Pricking out the Swiss Chard and Sweet Sultan seedlings

It’s time to be ‘pricking out’ my Sweet Sultant flowers and the brightly coloured Swiss Chard seedlings, and get them ready for their next stage of growing.

Yes, the garden is driving on towards summer, and there’s not much you can do to stop it.

My windowsills are full of trays of seedlings, and so I have been busily pricking out and potting them into pots/plugs in preparation for their final planting out from late May.

What is ‘pricking out’?

‘Pricking out’ or ‘to prick out’ is a term used to describe taking an individual seedling from the tray or pot it germinated in, and then carefully planting it in its own pot or plug so that it can continue growing without having to compete with other seedlings.

The ‘pricking’ part refers to the precision needed to separate seedlings, and usually requires a small hand device, a bit like a needle, but usually (in my case) an old pencil.

The Sweet Sultan

Last year was the first time that I had ever grown Sweet Sultan flowers, after family friend (and keen gardener) Anne, gave me a bundle of seed packets that she’d had from the front of her magazine subscriptions. I’d picked out a few bee-friendly looking plants and sown them.

Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ were amongst these and they were fantastic, and they looked lovely alongside my Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ plants.

Sweet Sultan Mixed purple flower
Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ were wonderful – and a new plant for me in 2017.

I sowed these flower seeds at the same time as my Swiss Chard, and so they are ready to ‘prick out’.

 

My Sweet Sultan 'Mixed' seedlings ready to prick out.
My Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ seedlings ready to prick out.

With the seedlings all pricked out, they will now be able to continue growing on to their next stage. I managed to grow 22 seedlings in that pot, and so i added two more seeds to fill my 24-plug tray. That will be plenty.

Sweet Sultan 'Mixed' seedlings all pricked out
Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ seedlings all pricked out and ready to grow on.

The Swiss Chard

My Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ have been a delight to grow. This is my first year growing them, and I have undoubtedly sown far too many and will probably become sick of Swiss Chard by the time I’ve got to about July.

Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' seedlings
The Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ seedlings were soon up out of the compost. Here they are at 10 days old.

However, their brightly multi-coloured stems (almost Rhubarb-like) make them a fun addition to the garden. They’re far from ready to go out yet (they’re too small and tender), but they had to be carefully pricked out so that they could grow on.

Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' seedlings
Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ seedlings

I think these can often be sown direct, but I didn’t have my raised beds built until I’d been able to get outside to demolish the old shed (that provided the wood, and the ground space for the raised beds) first.

Armed with my trusty HB pencil, I dibbered out the seedlings one-by-one, and put them into a plug tray where they can grow into individual plug plants.

Most of the Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' seedlings pricked out
Most of the Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ seedlings pricked out

Once these plants get outside, they’ll soon straighten up, as they’ll grow upwards aiming for the sunshine. Right now, they’ve grown a lean like most seedlings, as they chase the light on a windowsill.

My parents have just moved house into a bare garden, and like me it has an unbroken lawn. Their plan is to have a load of raised beds and containers… so I know exactly where to smuggle some brightly coloured spare Chard plants in to ūüėČ

I’ve already pricked out a load of Cleome ‘Colour Fountain’ seedlings, and the Parsley ‘Laura’ seedlings are now potted on too. It’s a productive time, and it’s so important to keep on top of growing as we head through April, otherwise they’ll get behind, or too leggy to be any good.

As ever, thanks for reading, and I hope you have a happy gardening week ahead (despite the rain).

Andrew.

A snowless Saturday and a windowsill of seedlings

It’s a busy Saturday in the garden as Winter eases off. There’s sowing, pricking out, and shed sorting to do!

Finally! A weekend day where it isn’t raining, snowing, or icy cold with the remnants of freezing temperatures and winds that chill you to the bone.

I was very pleased to be up and outside in the garden with RubyCat by 9am AND without a coat. I had loads of jobs to get done.

I was pleased to finally find a Daffodil that hadn’t been flattened by wind, rain, or snow. A cheery lone fanfare of Spring’s arrival.

A container-grown yellow Daffodil
A container-grown yellow Daffodil celebrates a lack of snow.

First up, was to finish putting up some more shelves in my shed. When i moved in, this shed was shelf-free, and I brought some cheap pine shelving with me, but with the demolition of the rickety old shed, this has given me enough planks to turn into shelving. The most significant shelf being the full length one that runs under the shed window.

To make this, I bought some inexpensive brackets from my local DIY store, and then took the old shed door and cut it down the length – thankfully it was 6 planks wide – so it made the perfect 3 plank wide shelves. I put those up with my new drill/screwdriver, and was then able to start pricking out some seedlings.

