This is such an exciting month in all areas of the garden that it’s difficult to decide where to begin. But let’s start out by taking a look at some of the gorgeous flowers that can be sown now.
One of my all-time favourites is the annual poppy family, in all of their vibrant abundance. They are an absolute must for bringing delicate dazzle to all parts of the garden for weeks on end. Bursting into dancing ballerina bloom from early spring onwards, they add a fairytale mystique to all kinds of landscapes. This time round I have sown — and am still sowing — annual poppies in pinks, brilliant reds, lush purples, ghostly whites, brilliant yellows, misty lilacs, luminous oranges, soft greys and just about every other imaginable shade, all around the edges of my vegetable beds. I also planted them in a largish wild flower patch created at the very bottom of my terraced garden where, when no one is looking, fairies frolic and unicorns gamble.
These sow-and-forget annuals delight in moderate to relatively poor soils, need very little attention — other than admiration — and when the show is over, give a lasting encore in the form of easy to harvest seeds by the thousands. Thus ensuring you have all that is necessary for a repeat performance next time round.
Time to sow some poppies to dazzle all parts of the garden for weeks.But don’t forget the veggies and herbs
Now is also the time to sow fragrant sweet peas in carefully prepared beds/pots, stately larkspur, masses of very tall Queen Anne’s lace, sea-drifts of ageratum, a Persian carpet of wallflowers and sweet Williams and sweet alyssum. You can also sow insect-repelling tagetes, sweet sultan, cornflowers, mimulus, bidens, nemophila, godetia, antirrhinums, violas and pansies, sweetly scented Virginia stocks and 10-week stocks, salvias, clarkia, bellis, hollyhocks, annual chrysanthemums, asters, coreopsis and lots more.
If you haven’t done so before, try taking a leaf from this writer’s book and combine your flower, vegetable and herb gardens rather than keeping them separate. This mix n’ match method, utilising companion planting where pertinent, has numerous benefits. It makes maximum use of precious water, helps prevent pests and diseases, encourages essential pollinators, and provides a blissful haven for beneficial insects and butterflies with birds getting in the act, too.
Flowering bulbs and corms can be planted this month, too. These include statement Asiatic and Oriental lilies, our very own nargis, perfumed Dutch hyacinths, grape hyacinths, Dutch iris, miniature iris, tulips, daffodils, crocus, ranunculus, sparaxis, cyclamen, anemones, freesias and, one hopes, a choice of new-on-the-market introductions as well. Try some members of the allium family: their balls of purple, carmine, pink, white and yellow heads are long-lasting, make excellent cut flowers and are a treat for bees.
In the increasingly important vegetable garden, the choice of goodies to sow is incredible. Here you can have broad beans, peas, sugar peas, petite pois, winter red and pink radish, black winter radish, French radish, radicchio, endive, winter lettuce, cos lettuce, pak choy, mustard, mustard mizuna, giant red mustard, garlic mustard, turnips, turnip greens, cauliflower and lots of different kinds of cabbage — and don’t forget some red ones. Brussel sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli, green sprouting broccoli, calabrese, curly kale, kale, red Russian kale, scarlet kale, black Italian kale, chopsuey greens, spring onions, onions, carrots, beetroot, kohl rabi, rutabaga, leeks, Swiss chard/leaf beet, celery, spinach, garlic, potatoes, Chinese cabbage, mesclun mixes and both mixed Chinese and Japanese salad greens are also favoured. In the south of the country, tomato seeds can be sown in sheltered spots and will do well as long as they are given protection at night and if there is a chilly wind.
In the herb department you can sow fast-growing types of lavender, rosemary, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, apple mint, peppermint, green mint and any other kind of mint you can find. Parsley, sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano, lemon balm, nasturtiums, watercress, arugula (rocket), dill, aniseed, chamomile, calendulas, chervil, chives, garlic chives, coriander, cumin (zeera) and various kinds of basil can also be sown if you have a suitably warm, sheltered spot.
This month is also the perfect time to thoroughly review your garden area and decide if and where you can add more trees, shrubs and climbers always keeping in mind — in these water-stricken times — that something which produces food is far preferable to purely ornamental species.
Herb of the month: Coriander, an essential culinary herb, is something we can never have too much of. Versatile in the kitchen — it also freezes well — it must surely be one of the easiest herbs to grow in pots or directly in prepared garden soil. Happiest in very light shade or in a spot that gets only morning or afternoon sun, coriander enjoys well-drained soil that has a high humus content — adding plenty of organic compost to the soil mix achieves this — to keep it nutrient-rich throughout its growing season. Sow the large seeds — not too close together as the individual plants need space to grow — no more than half-an-inch deep in pots or in rows or patches in the garden. Keep watered but do not allow the soil to become overly wet as this can result in seedling rot/damping off. Germination should begin within five days of sowing and will continue for up to two weeks.
Coriander is a fast-growing herb. When large enough, simply snip off as much as you want to use, leaving the plants to regrow which, hopefully, they will do quite a few times before they finish. Sow coriander seeds every two or three weeks all year round for a continuous supply of fresh leaves. The plants prefer more shade and plenty of water in the hotter months of the year than when the weather is cooler.
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Published in Dawn, EOS, November 3rd, 2019