Monday, 25 April 2016

'It's too early'- April potager update

If you're like me, which I suspect a number of people that read this blog are, you're sowing and growing plants at this time of year, ad infinitum (well for these spring months anyway). And as we go through the cycle of sowing, pricking out and growing each batch, the inevitable happens - we run out of space. Well, this saturation point has happened here, and there has been more than a comment or two from others about sharing the space. In addition, with the spring being so cool, with another cold snap expected, the end is not quite yet in sight for this conundrum. So there has been discussions on 'too many plants indoors', 'plants getting in the way', etc. particularly in the evening when I bring in the ones I'm hardening off, to protect from cold and frosts. On teenager asked 'why can't they be moved outdoors and left there'.  In fact there was a funny pause when one of these points was being raised by the Other Half, where she then stated 'it's like this every year, isn't it?'. 

Yes, it sure is ... Lol
So thank goodness for Sir Alan Titchmarsh, who gave his gardening tip on Saturday morning Lyric FM show, to wait 2-3 weeks to plant out tender plants, that it's simply too early. This helped my point no end, particularly when it was said on the radio, it must be right ... Lol. 
The reality is that if plants were to be moved out this week, with temperatures expected to go below zero degrees Celsius, they would not last, particularly the more tender ones or seedlings that have not been hardend off. So, we'll have to persist for a couple of more weeks with the status quo. Mind you, I can't wait for the warmth to kick in, as I've grown not only a variety of vegetable and salad seeds, but also some nice flower seeds too, which will encourage bees and other insects. I got my inspiration from the number of trips to the Botanic Gardens and seeing what they do in their production/ vegetable garden. 

So thank goodness for Sir Alan Titchmarsh ...

In fact, I'm changing from calling this part of my garden the 'production garden' to the 'potager' as it more accurately describes what I'm doing this year.  

Chitted sweet corn seeds
Un-chitted sweet corn seed
In other news, after reading one about chitting seed, I've tried it to see how this method differs from straight forward germinating them in the soil. (Chitting is another name for pre-germinating seed before it is sown). I tried it with some how harvested sweetcorn seeds I collected last autumn and stored over winter. At the same time as sowing these, I sowed a batch of un-chitted seed, from the same batch. The results are quite telling, with the chitted batch far out performing the unchitted. In reading up a little more on this, my learning is to only plant the chitted seed that has actually sprouted. I'll definitely be using this method again as it's a good way of identifying which seed are viable and which aren't. 

And then there is the mice. I sowed some broad bean seeds there two weeks ago, and most of them germinated within seven days. Imagine my surprise to come out the other morning to see that half of the plants disappeared or only bits of them were left! Yes, some mice decided to drop by and have some dinner. Luckily there are still seven or so plants remaining, which is enough for now. These guys will be closely watched to ensure they avoid the same fate. 
Finally, the early rhubarb is worth another mention. It's reached waist height with a bunch of it being harvested once a week over the past month. Amazing really considering the weather, but these two just plants seem to carry on regardless ... Come the autumn time, I will be lifting and dividing them, so any tips or hints you have on this is welcome. 

Happy Gardening

Stop and pause, April back garden

Sometimes you just have to stop and pause. Particularly when the tulips are putting on a display like this. 

Unlike a lot of my other bulbs which are growing in pots, these are planted into the soil. They reappear every year receiving only a couple of liquid feeds and a handful of chicken manure, which will carry them nicely through. An advantage of the cooler weather is that the flowers are slow to go over, meaning we can enjoy this display for longer.

As for plants in pots, the container display is looking well, with the bulbs I planted late last autumn just coming in to their own, which is no harm as it's too early for summer colour and a good portion of my normal spring bulb colour has finished. 

One plant I am particularly pleased with is the Magnolia stellata. This is my third one of these and it has successfully made it through its third winter, which is cause for celebration. They dislike cold winds, and are not too tolerant of lime soils, which puts them at a double disadvantage. My solution to this has been to grow this one in a container in lime free John Innes soil based compost, and to ensure it is placed in a reasonably sheltered site in the garden. It is due to be potted on again or planted this year, and I'm still undecided regarding which course of action I will take, so your thoughts on this are very welcome.

In other news, I've been spending a bit of time cleaning up various parts of the garden in anticipation of the warm weather to come, outdoor bbq's, etc. 

You can see from these couple of pictures things are very green in this area. I have considered planting some late spring colour herbaceous, such as the flag Iris' or Camissia's, however I haven't acted on this as my default is to enjoy my late container grown Tulips and colour in other areas while I wait for the the next wave of colour to appear, in the form of Geraniums, Persicaria and Alchemilla. On the subject of other areas, I am considering acquiring some bluebells for a woodland display in a different part of the garden. A little bit of work to convert a neglected area to a feature.

In the meantime, I'll keep this back garden area neat, while putting the emphasis on developing the potager garden, hardening off the March sown seedlings and plants while continuing to sow and grow more this month. 

I have to say, I continue to enjoy the copper craft sunflower made for me as a present by my dad last autumn. Isn't it a fine piece of work, and weathering well too. I'd really like a couple more, at slightly lower heights, to become a focal feature in their own right. I'll see if he's motivated to do this ... Lol 

Anyway, won't be long before this cold snap passes and summer bedding and flowers will be the topics of discussion. 

In the meantime, happy gardening.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Spring doesn't get much better than this

Warm sunshine and a warm light breeze as I arrived home from work this evening.

The saying is pictures speak a thousand words, so enough said for today as we enjoy Paeonia in flower.

Happy gardening