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'Plenty of space to grow': Garden expert's toilet roll hack for sowing sweet peas now

January can be a difficult month for gardeners with cold, wet and windy weather often making garden preparations a tricky task. However, gardening expert and author Ellen Mary claims there is “always something to do in the garden” throughout the year, no matter the weather or season. Ellen, who presents The Plant Based Podcast, said there are certain plant seeds that can be sown now, such as sweet peas.

While it may be tempting to grab some plastic pots, Ellen has shared how gardeners can use toilet paper tubes to start off their sweet peas.

She explained: “Flowers like sweet peas can be sown this month.

“I did this the other day and it’s lovely to get going and feel as though I’m pushing on for the garden season ahead.

“You can sow sweet peas into root trainers or into the cardboard tubes that are in the centre of a toilet roll.

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To sow sweet peas in toilet rolls, gardeners need multi-purpose peat-free compost, toilet roll tubes, sweet pea seeds, a seed tray or container to stand them in and labels or a pen.

The cardboard rolls need to be filled with compost and pushed down into the roll but not compacted.

Once the tubes are filled, they need placing in a seed tray or container with drainage holes.

Pick up one seed at a time and place two seeds in the top of the compost of each cardboard roll before pushing them into the compost.

Push them down by about four or five centimetres into the soil.

Cover with a little extra compost and water the rolls lightly, not saturating the compost.

Cover with a propagator lid if possible and then place them on a bright windowsill, frost free porch or greenhouse.

Remember to label the seeds with the variety and the date they were sown.

Bare root planting is also something that can be done at this time of year, as long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged.

“You can plant bare root trees and shrubs, particularly roses as well,” Ellen added.

The plant-based gardening author also suggested mulching plant beds with “well-rotted, organic matter” at this time of year.

Gardeners are being encouraged to give wildlife a helping hand in January too.

Leaving out seeds, nuts and fat balls can really help birds in winter.

Birds also need water to drink so ensuring water baths are regularly changed, especially if they freeze over, is just another way gardeners can help birds through these tricky months.

Ellen’s first book The Joy of Gardening: The Everyday Zen of Mowing the Lawn was published in May 2021.

Her second book, How to Grow a Garden: From balconies to Back Garden Plots, the Complete Guide to a Thriving Outdoor Space, is due to be published later this year.



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