I love nasturtiums. I love them for their incredibly beautiful leaves, and for their ‘in your face’ brightly coloured flowers. They fill me with a sense of nostalgia, and transport me back to my childhood. My parents had a small square of soil beside the patio doors where the nasturtiums had been ‘allowed’ to roam free, and roam free they did; spreading and sprawling rampantly across their allotted plot. Whilst the rest of the garden was neat, tidy and perfectly groomed, the nasturtium patch was quite the opposite. And I loved it for its total disregard for the rules. I remember being completely fascinated by the fact that these boisterous plants could be eaten, and also slightly disgusted at how strong they tasted.
Fast forward several years and, despite never having much luck growing flowers from seeds, I decided to take a trip down memory lane by planting some nasturtiums.
I had read that nasturtium seeds could be ‘direct sown’, meaning that you can plant the seeds straight into the garden soil in the position where they will be grown. As the weather was still a little chilly at night, I decided to give my seeds a head-start by planting them in small pots for the start of their journey.
There are a huge variety of seedling pots available in garden centres and online. But with a bit of ingenuity, an old newspaper, and a jam jar, you can quite easily make your own pots. Apart from the obvious money-saving benefit, the resulting pots are also biodegradable making them a perfect choice! There are several online tutorials that can be followed to make these sweet little pots, but basically you cut a strip of newspaper, wrap it round a jam jar, and fold over the top edge to hold it all together.
I headed to the garden centre and chose 2 types of nasturtiums: Alaska Mix, and Black Velvet. The Alaska Mix have brightly-coloured yellow, orange and red flowers, and beautiful variegated leaves marbled in green and white. Whilst the Black Velvet seed packet made promises of dark rich ruby-black blooms and fresh green foliage.
Having returned home with my chosen seeds, I filled the newspaper pots with compost, pushed one seed into the centre of each pot, watered them, and had a cup of tea!
I positioned the seedlings on a tray on a warm, sunny window-ledge and within 6-8 days the first few shoots began to poke their tiny green noses through the soil.
With a little bit of water each morning, and some beautiful warm spring sunshine, the seedlings continued to grow at a rapid pace.
Now that the plants are about 5-6cm tall, I will be moving them into the garden soil where they can continue to sprawl and spread as they wish. I will cut their leaves and flowers for pretty salads, and will delight in the nostalgia of their strong peppery flavour.
Words, Styling and Images by Emma Whicheloe.