sandwiches (we can't resist these even now), and of course lettuces, cetrioli (cucumber), swiss chard and two zucchini.
Tomatoes have a garden all their own, and in between the plants we'll plant basil. I read that basil is good for the tomato plants, and we never have enough basil to go around. I love the smell of it as I rub my fingers over it, and am smiling now just thinking about it.
When we first planted our tomatoes, we were precise about labeling them, but now that some are growing faster than others, I'm not going to worry about labeling them anymore. Once they've produced fruit, we'll be able to tell which variety they are.
I'm thinking back about summertime harvests, on mornings when the air is moist and sweet. Sofi and I would walk out to the tomato garden and I'd pick basketfuls for pranzo salads and cold soups and putting up in jars for winter sauces. This year we'll have about sixty plants, and I'm happy that we'll have plenty to eat, plenty to share.
Unless you're going to go wild, it works to plant all potatoes together in April. There are different kinds of potatoes to plant: first earlies, second earlies and maincrop varieties. If you're a serious potato grower, check the internet for more information. We're into planting whatever potatoes we have at about the same time this month and pretty much ignoring the spacing guidelines. We'll see if that's a good idea later in the year. We're planting fingerlings and purple Peruvians from California and the rest are Italian varieties.
For this month, make sure that any foliage growing out of the ground is protected from late frosts, or it will kill any of the potatoes. Drat. Any potato tubers that push themselves out of the ground will turn green, so don't eat those.
Earthing is a new term for us. The process of "earthing" buries a lot of young weed seedlings, so helps prevent the crop being swamped by weeds. So planting potatoes rids the ground of...weeds! It's due to the regular earthing up, which gradually wears down the weeds. It's really the gardener's constant cultivation of the soil that does it, not the potatoes.
How to Earth Up
Writing about this saddens me. Last year, and the year before, dear Felice did our potato tending. This year it will be Dino's job. We miss Felice's visits more than anything else, and have no idea how we'll ever find someone like him.
Most vegetables are annual crops that are sown, grown and eaten all in the same year, but asparagus and artichokes live for years. Years? Whenever we plant artichokes they're dug up by some sort of creature and we never get to eat a single one.
Perennial vegetables need a sunny, sheltered situation with fertile, well-drained soil and large quantities of well-rotted organic matter added and worked in deeply. This is the best month to plant them, so we'll begin soon and later in the month will buy what we have not already planted at the grand Montecastrilli outdoor mercato.
Globe artichokes are very easy to grow. They're probably easier to grow than to prepare to cook...You can plant one or two here and there in a flower bed, or plant them in a row along one end of the vegetable patch. Their flower buds appear at any time during the summer, so we'll be cutting little and often for much of the season from July to September. We'll try a row at the back of our raised planter bed.
1)Plant the artichokes, spacing them at least 3X3ft apart (1X1m), as they need room to develop. Feed and mulch established plants generously each year in April, and keep them well weeded.
2)Cut globe artichokes with a short stem when they are about fist-sized but before they start to open out into a flower.
3)As with perennial border flowers, you can dig up and divide globe artichokes in spring when old plants become congested or unproductive. Instead of chopping the plant up with a spade, detach healthy young offsets from around the edge of the clump for replanting.
Inside, we've sown dill and coriander, two herbs difficult to purchase here in plugs. And when we move our tomatoes outside at the end of the month, we'll move these outside, too.
There. That wasn't so bad. Whatever will May bring? There's lots of fun in the garden ahead in April, so that will have to wait...
Stay tuned for checklists for succeeding months.
-Prepare the soil for bedding plants.
-Tie-in new growth of climbers and wall shrubs.
Watch out for:
Preparing the soil is one of the most important things you can do in your garden. I'm usually too impatient, and suffer because plants don't survive as well if the soil is not prepped and cared for before planting.
It's also better to wait a few days to plant to be sure that the danger of frost has passed. Use your waiting time to prepare the ground, so that when it's time you can plant and be sure your plants will thrive.
Clear your spring bedding or the last of the winter vegetables, take out any weeds, sprinkle a general-purpose fertilizer over the soil or compost. Rake the ground over well.
It will continue to work for several months. Use a watering can with a fine nose and apply a "nematode soap" evenly to the area. The bugs are too small to see, but seek out and destroy slugs by passing on a bacterial infection, which is what actually kills the pests. Unfortunately this does not work on snails, for they manage to evade the nematodes by climbing up into the plants they fancy. Some people use beer to drown them, some use copper wire, which we are told they won't crawl over. What do you think?
Trees, shrubs and climbers
Rechargeable clippers only last thirty minutes or so before they need to be recharged, but they're light-weight, and if you only have a small area to cover, they may be your answer. But here at L'Avventura, we have lots of hedges, and about one hundred round boxwood globes, as well as almost sixty lavender. So power clippers are what we use here.
