This week is National Gardening Week, the country’s biggest annual gardening celebration. Led by the Royal Horticultural Society, this year’s campaign is focusing on the mental and physical benefits of gardening and is calling on people to get their daily dose of ‘vitamin G’.
Research shows that gardening can boost health and wellbeing and is associated with reductions in anxiety and depression. It is also a surprisingly good form of exercise, with 30 minutes of gardening burning a similar number of calories as playing badminton or volleyball.
With May around the corner, the days getting longer and the temperatures increasing, this is the perfect time to start growing many annual vegetables and flowers. Here are our top tips for having a go at growing your own this spring…
What to sow and grow this month
Salads: Lettuces, radishes, salad onions, spinach and rocket can be sown in borders or containers and will produce fresh salad in just a few weeks.
Flowers: Nasturtiums, calendula, cornflowers and other seeds in pots, borders or in cell trays, ready to plant out later.
Root crops: Carrots, baby turnips and beetroot for a tasty crop in the next few months.
Herbs: Basil, coriander, parsley, dill, chervil and other herbs. Sow in cell trays to plant out later, or sow directly into borders and tubs.
How to sow seeds
Check the seed packet for when and how to sow your seeds, and see here for a printable seed sowing calendar.
You can either sow seeds directly in the soil where they are to grow, or sow them indirectly (sow in trays and plant them out as baby plants also known as seedlings). Sowing them in trays and transplanting them can give you a better chance of success, although some seeds – like carrots, beetroots and beans – prefer to be sown directly in the soil.
Sow seeds directly. Before sowing your seeds, weed the area thoroughly. If you want to use the no-dig method, add a few inches of compost to your soil and sow seeds into the compost. Otherwise, loosen the soil the a fork, rake it over, and sow directly into the soil. Check packet instructions for seed spacing, making sure to leave enough space for adult plants to thrive.
Sow seeds indirectly. If using this method, sow seeds into peat-free potting soil, water them and keep the trays in a warm place. Once the plants emerge, move them somewhere with plenty of light and keep them moist. ‘Harden off’ baby plants before planting out. This means getting them used to outdoor conditions by putting them outside during the day and bring them in at night for a few days.
Grow in containers
This is ideal if you don’t have garden beds. Most containers can be used to grow plants in, including buckets, bins and bags of potting soil. Make sure to make drainage holes in the bottom. Avoid see-through containers (roots don’t like light) and anything that has contained chemicals, as these can leach into the soil.
Make compost to feed your soil
Adding compost to your growing area is a fantastic way to add nutrients and beneficial microorganisms to your soil and keep your plants healthy. While you can buy compost, making it at home is far cheaper and allows you to transform food and garden waste into a valuable resource. There is also the added bonus of not having to pay to have your garden waste collected! If you don’t have outdoor space, it’s still possible to compost. Check out our composting guide.