Red Orach seedling (c) Rianne Mason

May garden journal

Preparing and selling plants

I’ve never sold plants before but I absolutely loved being on the stall and meeting fellow gardeners. I have no maths skills and needed to write every order on a notepad, but I soon started getting the hang of it. I also learnt the names of a few plants because I had to pick them out so many times.

All the money raised went to Inspire Community Garden – an organic community demonstration garden I volunteer with.

Germinating beans and herbs

I’m growing things! It’s such a great feeling to see a shoot coming out of the soil just a week or so after planting a seed. I decided to try an heirloom variety of bean called Blue Coco and a mixture of organic herbs (Greek oregano, large-leafed thyme and Red Orach). All of them are from who have a great selection. I’m also experimenting with a packet of dried butter beans bought for cooking. To test whether they’d shoot or not I wrapped a few in damp paper towel by the radiator for a few days and sure enough they started sprouting!

Make sure you use a fine sowing compost when you’re trying to germinate seeds. For the beans I planted one bean per pot and for the herbs I lightly sprinkled the seeds onto a tray of compost. The Red Orach (pictured above) only took a few days to get going and it’s so pretty! Can’t wait to see what it tastes like.

Building a fence for corn

This was a very different task for me at the community garden. I teamed up with a fellow volunteer who showed me the ropes. By the time we were putting the third stake in I had a go with the sledge hammer and almost caused an injury, but practice makes perfect.

The best bit was sowing the corn crops that we’d built the fence for (to keep away badgers). I didn’t even know you could grow corn in England.

Planting lettuce, onions and aubergine

Mum taught me how to separate lettuce plants before I put them with the strawberries, but I still planted them too close (and had to re-do it). Dad taught me how to plant tiny leeks by dibbing in a hole and dropping the stem in, then watering all the rows and the soil magically drops in itself.

At the community garden and my little greenhouse at home I was planting aubergines. I had a visitor who made it a bit tricky…


Learning how to maintain plant health

I’ve really enjoyed this unit of the RHS course because it includes how important natural balance is to keeping plants healthy. For example, instead of simply digging up a plant you no longer want, take a minute to understand whether it attracts bees or other beneficial insects such as hoverflies (who’s larvae eat plant-sucking aphids). Other examples of keeping natural balance include using chemicals carefully (can you use a resistant cultivar or physical barrier instead?) and making space for beneficial predators such as frogs and birds.

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