Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Survival, toll of Winter

It's been a roller coaster ride. With high winds, frosts, northerly gales, sleet, plenty of rain, etc. this Winter has been all about, well Winter.

It's not the worst on record for low temperatures, high snowfalls (thinking of our friends in the U.S. & Canada, other places), etc. However, it still has taken its toll on plants and the garden. 

This year, the greenhouse hasn't been devastated by high winds, not because we didn't have them, but because I used everything at my disposal to keep it together ... including bricks, boards pallets and wire. It may not be a pretty sight, but it is still standing, which is a small miracle in itself!

The benefit of it remaining in one piece is that there the plants inside have remained sheltered and snug throughout the winter cold and the recent gale force winds we've experienced.  This in turn, means as we head into Spring, I'm not starting from scratch as I had to do last year, to rebuild the greenhouse, staging, etc. 

With the mild weather we had at the start of February, it meant I got to do a touch of cleaning and tidying, but with family, work and some study, I haven't done too much since, apart from a small amount of watering and lighting the heaters on cold nights. 

Other spots in the garden need plenty of attention too, which they will receive in due course. I have a day or two off in March that will allow some time to garden. In the meantime, things are relatively neat and tidy in the space around the small garden.

The bigger side garden is a slightly different matter! The glass house was not as fortunate as the greenhouse and there are some broken panes there which need removing and repairing. The soft fruit area and small vegetable areas need a good deal of attention - I've yet to decide what the plan fr it is this year. 

I'm moving some shrubs into what was the herbaceous and flower border, which will cut down a little on maintenance. I'll be relying on the annuals I'm sowing now for some of the garden colour here. 

The new bed I put together last May gave a great deal of colour and interest last year. It does require a good tidy up and make-over, again which I'll tend to over the coming months. The large bamboo-like canes to the back of the bed are the remains of a Miscanthus, which will reappear in the Spring. I'll make good use of these in the garden through the Spring, not quite sure how or where yet though ...

So, as we approach the last days of our calendar winter, I'm appreciating the relative calm in preparation for an exciting Spring.

Happy gardening.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

New life in the 2015 garden

This first picture shows the flowers of a Salvia that I'm overwintering indoors, and which has kindly produced some colour to enjoy.

Much of my recent tweeting and blogging  has been about seed sowing so I was pleased to see some pea have already germinated, taking only five days to do so. 

I was also surprised to see some of the Cosmos 'Phoenix' seed have also germinated, after only two days. This is very quick, although I have used a little heat to help with these along.

There's also more signs of life under cover of the greenhouse, with the buds on the Fuchsias beginning to swell. While this is also welcome, some heat will have to be used on frosty nights to protect the tender growth. 

Speaking about new life, look what I found going for a stroll over my indoor Fuchsia. Yes, Mr Greenfly is making an early appearance too. 

Hmmmm ... a topic for another day. Instead I'll leave you with the lovely miniature flower of Fuchsia x bacillaris 'Cottinghamii'.

Happy gardening

Friday, 13 February 2015

Easy gardening, sowing seed

With the recent slightly warmer spell of weather over the past week, I'm thinking it's time to start sowing some seed. Hardy annuals are always good to start with, as these little toughies don't need high temperatures to germinate or sustain themselves. In fact, at times, some plants will self seed around the garden, and the only work you've to do is to enjoy them when (and where!) they flower.

The first seed I'm going to start with are sweet-pea (lathyrus odoratus). These are easy to grow, flower reliably and require only a small amount of soil preparation when planting. You can read what I've written before about them here. In the recent past I've concentrated on growing the white variety, which will do nicely this year. However, there are so many other colours to choose from I will indulge a little and pick some other shades. 
In writing this blog, I'm also reminded of my own words on keeping gardening easy, to encourage others to try their hand at sowing some seeds too.

So first things first. And when sowing seed, to start, you have to make sure you have the right ingredients to use. For the sweet pea, these are as follows:

Seed (in this case some sweet pea saved from two year's ago)
Seed tray, pots or seed modules (my choice for these) 
Compost (go for a compost recommended for seed)
Propagator cover

As you can see from the picture, the first step is to fill the seed modules with compost. An easy task and one that doesn't take long. I firm the compost in the modules by lightly pressing into the corners with my fingers. I then use a little more compost to fill in any gaps or dips that has appeared. Next, level off the compost on the seed modules and leave them looking neat, with clean edges showing.The compost I use here is home made, however, if you're only doing a small amount, or a beginner, buy some seed compost in your local garden centre.  
Next step is to water in the compost. You can use a watering can with a rose on it or, as in my case, I used the garden hose turned on low with a nozzle on it to give a fine spray. You can sow seed straight away, although I do like to leave them to sit in order for the compost to settle.

And then it's time to sow seed, the fun part. The general rule of thumb, is that seed need to be covered by soil, twice their own depth. In the case of the sweet pea seed, this means putting about a centimetre (or half inch) of soil over them. My technique is very simply. I take a pencil and, with the blunt end, make a hole about three times the depth of the seed. I then put the seed into the hole, and cover it over ... et viola ... seed is sown.

Once all the seed have been popped in and covered, write your label giving the name and colour of your seed. I also like to put the date of sowing on it. Makes for interesting reading at a later date. 

Now water the seed in. Again a watering can with a fine rose is useful. In my case, I used the tea pot with luke warm water. Watering at this point is important as it will move compost into any gaps or air pockets left by the seed sowing. Using slightly warmed water is a cheat to assist the seed thinking it's time to germinate.

When using seed modules, it is useful to place them into a seed tray for handling. Which is what I've done in this case. I also have a propagator cover to put over them. This ensures a warm moist atmosphere, again, to encourage germination. 

Place the unit onto a bright warm windowsill, or similar, and the seeds will germinate in no time!

There are a few more steps to take before you're smelling these lovely fragrant flowers, however, sowing seed is the very first step. As we go through the coming months, we'll keep and see out for these seed and see how they get on. 

Happy gardening.