Sorry, Sarah. I know you'd prefer that we pinch off each plant. We'd need an army of pinchers to accomplish what we need to, unless you and Alush are available to spend a month or so with us each year.
That reminds me. Don't expect to clip your hedges and box all summer. The leaves will burn if you clip much after mid June, unless the month is very cool.
Once the six weeks have passed, we clip off the shoots above the ground and leave the bulbs in for the next season. Once every couple of years, we pull the bulbs out and divide them.
Patios and containers
See our earlier months for growing potatoes in pots. This is our first year doing so and are very pleased with how easy the process is, as well as how good the finished product tastes. No more bending over to hoe around the potatoes for us!
Vegetables and herbs
Squash is a sprawly plant, and I've wanted to have winter squash. Each year, I wait too late to plant. But this year, we planted four seeds...two orange, one yellow and one green. They're planted in the raised orto in front of the serra, and have grown so fast that we think we're in Green Mansions, with Dino prepared almost with a machete as the summer advances.
Already, we've picked a few, and there must be fifty or more flowers on the plants. We let them die. We clip them off. We have no idea why we planted them here, or why we thought they could be restrained. Don't follow our lead here, unless you're prepared for a huge crop.
Some plant squash on top of the compost heap, but we've learned that sometimes that makes the vegetables taste like, well, garbage. Experts tell us that pumpkins and squash are big, trailing plants that need lots of room and really rich soil that holds plenty of moisture in summer.
They tell us to dig a pit 12 inches square and just as deep, fill it with pure, well-rotted manure or garden compost, then cover it with a good garden topsoil, mounding it up 6 inches high in the center. Then sow 2 or 3 seeds 1/2" deep on the top of this. If more than one seed grows, pull out all but the strongest plant. Make a moat around the plant for watering.
If you're growing more than one, plant the seeds at least 6 feet apart for trailing varieties and 3 feet across for non-trailing zucchini. I'm laughing while writing this, as our squash are planted probably 1 ft. apart, with two on one side of the lettuce greenhouse and two on the other.
I'm expecting to wake up one morning to find the little lettuce greenhouse thrown down onto the top of the car parked below by the four plants. One must have a sense of humor about all this, don't you think?
Tomatoes are the stars of the show, as far as Italians are concerned. Planted at the beginning of May each year, they provide year round tomatoes, either eaten off the vine, or put up for sauces in wintertime.
We planted heirloom tomatoes from seed this February in the house, then moved them to the greenhouse in late April, before hardening them off. , Beginning in early May, we planted a couple of dozen plants. Many just weren't tall enough, even after hardening them off. We even had plants that weren't planted until mid June. So this summer will be a new test of how long the tomatoes can grow in the ground if they're not fully grown by the time September rolls around.
One expert tells us to plant tomatoes in the warmest spot in the garden (we have) and space them 18 inches apart. Ours are spaced farther apart, because our sprinkler holes are spaced every 30 cm. In between each tomato plant we also planted a basil plant. We're told that the tomatoes will taste sweeter when planted next to basil plants. And we never have enough basil in the summertime. If we have basil left at the end of the season, we can freeze it.
Harvest lettuce and arugula (rocket). We plant either seeds or plugs of both, and enjoy them all summer long, replanting a couple every three weeks or so.
There is a new trick to protect apple and plum trees. It's called a codling moth trap. They look like yellow or green tents, for insects are drawn to these colors...really!
Inside the tents are little sex traps. Each trap comes as a kit. Inside each "tent" place a small quantity of pheromone, which lures male codling moths to their death - once inside they are glued to the spot. With the males out of action, female codling moths remain infertile... They don't lay eggs, so the result is no maggots in your fruit.
Put the traps out as soon as the first males are flying. Put them out early this month, and leave them out until August, topping them off with a second helping of pheromone about halfway through the season.
Training and trimming
for bush varieties, tie the mains tem to a short stake. Don't remove sideshoots, as they carry th fruit on bush varieties. We have a few given to us as gifts from neighbors, and these are called winter tomatoes, ready in August for eating all winter. I think we are to hang them up in a dark cool place until we need them. We'll worry about where that is...tomorrow....
-Mow and water lawns regularly>
Fill in gaps in borders with bedding plants. Water the plants thoroughly during dry spells, which is all the time in our part of Italia during June, and deadhead regularly. Keep on top of weeds.
If you have lawns and face a hot dry season as we do here, raise the blades of your mower up a couple of notches so you aren't cutting it so closely - it'll stay much greener during a drought.
Give new lawns a soaking at least a once a week. Established lawns can take care of themselves.
