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GARDENING: PLAN YOUR SPRING GARDEN NOW

August 05, 2018

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Dahlias by the dozen | Photos by the writer
Dahlias by the dozen | Photos by the writer

Imagine a spring garden bursting with blooms in every shade under the sun, vibrating with bee buzz, birdsong and butterflies on the wing. But you need to realise that to create such a beautiful garden, you must start right now.

Before rushing out to buy lots of seeds, take a serious look at the area in which you intend to place the final plants. Work out as the eventual heights, colour range and general growth habits that would best suit your imagined spring garden. Don’t forget to factor in plenty of room for fast-growing seasonal flowers which are sown closer to when they are to bloom.

In addition, make plans about what you want to grow in pots and other containers/hanging baskets for your spring show. Petunias for example, will benefit from being sown as they have lots of time to grow into strong, potentially high floriferous plants.

Now is the best time to choose a site and prepare your soil, for what you sow now, you’ll reap later

Many of the flowers that work so well in such a scheme are slow-growing annuals, biannuals which flower the year after being grown from seed, or short-lived perennials which will flower in their second year too.

All of these need sowing this month, or before the end of the next month at the very latest, if they are to thrive and bloom as intended. While temperatures may remain high until the end of October, you can have well-established seedlings to plant out in their final growing position by early to mid-winter.

Flower seeds falling into the above-mentioned categories include many old favourites and a few that may be new to you. These include old-fashioned hollyhocks, in double and single forms, and from small ones in front of the border to incredibly tall at the back of the border. Available in wide range of glorious colours — white, pinks, reds, purples, peach, pale yellows, chocolate browns and sunset shades — hollyhocks are one of the easiest plants to grow from seed and, you’ll be delighted to know, they germinate rapidly as well.

Hollyhock seeds are of a reasonable size so spacing them out — preferably two to three inches apart — in good quality, well- draining, preferably organic, soil/compost mix, isn’t a problem. They should be sown no more than quarter of an inch deep in seed trays/pots placed in morning sun only with ample protection from monsoon rain. Water lightly each evening and germination should begin in as little as five to seven days with stubborn seeds perhaps not emerging for two to three weeks. Carefully transplant seedlings into small, individual pots when they reach the four to six true leaf stage. Then transplant out into their permanent growing position when they are strongly developed and temperature is lower, mid-November to the end of December being ideal. Very tall-growing hollyhocks will benefit from sturdy support.

Other flower seeds for August sowing are listed below.

Seeds to sow in the flower garden this month include: petunias, dianthus, gazania, antirrhinum, salvia, cineraria, gerbera, rudbeckia, begonia, phlox, dianthus caryophyllus, geranium, hollyhocks, scabosia, rannunculous, freesias, seeds and tubers of dahlias, plus begonia tubers and ranunculous corms too.

Flower of the month: Rudbekia (Cone flower). There are many varieties of these gorgeous flowers, some are annuals, some biannual and others perennial. Ranging in height from one to 12 feet, the plants are usually quite bushy and tend to smother themselves in flowers for weeks on end. The daisy-like flowers are excellent for cutting, arranged around a central cone, range in colour from brilliant yellows and deep reds, through to sand shades and sunset tones with bi-coloured flowers being common. Seed sown during August and September will come into bloom in late winter or early spring. Sow seed just under the surface of well-draining, compost, keep moist but not wet and stand seed trays/pots where they get morning sun only. Protect from monsoon rains. When seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant into six-inch pots to grow on and plant in their flowering position in late autumn/early winter, water as necessary and wait for the show to begin.

Rannunculus
Rannunculus

In the vegetable garden: Brussels’ sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, beetroot, spring onions, lettuce, tomatoes, celery, spinach, leaf beet/Swiss chard, radish, onions, kale, collards, calabresse, broccoli, baby leaf salad mixes, mesclun mixes and mustard mizuna top the list although, I’m sure, there are more!

The herb department: Lovage, spinach, leaf beet/Swiss chard, lots of healthy and crunchy radish, chives, garlic chives, borage, thyme, agastache, oregano, echinacea, bergamot, monardia, nasturtiums and calendulas.

Summer monsoon tree and shrub planting should be in full swing as well and planting suggestions for this period have been made over the last few weeks so won’t be repeated here. Please look at back issues of the magazine (available online) for details.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to zahrahnasir@hotmail.com. Remember to include your location. The writer does not respond directly by email Emails with attachments will not be opened.

Published in Dawn, EOS, August 5th, 2018