Garden jobs for late-winter days

Whenever there are rainy days on the menu, my thoughts turn to doing some more seed sowing. I’ve got a number of packets that my dear friend Matt Biggs sent me – we’ve been swapping seeds and plants for years – and, whenever the skies turn a bit leaden in the spring, I feel the need to fill some pots and trays with a mix of sieved compost and perlite (4:1 by volume) and lose myself for a few hours in sowing some perennial border plants, as well as a few more lettuce and other veg.

It’s not just Matt that gives me seed to sow either. I’ve got some Chinese greens that a friend from Hong Kong sends, a climbing bean from Slovakia which I got from a friend of a friend, and some home-saved tomato seeds saved from a particularly tasty fruit in a cousin’s salad two year’s ago. That’s the beauty of seeds – save them, store them, sow some, swap some – there are usually plenty to go round and it seems a shame not to share. And not everything has to be bought new in a packet every year: stored in cool, dry and dark conditions many packs of seeds will remain viable for at least three years; and you can also save your own seeds from many of your favourite plants.

Gardening with children

Seed sowing has been part of my life since I was a child: my aunts and uncles all taught me what they had been taught by their relatives. And I’ve tried, through teaching and writing about gardening, to share my own 50 years of knowledge with others. It’s been a real joy. In fact, one of the good things that could come out of lockdown in the midst of COVID-19 is that parents and their children get to sow seeds and grow together – to encourage an appreciation of nurturing not only of other living things but also of themselves.

This is the reason why, in 2020, I came up with the idea to Grow Some Sunshine – an opportunity to come together virtually as individuals, families and communities, to sow giant sunflowers not only to say thank you to NHS frontline staff and volunteers, but to encourage new generations to discover a love of gardening which they will take with them through their entire lives. So as this bank holiday approaches, please think about making a donation to the campaign so that I can send you some of our special giant sunflower seeds to sow and grow, and nurture a growing passion as well as raising money for charity.

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