I’ve listed a few varieties that are simple enough to grow and you can start indoors on a kitchen windowsill. One of my favorite plants to grow from seed is Sweet Pea and there are lots of different varieties to choose from - from large types that grow over trellis, to small patio varieties that are good for pots or baskets and loads of different colours to choose from. I’ve picked a variety called “Little Red Riding Hood” which has a great scent and beautiful contrasting flower petals of red and white. This variety will grow to about 6 feet tall and makes a great cut flower to bring inside. You can sow outdoors where they are to flower in April or start them inside on your kitchen windowsill from January to March. Soaking them overnight in some water helps to re-hydrate them and will speed up the germination. Sow them about half an inch deep in a 5 inch or 10 or 12 cm pot with about 5 seeds per pot. Give them a good watering and put them on a cool windowsill around 15°C is ideal. Your sweet pea seedlings will start to appear in around 12 to 21 days - keep them moist at this stage and you can pinch out the growing tip when two or four pairs of leaves have formed, this will help to create nice bushy growth. After a while you can gradually acclimatise them to outside conditions avoiding any frosts, plant them out in their final location around late April or May and support them with some tall canes, a plant support or netting, remember to watch out for slugs at the seedling stage. You can also sow them in a cardboard tube like a loo roll insert filled with compost as they like a deep root run, remembering to keep the compost moist. An early sowing will result in flowers around about May and if you keep deadheading and feeding you’ll have flowers all Summer - great as a cut flower and picking the flowers will prolong the flowering season. So Little Red Riding Hood - has a really strong scent, easy to grow and makes a great cut flower
Another favorite plant and one that seems to be coming back into fashion are Lupins which are a hardy perennial - meaning they come back every year. I’ve selected a mixed coloured selection called Festival Mixed - nice compact plants that will flower in their first year. These are a great variety for small gardens and great in containers with beautiful bold colours. Sowing them early indoors will result in flowers between August and September in the first year and between May and July in subsequent years. These are another seed that you can soak in water overnight to help re-hydrate the seeds. You sow them about a quarter of an inch deep in a seed tray of compost with a temperature of around 15-20°C - so on a warm windowsill will be fine. You can cover the seed tray with some cling film or a clear propagator lid. Keep them moist and the seedlings usually appear after 21 to 42 days, when you can then remove the cling film. When they’re large enough to handle you can move them individually on to small 8cm pots and gradually acclimatise them to outdoor conditions in May - remember to always handle seedlings by the leaves and not the stem to avoid damaging the plants and try to limit root disturbance as best you can - once they establish a bit more you can plant them out around 2 foot apart in beds or into containers - they like a nice sunny location and try to keep them weed free if growing in beds
Other seeds to consider are trailing Lobelia - cascade mixed is an excellent variety great for hanging baskets, window boxes and containers and Penstemon is a great cottage garden hardy perennial - all perfect for starting off on your kitchen windowsill. So if you’re new to sowing seeds maybe this is the month to start it off - create a new habit for 2023 - you’ll find it rewarding and fun - it’s somewhat magical to see a small seed that can be tiny and insignificant develop into a beautiful flowering plant.
A few jobs for the week ahead;
- Continue to feed the birds in your garden - go for a mix of feed to attract a diverse mix of birds - mealworms, sunflower hearts, suet cakes, nyjer seeds along with seed and peanuts - some seed on the ground or bird tables for the robins and other ground feeding birds and some slices of apple for the blackbirds - finches and other birds will happily feed from the feeders.
- Put up bird boxes in sheltered spots, on tree trunks, sheds or walls, well before the nesting season begins
- Trim back ivy, Virginia creeper and other climbers that have outgrown their space, before birds start nesting
- Clear away soggy, collapsed stems of perennials and put them in the compost bin
- Look out for some potted snowdrops that you can plant out for flowers every January
- Look to clean any paths and patio areas or slippery decking - get rid of any fallen leaves and treat moss or algae with some Mosgo green remover