Lupins - a cottage garden favourite

If you live near the coast or have a sandy, loamy soil, consider planting some Lupins in your garden. Lupins are part of the pea family and are very good at fixing nitrogen into the soil. This means they do not need a very rich soil in order to produce some colourful spikes in May and June. Although this plant is very good at looking after itself it is still beneficial to know a few things about it.

Did you know that Lupin seeds are edible? For thousand of years Romans and people living in other Mediterranean countries used them as a nutritional source of protein for themselves and their animals. They used to soak them before eating in order to wash out the bitter taste caused by alkaloids. They also used Lupins as a green manure for their fields, so it is a very useful plant for the modern day vegetable patch.

Lupins have a very strong taproot so they can support its foliage and flower spikes without any additional support. To prolong the flowering period, just keep deadheading the flower heads. Plant your Lupins in spring, in a sunny or partly shaded position and make sure the ground does not get waterlogged, as it will rot the plant. After they have stopped producing flowers leave the foliage to die back naturally. It takes a very long time for them to recover if their foliage is removed after flowering.

Next time you come across some Lupins try to take some basal cuttings in March and April or collect some seeds when they are ready and try planting them in your garden. The following year you and the bumblebees will be rewarded with some beautiful, nectar rich blooms!

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