The sun has been out this month and I'm enjoying seeing my new garden come to life. I have a quarter-acre plot in a small village in Berkshire. We moved here in November 2017 and I immediately started planning the garden; patience genes do not run in my family and I literally couldn't wait the year that everyone recommends living with a garden to learn its foibles. By the end of March 2018 we had built a basic layout from what had been a blank canvas of lawn and gravel, and by the end of April I had most of the plants in. In the previous house I had inherited a greenhouse, which is how I got so addicted to growing things from seed, so I asked friends and family to contribute to a new greenhouse for a big birthday early last year - the best thing I ever did!
Last October I put in hundreds of tulips which are all blooming beautifully at the moment, in pots and in the borders. I'm trying to encourage forget-me-nots to spread around as a foil for the tulips as the beds still look quite bare, and dug up clumps from a friend's garden. I think I need wallflowers too to soften everything.
I've been sowing seeds since the beginning of March, both veg and flowers. I prefer sowing most of my veg in module trays rather than straight into the ground as I've never been very good at making neat drills - and planting out little plug plants decreases the risk of tiny seedlings being eliminated by weather, slugs or other creatures. The weather has been completely up and down, as it always seems to be at this time of year, with some very hot days in March followed by freezing easterly winds and night frosts, so the only things I have planted out so far are broad beans and some dwarf peas. Chard, beetroot and lettuce seedlings are waiting in the wings and will go out over the Easter weekend.
I love sowing flowers from seed (see The Flower Garden), and grow both annuals and a few perennials each year. I grow annuals for pots and to plug gaps in the summer borders, relying heavily on half hardies like Cosmos and snap dragons which come into their own in late summer and right into the autumn. I've been sowing both this month, plus marigolds, sunflowers and nicotiana - all very easy to grow from seed. In terms of perennials I've sown White Swan echinacea, Verbena hastata and Thalictrum delavayi (which hasn't germinated so far). Generally perennials tend to be slightly trickier than annuals to grow as some need a period of cold to trigger germination.
I've also been taking dahlia cuttings - although to be honest I don't need more dahlias! I add to my collection each year, and last year dug them all up, so they are literally taking up half the greenhouse in pots until they are planted out next month. Last summer the dahlias were unbelievably good value. Because I had only just planted the garden and the borders still looked pretty empty, the dahlias were invaluable, growing incredibly quickly in the heat wave, and flowering brilliantly until the first frosts. When I planted them up in pots I divided some of the tubers to make more plants, so taking these cuttings is a bit gratuitous - but I can always sell them at a plant sale later in the spring.
Taking dahlia cuttings is so easy. When you plant the tubers in pots, don't plant them too deep, leaving the tubers showing at the top. When they have several new shoots of about 10cm long, you can cut one or two of them off. Using a sharp knife, nick them off right at the base, taking a tiny piece of tuber off too. Dip the cutting in hormone rooting powder (optional) and then simply put the cutting in a small 7cm pot in damp multipurpose compost. Ideally put a plastick back over the top to keep a moist atmosphere, and grow on inside a greenhouse or cold frame.