Belfast Botanic Gardens
Global Medicine Garden - seed sowing and monthly tasks
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The Global Medicine Garden is a joint project between the Botanic Gardens Management (Belfast City Council) and the Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens. In 2019, Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens were given the go-ahead by our Garden Focus Group for the creation of a Global Medicine Garden in a railed-off and gated site to the South-West side of the newly restored Tropical Ravine. A pioneering project, this initiative is the first of its kind in the Gardens. The site had been cleared as a materials store during the building work and had a temporary planting of heathers. From the outset, we have tried to make this a low-budget and sustainable project. Apart from an initial expenditure on some core species, the plants have been donated by members and friends, or propagated from cuttings, and seeds


As a general rule, most seeds are sown in spring ie from February onwards, depending on conditions. There are exceptions: biennials such as Digitalis, and annuals such as Calendula, Ammi, and sweet pea benefit from autumn sowing. Many of the seeds used are saved from our existing plants, collected through the year as individual species ripen.This is just one way of making ours a sustainable project. Seeds that are surplus to the Garden's requirements will be made available at our plant sales.

Here is a step by step guide for beginners:

• Use a sterile peat-free low nitrogen compost, eg seed or general purpose, mixed with perlite or vermiculite,
in a small pot or seed tray, watered and allowed to drain

• Space seeds thinly for best results

• Cover lightly with compost, vermiculite (if there is a light requirement) or grit (if the seeds need stratifying (chilling)
and are put outdoors to overwinter eg many trees, Primula, some umbellifers etc)

• Press down lightly with a similar-sized pot or seed tray to ensure contact of seed with compost

• Label with name and date

• Keep in a cool frost-free place or use mild heat when weather begins to warm and the light is good

• Cover with a clear lid or sheet of glass, wipe off condensation from time to time

• Take covers off when seedlings begin to emerge and ensure they are in good light

• Prick out seedlings into modules, pots or trays when they have their first true leaves
work in the medicnine garden work in the medicnine garden


JOBS for the MONTH


Continue general maintenance as weather permits.

Cover the leaf-mould heap once the leaves are well wetted to encourage rotting.

Catch up with additions to website, labelling and records.


Coppice some hazel in the outer gardens for use as obelisk poles.

Coppice willows to produce rods for weaving projects and to enhance the display for next year.


Finish coppicing of hazel and willow

Construct new and/or replacement obelisks from saved hazel poles and willow withies, it is also an ideal time to make bird roosts, nesting boxes, bug hotels etc as far as materials permit.

(the following are based on notes from 2021)


Weed, or, if dry, hoe. Multitudes of seedlings germinate in mild spells especially if you have left seed-heads on ‘for the birds’. Be sure to leave some of the useful seedlings to provide plants for next year. Some can even be potted up, to replant later, or for plant sales.

Continue planting herbaceous perennials and shrubs in mild spells, though tender subjects may be better left till next month, or provide protection eg mulch or fleece. Water in and mulch if necessary. If planting lavender in heavy soil, add extra grit, or slightly ‘mound’ plant.

Move plants that are badly positioned or that need grouping for better effect.

If mild, remove winter protection or leave in place till next month.


Put supports in place for climbers such as hops, passionflower, jasmine, solanum and repair or replace existing ones. These may be easily and sustainably constructed from coppiced hazel.

Continue planting perennials, shrubs; last chance to divide large clumps.

eg marshmallow, daylily, monkshood** (wear gloves), Chinese lantern.

Identify useful seedlings: poppy, marigold, evening primrose, borage, perennial borage, shoo-fly, re-locate and water in or pot up for sale.

Put in supports (twigs, bamboos and string or hazel and willow) for herbaceous material that still requires it, ie is likely to flop: valerian, weld, fennel.

Plant out annuals and tender species: Aloysia, Zingiber, Buddleia globosa, Dichroa, Pelargonium, Smallanthes and remove frost protection.


--use garden for classes gatherings and meetings, weather permitting--


Ensure there is a watering plan in place in case of drought.

Continue with planting, watering in, mulching. Check troughs are planted.

Cut back rampant species such as comfrey (use for liquid feed or compost) if they threaten to become floppy or a threat to other species.

Top up bark paths as required, and source plants to fill gaps.

Plant out late annuals: Ammi species, Tagetes and dahlias from cuttings/seed.


Collect seeds as they ripen. Dry and store in paper bags: angelica, lovage, valerian, salsify, foxglove, weld for resowing or exchange.

Cut mint, lemon verbena, balm for teas; trim back NZ spinach and cook!

Continue hoeing and weeding and general maintenance, to strike a balance between keeping order and enabling full expression of each plant.


Continue general maintenance; keep paths clear. Selectively cut back excessive seeders: foxglove, shoofly, teasel, weld, self-heal. Hoe when dry.

Take cuttings: fuchsia, elder, lavender, rosemary, roseroot.

Collect seed: false balm of Gilead, scurvy-grass, cowslip, rue, pregnant onion.

Strip mildewy leaves from poppies, clear lower leaves from cardoon.

Treat perennial weeds such as bindweed if necessary.


Hoe and weed. thin out self-sown seedlings and relocate if required.

Continue seed-collection: teasel, dyer’s greenweed, shoo-fly.

Continue to dead-head dahlia, lavender to prolong display and to tidy.


Sweep and collect leaves to keep paving clear; store to make leaf-mould.

Prune out damaged or fallen branches.


Alternate weekly visits are adequate at this time.

Wrap with fleece or mulch subjects requiring protection.

Take hardwood cuttings: willow, buddleia, rose, elder.


Spruce up the garden before Christmas.

Take in hand-painted labels and store indoors till spring. Add to the number as time permits and repair any worn or broken ones.

details of preparations and planting of the garden in 2019/2020
details of progress in 2021 here
details of progress in 2022 here
details of individual plants in the geographic sections