A friend said I should come up with a name for my gardening style. Being a teenager of the 90s, all I can think of is “slacker”. I am a slacker gardener: I have made more mistakes than successes. Of my successes, most were accidents, and if I find a way of doing less rather than more, I’m there. Now I’ve admitted that, here are some of my slacker tricks.
For a succession of flowers from June to September, chuck a small handful of opium poppy seed (Papaver somniferum) once a week from now until the end of May wherever you have bare ground in the sun.
While you are buying cheap poppy seed, look for the dirtiest coriander seed going. You want the cheapest seed; the uniform white stuff has been pressure-washed and won’t germinate. Just like the poppies, chuck the coriander here, there and everywhere from May onwards. Ask the small people in your house to do it if you like, it’s that easy.
Eat some coriander leaves and let some plants flower – the pollinators will be so happy. Keep doing this through to September and you will have coriander to eat all winter if you offer it a little protection.
While you are at it, sow parsnips. One year, as an experiment, I closed my eyes and chucked the cheapest variety of parsnip seed I could find over the bed and lightly raked them in (otherwise they blow away). The parsnips were perfect. Now every year, as long as the soil is relatively free of weeds, I scatter seed liberally and thin if necessary.
You can be lazier than that. Sow parsnips now, forget to dig them up next spring, let them flower and they will do the rest for you. Parsnips are good self-seeders (that’s a gentle warning). Carrots are just as good at looking after themselves if there’s bare ground to self-seed into. It’s all about fresh seeds with umbels, and no seeds are fresher than the ones they drop.
After a while you will find the breeding lines are no longer pure: you may have brilliant new plants, you may not. If the latter, buy new seed. Carrot fly could be an issue: one way around this is to dig up carrots or parsnips in late winter and transplant them to a new bed. When the seedlings germinate, cover with mesh to keep the fly off.
Rocket, lamb’s lettuce, American land cress, watercress and radishes also self-seed. Flea beetle may be an issue, but left to its own devices ecology sorts itself out: pests take out only weak plants. Nature knows best who will win out and, as a slacker, I am perfectly happy to let her make that decision.