A little liquid feed in early summer will quickly turn your lawn green.
Trees, shrubs and climbers
By autumn, the new plants will be well rooted and ready for potting, but leave them where they are until then. There's no need to rush.
How to take softwood cuttings from shrubs:
1. Snip soft shoot tips off the parent plant, and remove lower leaves. Make a clean cut across the base of the stem with a sharp knife, just before a node ( the place where a leaf joins the stem). If the remaining leaves are very large, cut them in half to reduce water loss. The cutting should be 3-4 inches long when prepared.
Blackspot is usually the one you'll see first. It looks like ink spots on the leaves, which in a bad attack can spread until the entire leaves are covered. Then they drop off. Powdery mildew and rust may start to appear later this month, or not until later in the summer depending on the weather, but as a general rule, they'll show up more if the weather is hot and dry, as the plants are put under more stress.
For ridding roses of aphids, we spray once or twice a week with a mixture of one liter of water, eight ounces of denatured alcohol and two spritzes of liquid dish soap. They're prevalent on new shoots just as the blossoms appear.
Remove suckers from roses: Din't just snip suckers off at ground level, or they'll grow back stronger than ever; instead, trace each one back to its origins by digging down until you find the spot where the sucker grows out from a root, and then tear it out. It's far less likely to grow back.
Training roses: Keep on top of training climbing and rambling roses. Tie in new shoots regularly during the growing season so that they don't hang down. Where you want to train a young plant to cover a wall or arch, choose strong, well-placed stems arising for close to the base of the palnt, spread them out so they cover the area, and time them firmly to their supports using proper plastic pant ties so that they won't give way unexpectedly after a few years.
Some bulbs are better dug up, dried off and stored after flowering. In these cases, dig the bulbs up once they are dormant, and dry them off and store them in a cool, airy shed for the summer. Spread them out in shallow trays or hang them up in an old vegetable net, so there's plenty of air circulation. Or at least that's what an English expert advises...
Here in hot, dry, Italy, we leave the tulips and hyacinths in the ground. Since they are from hot, dry places, such as Iran and Turkey, the ground dries out so they have a good summer "baking".
If yours aren't dry enough when dormant they will rot, so you may want to dig yours up. We'll take our chances with ours, although have been advised to plant them to a depth of 9 inches, which makes them more reliably perennial.
Remember that it doesn't work to leave spring bulbs in the same ground where you want to plant summer bedding, or even between conifers or rhododendrons, which you may need to water when dry, for the bulbs won't like being wet when they should be dry, and rotting is the usual outcome. Sigh. Let's see if our bulbs survive the summer...
As long as the required 6 weeks have passed since the bulbs finished flowering, you can not cut down the bulb foliage without causing problems.
Sow biennials now in a vacant row in the vegetable patch. Prepare the ground and sow the seeds in shallow curves in the earth, sprinkling them as thinly as possible.
When the seedlings come up, thin them out to about 3-4 inches apart. Keep them watered and weeded and watch out for summer slugs and snails. Use a liquid tomato feed every 2-3 weeks.
By late summer or early autumn, they'll be ready to transplant to their flowering positions. And all this comes from just a packet of seeds and a few hours time.
Since warm weather continues until mid fall, with frost not appearing until at least late November, now is the time to sow hearty annual seeds for autumn bedding. Varieties include:: clarkia, limnanthes, candytuft and calendula. We'll try our luck with calendula, as we have the seeds.
Sow late annuals in the same way as biennials, in a spare patch of ground, and thin them out and feed them the same as biennials. They grow much faster than early, indoor-sown ones. When they're big enough, dig them up and move them to their flowering positions; apart from watering, they are no trouble in the meantime. Say, I think we'll try that!
Patios and containers
When containers are first planted and the summer has not yet begun, you can water every few days. But once the weather warms up and the plants are growing faster, you may need to water every day, and feed a liquid food every week or two, depending on the weather.
Vegetables and herbs
We sow mixed lettuces every few weeks and also rocket, and have plenty to use all summer and fall. Before, we took the outer leaves from our lettuce plants first, then as the plants grew, they became tougher and the plants uglier. Now, we use an entire plant in a week or so, then take out the roots, and move in a plug that has been growing nearby from seed. It's fun to watch the changes, and the results are rewarding, as well as...delicious!
Plums, apples and pears:
Harvest rhubarb. Continue pulling sticks of rhubarb until the end of the month, then let the plants grow naturally to recover their strength.
In the Serra (Greenhouse)
Greenhouse plants grown in May will need regular attention with organic liquid tomato feed once a week. Remember to remove the male flowers from cucumber plants, or they'll develop hard seeds inside and taste bitter.