Spring Seed Sowing by Margaret Roberts
With this beautiful season in full swing engulfing us in colour and fragrance, seed sowing is so much a spring activity with such satisfying rewards that everyone should be experiencing!
I have chosen my top 10 spring seeds that I literally cannot live without, and I spend a lot of time preparing both beds and seed trays to accommodate these health building little seeds. First always on my list the minute the weather warms up is:
ANNUAL BASIL - Ocimum basilicum
Sow in trays that are shaded and moist and friable, filled with well draining soil to which a little fine compost has been mixed. The secret is to always keep the soil well watered and never to let it dry out. I prick out the little seedlings when they are big enough to handle and plant them in bags filled with compost to grow in partial shade, gradually strengthening them by bringing them out daily into full sun for longer and longer periods. Then plant in full sun spaced 50 cm apart. Basil is nature’s excellent detoxifier, it de-stresses and is good for headaches, coughs, tonsillitis, hypertension, aches and pains and stiffness and makes an ordinary salad taste divine. Serve chopped on pizzas, pastas and stirfries.
CELERY - Apium graveolens
This easy annual celery is grown like basil and is a perfect summer salad ingredient. It is also an excellent detoxifier, antispasmodic and antiseptic, and cleanses kidneys and bladder and improves circulation. Just a cupful of chopped stems and leaves in the daily salad will ease arthritic pains, gout and stiffness and reduces acidity in the body, and it’s so pretty in the garden. I plant it next to tomatoes, basil beans and spring onions, and its flavour is so delicious I use it in everything, specially stirfries and summer soups.
CORIANDER - Coriandrum sativum
Sow this pretty annual now, like basil, and eat the young fresh leaves in salads and sprinkled over grills and braais. It’s so quick and easy and mature plants have masses of dainty edible flowers, and the ripening seeds both green and brown are the most marvelous digestive, added to sauces and marinades. Just chew a few seeds to ease heartburn, tension, anxiety, and to lift your mood and to sweeten the breath, and the flowers can be made into a lotion to clear acne by covering in boiling water and allowing to cool, then strain and use as splash or spritz spray.
ROCKET - Eruca sativa
Sow in the same way as basil and sow it lavishly – this is a divine taste experience, pungent, meaty and rich. Use it chopped on newly baked bread spread with mayonnaise and thinly sliced radishes and become a Roman for a moment! The Romans loved rocket! Excellent for colds, coughs and skin ailments. Rocket is an experience and its leaves soothe insect bites and rashes, and it’s prolific!
FENNEL - Foeniculum vulgare
No spring is complete without fennel! This wonderful detoxifying herb is tough, resilient and nature’s most wonderful detoxifier, cleansing, refreshing and delicious. Leaves and seeds and flowers can be added to everything and fennel savoury biscuits are a treat for Christmas. So get going! Sow as you would for basil and plant out 1 metre apart. This is the slimmer’s herb, so I use fennel tea often and add it to sauces and salads. It eases heartburn, constipation, colic and respiratory ailments, and as a lotion refines and heals acne, skin ailments and oiliness. It’s a magical herb!
PARSLEY - Petroselium crispum
No garden can be complete without parsley at this time of the year. I sow both the most curled parsley and the flat leaf Italian parsley and I add them to every savoury dish. Parsley is nature’s wonder plant – the world’s favourite herb that treats gout, rheumatism, fevers, flatulence and nausea, it helps to control blood pressure, ease prostate problems, flushes the kidneys and bladder and builds the whole body to peak health – it even gives a sparkle to tired eyes and a glow to the skin. Sow lots the way you sow basil.
GREEN PEPPERS - Capsicum species
Now is the time to grow these marvelous vegetables – in trays just like the way you sow basil. A prolific summer annual, I use sliced green peppers sweet and flavourfilled in salads and stifries, meat dishes and pastas and I can’t get enough! Packed with vitamins and minerals, green peppers literally act as a tonic, and I have a row of them spaced 50 cm apart and I let some ripen to red for colour in summer salads. Prolific, rewarding and bursting with health giving properties, plant green peppers amongst your flowers – you’ll be enchanted.
RADISH - Raphanus sativus
One of the quickest and easiest summer crops to grow, and bursting with goodness. Make a compost-filled furrow at the edge of a bed in full sun and sprinkle the seed directly into it. Keep covered and moist and literally within 3 or 4 days the first little seedlings will appear. Children love to sow radishes! The leaves can be quickly steamed attached to the bright little bulb and served with lemon juice, butter and a little salt, as a tasty vegetable, and the crisp little radishes make a salad spectacular! Full of vitamins and minerals and so easy to grow, radishes act as a tonic giving energy and vitality and clear skins and brighten eyes!
GREEN MEALIES - Zea mays
Do yourself a favour, sow a row of green mealies – they are easy to grow! Dig a deep furrow, filled with compost, in full sun and press in a row of mealie seeds spaced 30-50 cm apart. Keep well watered. Never has a mealie tasted so divine as when it is picked and immediately boiled up and served with butter and salt! And it’s fascinating to watch the growing! You’ll become addicted.
CHERRY TOMATOES - Lycopersicon esculentum
Versatile, delicious and so easy to grow, I chose cherry tomatoes as they are so prolific and so beautiful in salads and the perfect health tonic everyone needs! Sow the seeds in trays like basil and then once they are planted in full sun support them on a frame or low fence. Let them ripen on the vine and use the leaves to rub onto kitchen counters and window sills to chase the flies. Make an unforgettable party salad with your own cherry tomatoes with chopped celery, parsley, basil, rocket, thinly sliced radish and feta cheese, with a little olive oil and lemon juice and eat like a king!
Happy spring gardening!
Seeds available as part of the Kirchhoffs Margaret Roberts Herb Collection and Kirchhoffs vegetable seeds - customer care line: 0861-blossom (or 0861-256776) or email . For more information read the ‘Essential Margaret Roberts – My 100 Favourite Herbs’ published by Spearhead Publishers.