Ursula’s recommends growing sweetpeas up a circle of pig netting rather than a wigwam which narrows at the top and restricts flowering – unless you have the time and space to grow them as cordons
She has found that planting a rye grass green manure in ground where sweet peas will grow the following year produces stronger plants that flower for longer
Don’t use bamboo canes – the plants find it too slippery to cling to and need more tying in
I asked one of her team about a problem I have had with my own sweetpeas failing to form flowers properly at the end of the stem I was told that this was caused by temperature fluctuations early in the season. Apparently I have done the right thing by removing these stems to encourage the formation of new flowers
Pick, pick, pick to keep your plants as productive as possible for as long as possible
Look carefully and you will spot the pig netting
This is my new favourite variety – Juliet – subtle colours and deliciously fragrant
The corner underneath the mimosa tree has been looking rather sad and neglected. It’s a difficult spot because the roots of the tree make it difficult to get anything to grow there and at some point I will extend the paved area in front of it, where I have my pot pond and a selection of seasonal displays. We have also cut the ivy growing on the wall hard back before any birds start nesting. The ivy will recover quickly, but in the meantime I felt the need to make things a bit more interesting by moving pots of box from elsewhere in the garden, adding my collection of rhubarb forcers, the bottle dryer that holds some of my terracotta pots and a chimney pot topped with a stone ball. They draw the eye away from the bare wall for the next few weeks and form a more decorative backdrop to the spring bulbs.
If you call into Costa Coffee and pick up a free recycled coffee bean bag of used coffee grounds to use as a soil improver and you may find that you can give giant vegetable grower Kevin Fortey a run for his money. He has been using the coffee grounds this year and has noticed a significant improvement in the quality of his vegetables. The coffee grounds slow-release nitrogen, calcium and magnesium and add organic matter to the soil. They are also said to deter slugs and snails, but this has been questioned in the past. The grounds can also be added to your compost heap.
As I went around the garden moving pots of young plants to spots that will survive my absence through the hottest days of the year, I thought of Maggie O’Farrell’s wonderful novel of that name. I want to make life easy for my friend who has the responsibility of keeping the plants alive – a task more onerous than usual with temperatures forecast to reach the mid 30s. A long shelf beneath the kitchen windows only gets sunshine in the early morning, so I’ve crammed them on it on trays of gravel. The close proximity of the plants and the humidity from the water in the gravel trays should produce a microclimate that will keep them happy until my return. I’ve also dotted full watering cans around the garden so that she can administer emergency watering to anything that is flagging. Fortunately I’m only away for a few days, but if you are planning to go on holiday, it’s worth moving container plants into a shady location or providing them with gravel-filled saucers.