I planted some Cleome ‘Colour Fountain’ seeds a few days ago, and they have shot up, so I took the opportunity to use this new-found workspace to start potting them into individual plugs.

Cleome ' ' seedlings (left) with Cosmos 'Seashells Mixed'
Cleome ‘Colour Fountain’ seedlings (left) with Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ (right) have been pricked out.

I also took the four surviving Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ seedlings (RubyCat had been pulling them out of the pot and spitting them on the carpet until I moved them out of reach!!). I potted these on, and sowed some more as they were so pretty last summer.

Cosmos flowers in garden
Some of the Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ reached about 4 feet tall.

I found a little pot of Honesty seeds that I must have collected from my parents garden a few years back. I added these to a pot of compost – not expecting much – but they had been stored carefully in a sealed container. You never know! Once you’ve got Honesty, you tend to have it forever seeding itself all over the place.

I also sowed some Lettuce ‘Red Salad Bowl’ seeds. I think that these were the variety that grew from that old out-of-date Erin seed kit. I’m growing these again because the slugs and snails did not touch them.

Ten days ago I also sowed some Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ – my first ever time growing these – having been completely inspired to by the blog and videos by Katie at Lavender & Leeks (thanks, Katie!) and it turns out they’re packed with nutrients.

Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' seedlings
Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ seedlings showing their coloured stems.

These seedlings were up within a couple of days and now I’m staring at the pot thinking that I might have too many! ūüėÄ

In addition to my first-time Chard, my first-time Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’ seeds have been growing on a cool windowsill in my spare room.

Broad Bean 'Crimson Flowered' plants
Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’ plants are doing well

Whilst I’m only growing half a dozen, I’ve done two sowings and gotten 5 plants! The first 3 plants shot up, and the next 2 did too. Are Broad Beans usually temperamental?

The plants are now in the shed to begin a hardening-off process, and they joined the Lupin ‘Band Of Nobles Mixed’ (remember them?) which I sowed a year ago in 2017. These plants take a while to mature, and somehow they’ve survived a year on windowsills, despite the recurring threats of central heating. Hopefully the slugs and snails won’t eat them in the first evening.

My windowsills are now covered in trays, propagators, and seedlings. It finally feels like spring has arrived and the garden of 2018 is coming.

What jobs did you get done in the garden this weekend?

As ever, thank you for reading. Go-on, share this blog post somewhere, and have a happy gardening weekend!

Andrew

Potting on the Minibel Tomatoes

The Tomato ‘Minibel’ seedlings are ready to be potted on to their individual pots, and head towards their next growing stage.

The¬†Tomato Minibel seeds that I sowed back on 20th March have done well, with all six of these old seeds germinating (i first sowed this pack of seeds in 2013!), and now standing to about 2 inches tall. They’re all in the same pot, so it’s time to pot them on into their next stage and into their own pots, so that they can independently get growing.

Tomato 'Minibel' seedlings
The Tomato ‘Minibel’ seedlings at 10 days old.
Tomato 'Minibel' seedlings need potting on
The Tomato ‘Minibel’ seedlings now need potting on.

Firstly, I gave them a really good soak in water, in a bid to make it easier to prick them out from their seedling compost. Whilst letting that soak in, I rummaged outside for 6 identical 3 inch pots, knocked off the snails, and then filled each pot with some multipurpose compost.

I poked a hole in the middle of each pot of compost with my finger, and then carefully teased each plant out of the now soaked compost, by holding a leaf and gently prising them out from beneath with my makeshift pencil-dibber.

I planted each seedling a bit deeper than they’d been before which is absolutely fine¬†with tomatoes, as they’re a vine, and will just throw out more roots from the buried stem – resulting in a much sturdier plant. ¬†I firmed them in and gave them another good soak and returned the 6 pots to my windowsill.

The potted-on Tomato 'Minibel' seedlings.
The potted-on Tomato ‘Minibel’ seedlings.

This should see them through the next few weeks where I hope they’ll now mature nicely, and eventually be ready for their next (and probably final) planting on stage – either large pots or into the ground of my new garden (I’ve not decided yet), where I can then give them tomato feed, plenty of water, and hopefully lots of sunshine.

This variety have done well for me in previous years, giving me some juicy little cherry tomatoes, that I like to cut in half and throw into salads.

Are you growing tomatoes this year? Which varieties? How far along are yours?

Right, time to go back outside and make the most of this sunshine. As ever, happy gardening!

Potting on the Courgettes, and welcoming the Tomatoes

It’s time for the Courgettes to be pricked out, and potted on, but not all of them are ready, and the Tomatoes are up!

