Take a pot shot: Have a go at growing from seed and give yourself a flying start for the Olympics

 

In a deluge of paper and plastic, the spring catalogues arrive. With loud boasting, too: 40 kinds of tomato, posh ranges of six French salad potatoes, more vegetables than anyone else. This is gardening, 2012 style, its face all freshly scrubbed and ready to go.

There are plenty of ways to acquire plants in this world, as those of us who glumly studied our 2011 bank statements while preparing tax returns can attest. But growing plants from seed has a special kind of magic to it – and requires a bit of expertise.

Not at the start, mind. It doesn't require skill, most of the time, to get seeds to germinate. You usually just plonk them into moist soil and they do it themselves. It's the next bit that's complicated: getting those perfect little two-leaved seedlings to be proper plants, without them getting chewed, eaten, unwatered, mouldy or just tipped over by small children or dogs.

Seedlings don't always need absolutely direct sunlight, so a safe west-facing window sill in your spare room may be loads better than a south-facing one with lots of passing (child and dog) traffic. Porches are good – they feel cold, and the seedlings will grow slowly, but in the end this gives them a better chance of surviving in the great outdoors.

There are a few other techniques to help. Begin not with seed trays but with individual pots, putting just one or two seeds in each, so seedlings can grow to quite a size before being moved. If you don't mind a slightly hippie protest-camp vibe you can make your own pots with old newspaper and a Paper Potter – these are rather beautiful objects made of oak round which you shape into a little pot, (£9.95 from harrodhorticultural.com).

You can also sow some seeds straight into the ground. Nasturtiums, Love-in-a-Mist, sunflowers and poppies are all beauties which germinate well even with rough handling, though you may wait longer than a greenhouse owner. Nasturtiums in particular are excellent – practically foolproof, I want to say, but that could be overstating it: distinctive lily-pad leaves and bright edible flowers that can lift a summer salad to almost uneatable prettiness. Thompson & Morgan has more than 30 kinds of nasturtium on offer, and I'm going to recommend brand-new "Cobra", a spectacular deep red (£1.99 for 30 seeds, thompson-morgan.com).

And that deep red brings me to the most important task of 2012: those red, white and blue window boxes. Last year when I planted some of these in time for the Royal Wedding, my horrified French neighbour croaked, "I thought you were a republican!". Well, there we go. I'm not crazy for the Olympics either, but it's any excuse round here for matching window boxes and bunting. I will, of course, be ignoring the official Orwellian window-box directive requesting a "vibrant colour palette" showing "London 2012 shapes and patterns". That weird fidgetty logo, in pink petunias? Ugh. Red, white and BLUE, and a whole extra Bank Holiday to enjoy them. Cheers!

Living bunting

Loyal subjects

As you'd expect from the doyenne of good taste, Sarah Raven's "Celebrate Britain" selection is a cut above: red poppies, blue cornflowers and white cosmos. £3.50, sarahraven.com

Patriotic plugs

Too lazy to sow seed? Celebrate 2012 with plugs: little plants that come in the post ready to be planted into containers. Suttons is offering Cobalt Lobelia, Calibrachoa Red Devil and white Verbena for a storming hanging basket. 12 plants, £13.99, suttons.co.uk

Statesmanlike sweet peas

Grow red, white and blue Spencer Series sweet peas for patriotic granny bouquets or train over front-garden bamboo pyramids. 50 mixed plants, £17.90, mr-fothergills.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence