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
News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
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

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits