Gardening with Michael Pell: Spring

Michael Pell
Michael Pell

Spring, time of reawakening in the gardening year, though if, like us you garden on heavy clay, spring has been a long time coming.

The ground here at Lewis Cottage is only just drying out, so I’m thankful that I managed to get ahead during the winter months, clearing the herbaceous borders, though I tend to leave the woodland well alone so that there are plenty of areas for the local wildlife to hibernate.

That’s not to say that we’ve been idle. Our decision to install raised beds in the vegetable & fruit gardens a few years ago rather than persevere with a traditional allotment was a sound one.

It means that even in the wet we were able to get the ground prepared, ready for planting now the weather has improved. We’ve been busy building hazel teepees & frames for the runner beans & sweet peas that are fast outgrowing their pots indoors.

Sweet peas are a must in a cottage garden, I think, and are one of few plants that reward you with more blooms, the more you pick them. How wonderfully joyful a bowl of sweet peas looks on a kitchen windowsill.

Whilst plants in the garden have been a little hesitant to burst through the ground, everything in the greenhouses & poly tunnels has done very well and I’m sure we will have caught up with planting everything out in time for this year’s first NGS open garden weekend at the end of the month (27-29th May).

Many of Devon’s NGS gardens have already opened their gates to visitors this year and if you’ve not already visited, you really should (look out for the yellow signs). Full details can be found on the NGS website

This year I decided to grow tomatoes from seed, starting them off on a conservatory windowsill in February. We dedicate a whole greenhouse to growing tomatoes through the summer so I’ve chosen a selection, including Golden Sunrise, Tigerella and my personal favourite, Super Marmande.

In the greenhouse we grow them up a bamboo frame that extends across the ceiling. It makes picking the tomatoes much easier and looks wonderfully dramatic as well. To add to the drama we place pots of basil & French marigolds in front of the tomatoes to help deter white fly. The scent of basil mixed with the smell of freshly watered tomatoes is surely one of the most intoxicating perfumes of summer. Of course, spring wouldn’t be complete without the simple pleasure of the sound of ducklings on the pond and I’m happy to report that our brood that hatched in April are doing well despite the best efforts of Messrs Fox & Heron. But don’t take my word for it, come and see for yourself!

More information on the garden at Lewis Cottage can be found here

Gardens open for the NGS during May

Wood Barton
Moretonhampstead Gardens
Lewis Cottage