The first of the potting-on in 2017 has begun with the Courgette Black Beauty seedlings. Their growth has been unequal, with the first plant emerging after just 48hrs.

I sowed 3 seeds in each of 2 small pots, and even though they’re using the same compost (John Innes Seed Sowing Compost), and were in the same propagator, and on the same windowsill, while I’ve needed to prick out and pot-on one of the pots where growth has balanced out fairly well, the other pot has one seedling a little behind, and another just breaking the compost. The 6th seedling remains a mystery for now.

Taking the pot with the three larger seedlings, I carefully tipped it in the palm of my hand, with the stems and leaves cradled¬†through my fingers and out of my hand. These plants are lush green, rubbery, and very tender and so I don’t want to damage them, therefore¬†as soon as the weight shifted, I counteracted it so that I didn’t end up tipping the pot of compost all over their underside. The plants are healthy, and I’ve now potted them up into their own pots with a multipurpose compost.

Courgette 'Black Beauty' seedlings
The 6 Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ seeds were sown on 13th March. They’re all at about 5 different stages. The 5th seed is just breaking through in the bottom right pot.

This will be the first of 2 or 3 pot-ons for these, before I can finally plant them out in my new garden.

The other pot remains as-is on my windowsill alongside them, waiting for the seedlings to catch up.

Meanwhile, my Tomato Minibel seeds have germinated within their single-pot dome propagator. This took 10 days, although one seedling was up within about 2 days. According to the packet, it’s now safe to remove the dome and let them enjoy normal temperatures.

Tomato Minibel seedlings
The Tomato ‘Minibel’ seedlings are up, but can stay there for about a couple more weeks.

These seedlings can remain in this pot for about a couple more weeks before I’ll need to pot them on into the safety of their own pots.

Tubers, Sowing, and Potting On

There might be lots of new lush green growth outside, but there’s still plenty of seeds and plants to sow and pot on indoors.

Whilst the sun has finally found its shine, the wind has found its gust, the garden has been growing green and lush, but there’s plenty more seeds to sow.

The annual winds are currently flattening the garden (bye bye Tulip ‘Negrita’ flowers!). Fortunately some rain has been falling too – mostly at night (thankfully), which is much needed by these tender ¬†new plants as they reach skywards.

TUBERS

I’ve planted the three¬†Begonia¬†‘Prima Donna Pink’¬†tubers that I bought a few days ago. These aren’t like bulbs – you don’t bury them and cover them over – as they’ll simply rot. Instead you kind of push them into the surface, so that they sit flush with the soil. This gives their buds maximum light, and overall a lower chance of rotting.

A Begonia 'Prima Donna Pink' tuber
A Begonia ‘Prima Donna Pink’ tuber

sowing

But I’ve realised that I’m a bit behind in sowing some seeds, so I’ve just had a big catch-up session with pots and a bag of multipurpose compost.

I’ve just sown:

  • French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ – this is at least the 3rd year i’ve planted these.
  • Sweet Pea ‘Floral Tribute Mixed’ – my first year with this variety.
  • Aubrieta ‘Cheeky Mix’ – these won’t be ready for flowering until 2014.
  • Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mix’ – my cheerful hoverfly magnet, and sadly the preferred snack of every Cabbage White caterpillar in the county.
Caterpillar strike
Last year’s cheery Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mix’ were completely stripped within about 36 hours.

Potting On…

I’ve also potted up some of the Tomato ‘Minibel’ plants, as they’re now getting big enough to handle. I love the smell that they give off when you’re handling the leaves.

Two Tomato 'Minibel' seedlings
Two Tomato ‘Minibel’ seedlings

These might get potted on again, into their final pots – or they might end up in a grow bag (or the wicker basket) – i’m not sure yet.

Bank Holiday rain won’t stop the plants growing

Whilst the wettest drought continues with continuous heavy rain for yet another Bank Holiday, there’s still plenty of jobs to do indoors in preparation for this year’s garden.

Over the last few days, the plants have been busily growing on my windowsills, but the heavy rain (which has led to my village being cut off from the East and South!) stops any activity in the garden.

With the Bank Holiday weather rain beating down, I decided to tackle a job i’d put off for a while – tidying up my gardening pots and tools. So I bought a cheap set of shelves and made use of the height – giving me loads more floorspace and some kind of order to the tools, pots and seeds.

Keeping the plants moving

It’s important to keep seedlings moving through the potting-up stages otherwise they can quickly suffer. I’ve just pricked-out the 40¬†Cineraria ‘Maritima Silverdust’¬†seedlings that I sowed back in late March. Of all the things I’m growing (apart from one exception), these seem to be the slowest growing, but they now have their own little plugs to grow into before being planted outside in a few weeks time once they’ve grown on, and the cold weather finally goes away.

