Gardening Course: Week 1

Mustard, Sage and Peony Poppy

Our GRETB funded Gardening Course, tutored by Richard Kennedy, started yesterday evening in the Community Centre.

Week one covered planting and herbs, mixed with tips and some sage* advice.

Before you start

  • Prepare a good growing medium for your plants. For seeds 1 part horticultural sand with 15 parts of multipurpose compost, the sand keeps the compost loose. If you can’t find horticultural sand, you can use coarse builders’ sand, but sterilise it first by pouring a kettle of boiling water over it.
  • Wear gloves to protect your hands from the drying effects of peat.
  • Use a small table to work at, rather than kneeling on the ground. It’ll save your knees and back and give you somewhere to put your glass of wine while you work.
  • Sterilise your plant pots by washing them with a light solution of Jeyes fluid.


Your compost and sand mix will already be slightly damp so you don’t need to water straight away and, when you water, you only want to moisten the compost. To check if you need to water, take a scrap of newspaper and press it on top of the compost. If the paper is dry, it’s time to water. Use a gentle spray, rather than the hose pipe.
If you’re going away for a bit, fill a bucket with water and put one end of a strand of thick wool in the water and one end in the plant pot. Capillary action will bring water from the bucket to the plant pot.


  • Use a two litre pot
  • Fill the pots to the top with compost and then tap to settle them.


Mustard seeds: Sprinkle a generous amount on the top and cover with a handful of compost. Add a label.

Sage seeds: make three or four holes in the compost with your finger. Drop a seed into each one and cover with a handful of compost. Add a label.

Peony poppy seeds: Sprinkle a small amount on the top and cover. Add a label.

Climbing Vegetables

Peas and beans (hard shelled seeds): Decide how many you are going to plant, wrap them in tin foil and put them in the freezer for 48 hours.

You’ll need a twenty litre tub and five 6 foot canes.

Fill the tub with compost and put a 6 foot cane in the centre, with the other four evenly spaced around the pot and tie them together to make a tepee. Make two small holes in the compost at the base of each cane with your finger and drop the seeds in. Cover with a handful of compost.

Bigger Vegetables

Potatoes: Half fill a twenty litre tub with 50/50 compost and horticultural sand. Put four potatoes, evenly spaced out, on top of the compost. Cover with more 50/50 compost and sand. As the potatoes come up, keep covering with the compost and sand mix until you reach the top of the pot.

Carrots: Using the same 50/50 mix, fill a tub or planter with compost. Make a series of holes about half an inch deep and three inches apart and drop two or three carrot seeds in each. Cover with more 50/50 compost and sand.


  • Use a light solution of Jeyes fluid around roses in winter to prevent a recurrence of black spot
  • Collect your own seeds: When the seed heads start to dry out, put a brown paper bag (the ones that come with wine bottles are perfect) over the top, cut off the stalk and turn the bag right side up. Seal the top, label the bag, and put it in the hot press over winter.
  • Remember when buying plants from garden centres and supermarkets that many of them will have been grown under artificial conditions and are quite delicate. Don’t put them straight outside – they’ll get cold and miserable. Instead, give them an hour or two outside and build up to being outside full time for a week.
  • Transplanting: moving your plants into the garden soil. Dig a hole wide enough to take the pot, but not quite as deep. Put a mix of compost and sand into the bottom of the hole. Carefully cut the bottom out of the pot. Drop the pot into the hole. The roots of the plant will find their way down and out into the garden soil. The rim of the pot will stand proud of the soil so that, even in winter, you can see where your plant is and can weed around it.
  • Use granular feed rather than liquid feed. It lasts longer and is less likely to be washed away.
  • When feeding sulphate of potash to roses, lupins and apple trees, sprinkle the correct amount (measured) on the ground beneath the outermost branches/leaves – this is where the feeding roots will be underground.
  • To deter green and white fly, crush a clove of garlic and steep it overnight in a pint of water. Spray the mix over affected plants the next morning.
  • The best control for green and white fly is the ladybird. Encourage them to your garden by providing a shelter for them over the winter by putting an upside down egg box (lid removed) into evergreen bushes.

If you’re using a barrel or a feed bucket that doesn’t have holes in the bottom, drill some holes into the side of the container about two inches up from the bottom. This gives you a nice reservoir of damp compost at the bottom to encourage rooting.

Still to come

  • Pruning roses and apple trees, growing grapes, growing in a small area, rotating crops
  • Planting herbs
  • Growing vegetables in a basket


This course is kindly funded by: