Anna Taylor, owner of Anna’s Flower Farm in Audley End, shares what’s going on in the garden this month
The long Easter weekend traditionally marks that point when gardening really begins in earnest. Brighter days and warmer weather create an explosion of growth all around us.
Pretty much anything can be sown now, inside and out. There is an old saying that one shouldn’t directly sow until one can sit, bare bottom, on the soil and feel the warmth radiating. I prefer to notice when seedlings are germinating readily themselves before sowing directly. But you do you!
There are around six weeks until the end of the frosts, which is about the time a plant takes to grow from seed to planting out. For many tender plants like cosmos, sunflowers and zinnias, this gives you just the right amount of time to sow, tend to and plant out, just as the night temperatures stay above zero. This year, I’d encourage you to have a go at growing lots of different vegetables, fruit and flowers. Why? Because growing a wide variety of plants from seed is one of the keys to excellent soil health.
We are beginning to understand how important this is, but did you realise that growing food for yourself and flowers for the table actually improves the soil? And, in turn, improves our environment.
We grow a lot of fruit and vegetables here, mostly for meals on the farm for classes, workshops and farm days, but I’ve also used the decorative blue flowers of peas, herbs and tendrils of beans in arrangements. Though, much more than feeding us and my creativity, these plants also contribute to a healthier soil and better plant health all over. A classic win-win.
As all plants grow, they take in carbon dioxide, actively removing it from our atmosphere, converting it into carbohydrates for food for themselves, and sending a huge amount out into the soil for the microbes and fungi to consume. In return, these fungi networks respond to plants’ needs by exchanging water, minerals and nutrients. This symbiotic relationship is essential to healthy soil and plants. One does not exist without the other. And the more variety in the garden, allotment, and farm, the more variety of microbes and fungi feeding those plants and protecting them from pests and disease. It is utterly mind-boggling to know all this is going on beneath our feet. All we need to do is make sure we don’t do anything to kill the microbes – that includes not using any chemicals, keeping the soil covered with plants (even weeds will take in carbon and keep the soil alive), and occasionally adding some homemade compost to stimulate microbial activity.
So, in your own gardens, sprinkle seeds in amongst your shrubs and perennials, to create colour this summer and food for your plate. We are growing kale among our sweet peas, calendula and sunflowers around our tomatoes and radishes between the cosmos. I can’t wait for the plots to be buzzing with insects, scents and productivity. It all starts with a packet of seeds and a long weekend…
Keep up to date with all the latest from Anna’s Flower Farm here.