Grow your own: May
As spring turns to summer one of the things I love most about the gardens at Chewton Glen is watching our bees working hard to pollinate our fruit trees around the grounds. The bee hives are one of my favourite things that I have achieved in the gardens, and producing our own honey is a project I am very proud of. I advise anyone selecting plants to try and buy high nectar plants that encourage bees into your gardens. I promise you will not regret it, they are fascinating to watch, even one lavender plant when flowering on a warm day can attract a number of bees and wildlife.
Sowing from seed
At the hotel we sow our vegetable crops in two ways. Either we start them from seed in modular seed trays and plant them out when they are big enough, or we direct sow the seed into the soil. Direct sowing is used with crops that tend to have long tap roots or the crop is the root. The main crops I grow like this are radishes, lettuce, carrots and bulb fennel.
Be careful not to overdo it when sowing, only sow what you will use each week. It is very easy to get carried away and become over-run with these sorts of crops; it was certainly one of the mistakes I made when we started. The secret to successional sowing is a few seeds or lines of seeds each week. You do not need a great deal of room for this type of growing technique, and a lot of people simply sow them in small gaps between larger crops or as a quick crop after a main crop has finished and before the next one is planted.
To begin with dig over the area you want to sow and break it up into a fine tilth. We would then add a base fertiliser; one of the fertilisers I recommend for this is Vitax Q4, because it breaks up quite quickly and gives a really good spread of nutrients including trace elements.
I then like to spread a layer of well-broken-up compost on top and then rake the whole lot over so it is level and gently worked in together. You should then have a really nice well- broken-up soil ready for seed sowing.
Lay a cane or straight stick along the ground and use the side of your hoe to create a shallow trench approximately 1-inch deep along the length of the cane. Simply place a seed every inch along the length of the trench and cover over. It really is that simple. The seeds must then be kept wet and not allowed to dry out. They should start to germinate very quickly. If they are too crowded then simply remove the seedlings that are too close to leave the ideal spacings for your crop to grow and mature.
Over the month of May we will be planting out our bedding and wildflower displays as well as continuing to sow and harvest the kitchen garden crops. The last few years we have been trying different ways of using plants and I wanted to share a really simple way to use herbs. We have started to incorporate herbs into our pots, dotting pots of mixed herbs around the gardens or on window ledges. They are a lovely way of displaying the different colours, textures, shapes and smells and they are simple to make. You can make them any size and fill them with whatever herbs you want. The one pictured includes chives, sage, lemon verbena, Rosemary and thyme and were created for a picnic area in our kitchen garden.