Do I dare?

I’m filled with mild trepidation as I write this… and that’s because I’m about to share some insights into a very specific group of gardeners – women with young families. The reason I’m a little nervous is that this information hasn’t been gleaned from strangers via market research, but from my own family.

To put it plainly, I’ve four daughters and I watch with fascination as they live their lives. My girls are robust, talented women with strong urge to create a balanced, enriched home-life. And like many, many others like them, as part of this process they are looking out into their gardens.

Which is why I – their plantsman father – am being asked for advice. And this is where things get really interesting. Judging from their very basic questions, it seems that despite growing up in a family steeped in horticulture, their understanding is minimal. And yet the urge and interest is there – they are keen to gather the knowledge back. And I’m the man (and father) to help. (And in case there are others who’d also like some basic gardening tips, I’m happy to share my answers when my daughters ask, “How do I…?” )

So, one of my daughters rang me the other day having just brought home a collection of herb seedlings which she planned to plant somewhere in her tiny courtyard garden. She wanted to confirm that she should wash all the soil off the roots before planting them out.

I stopped myself shrieking, “Of course not!”. Instead I explained that the secret to planting out most seedlings (leeks and onions aside) is in achieving minimal disturbance. You want these baby plants to feel like they’ve just woken up in a new location.

So the trick is: dig eight little holes ready to receive the seedlings making sure to space them using the information on the label; gently break the punnet of seedlings into singles (there are usually eight plants in each); lay each home in its hole; gently pull the soil back to tuck them in; and water the seedlings in, again gently.

I also went on to ask her where she was thinking of planting her herbs and knowing her and her garden, suggested she tuck them into a large planter in a sunny spot near the back door. Not only will the full sun help the herbs to thrive but it will be easier to remember to water, and later harvest them, when they’re growing close to the kitchen. And then when I next popped over I took with me some organic fertilizer because I knew it would help things along and being organic, fall within her code of principles of healthy eating. (Growing herbs in pots full of organic potting mix is also a good way of making sure your food crops can’t possibly be growing in not-so-clean soils.)

Keunkenhof river of blue

Keukenhof display in bloom

I just wish I had a photo to share of the actual planting which was rather taken over by grandchildren… but isn’t that what it’s really all about? Instead I give you this (above), taken a few years ago of Keukenhof in its glory. This sums up my Dutch family’s love of plants very nicely and it makes me understand how most people awake to the joy of gardening at some point in their lives.


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