Cineraria 'Martima Silverdust' seedlings
The Cineraria ‘Martima Silverdust’ seedlings.

The Dill has not surfaced – it’s been 3 weeks and there’s no green speck on the compost. Is there a trick to growing them? I’ve kept them in my propagator the whole time. Am I just being impatient?

Meanwhile, the two Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants and the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ seedlings are standing tall, with the latter looking for their first grasp of cane. I didn’t grow French Beans last year, but this variety did well for me in 2010.

French Bean 'Blue Lake'
French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ plants

The Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ that I potted up almost two weeks ago, are now getting used to their new pots and have started showing signs of a growth spurt too.

Out you go!

Last week I also planted out the Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’, so hopefully these are enjoying this wet drought and will be making good use of the wigwams. Fingers crossed that the snails don’t find them for a while.

Wigwams, French Beans and Salvia

Over the weekend I was able to dodge those April Showers to build wigwams, sow the French Beans and prick-out the Salvia seedlings.

I managed to find a few minutes over the weekend when it wasn’t raining to erect two wigwams for my climbers – the Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ and also for the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’.

Bamboo Wigwam
One of the bamboo cane wigwams.

I’ve used a collection of bamboo canes and some strong garden twine – tying the canes at the top and then winding the twine around and down the full length of the wigwam – making sure that wrapped twine around some of the canes on the way down in order to give it all some strength and also to encourage the climbers.

One of the wigwams didn’t have the same number as canes, so i added a cane gripper in the middle to help hold everything together. Based on previous years experience, this means that the UK will now experience gales – as the wind tries desperately to blow them down.

As it started to rain, I returned indoors where I then set to sowing the French Beans in pots – now’s the ideal time to do this.

pricking-out

It’s so important to keep seedlings moving at the moment as it’s easy to get behind and end up with some pot-bound or hungry plants.

This week was the turn of the second batch of the¬†Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ that I sowed back in March to bump up the low numbers of the January sowing.

Salvia 'Farinacea Victoria' seedlings 2012
There’s quite a difference between the January and March sowings of Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’.

There were 8 new seedlings in all, bringing my total to 12. These will join the Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ and last year’s Salvia to bring a wash of blue flowers to the garden in a bid to encourage and support more bees.

Pricking out the Salvia 'Farinacea Victoria'
The Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ all pricked-out and potted up. They vary in size despite being sown at the same time.

The two smallest Salvia have gone into the propagator with the Dill and Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ seeds that I sowed a few days ago, in a bid to help it grow on. Btw, one of the courgette seeds has already germinated!!

Best way to grow courgettes?

I’ve grown Courgette’s in the garden – one year producing loads, last year they died from mildew. I’ve grown them in pots before but unsuccessfully (they were small and waxy and generally unappealing). What’s your trick?

The Rose returns and next year’s garden is growing

The Rose returns to bloom; the Foxgloves for next year have been potted-on; the Rocket is almost ready to pick.

This week, the inherited and anonymous¬†Rose bush has started its second season of flowering. It’s first season tends to be more pinky before having about 6 weeks off, and this second session (which the camera just couldn’t cope with accurately portraying) is a bright near-fluorescent orange.

A red/orange Rose on flower.
The mystery Rose bush begins to flower.

I’ll need to keep an eye on the Rose as I don’t want it to bring the aphids back, especially as the Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ have recovered and begin flowering on mass.

Today I discovered a secret courgette hiding in amongst some large leaves. It’s really knobbly. Maybe this is down to it having been growing on the plant for too long? I’ll be putting some of my Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ to good use again soon with the discovery of Lemony Courgette Cake (thanks to the Horticultural TV Channel) and to making some more Eden Project Garden Courgette and Tomato Chutney, which my parents have been enjoying. I ‘rebranded it’ as ‘Tomato Chutney’ as my Dad “hates” courgettes, despite enjoying the chutney. Don’t tell him (my mother is in on this).

Foxglove 'Excelsior Hybrids Mixed'
Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’

I’ve also been pricking-out the¬†Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ seedlings that I sowed in a tray back in June. In total, there’s about 60 plants now, which can grow on and be potted up again before being planted out for next year’s season. This might seem a bit laborious but when the plants are expensive to buy individually, I’ve essentially got 60 foxglove plants for the price of one – and there’s still a lot more seeds left – I got them from Thompson & Morgan. The bees seem to love them.

The Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ is almost at picking stage – which is good news as the hot weather has been creating a salad shortage in my local supermarket. Seeing as I live on salads all year round, having my own crop is great.