The seedlings, the survivors, and the casualties

Seedlings are thriving at the moment, and there are some surprise winter survivors in the garden, but also some unexpected casualties.

It won’t be soon until I can stop buying those expensive bags of Rocket leaves, which supermarkets seem to pollute with Watercress. I don’t particularly dislike Watercress, but it seems that any bagged salad that contains Watercress is like buying a tasty crop of green leaves, with a special handful of slimy, rotting waste thrown in. It almost feels like your bag of salad has become Baby Bio by the time you get it home.

The Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ seeds that I sowed in the Unwins salad kit, germinated within 4 days of sowing, and the seedlings are now more than an inch high.

Rocket 'Skyrocket' seedlings
The Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ seedlings are growing fast.

Meanwhile, the seeds for the Parsley ‘Moss Curled’ and Chives (from the other Christmas gift) are happily growing on the next windowsill along. These will need pricking out soon. I’ll have more than enough of these plants.

Parsley (left) and Chives (right) have germinated
Parsley ‘Moss Curled’ (left) and Chives (right) have germinated in their BBC Gardeners’ World growing kit.

Last year’s Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’ has continued to thrive in its pot, so this afternoon i took some of the top soil out and replaced it with some fresh compost. I’m really pleased that this survived the harsh winter, as it was last seen completely covered in snow alongside some bright blue/indigo Polyanthuses that sadly didn’t survive. When the Salvia flowers, I hope that it will once again attract the bees into the garden.

The Salvia survived
The Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’ survived the harsh winter and is lush with growth for 2012.

My second wave of 2012 Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ seed sowings seems to be more successful. I’d previously managed to prick out the paltry four seedlings from my January sowing into some 3″ pots to grow on, and now my sowing from a couple of weeks ago is beginning to see the lush green leaves poking through the compost.

Garden discoveries

I managed to spend some time in the garden lightly digging and removing some of the weeds that had managed to take hold. These weeds will easily take hold at this time of year, so it’s important to remove them now.

I discovered that a Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ has self-sown and a small but healthy plant is merrily growing halfway along a border. The Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ has self-sown – again, another flowering plant popular with bees.

Sadly, my Rosemary Upright Rosemary Officinalis (which I often use in cooking as it grows fast and is very aromatic) was unable to survive the hard winter in its pot, so I’ll aim to replace this soon.

Sowing herbs, salad crops and bedding plants

With spring upon us, I’ve set a load of herbs, salad crops and flowers for this summer’s garden.

With the birds busily singing and making nests and the semi-regular appearances of the sun, I’ve been able to enjoy being outside a bit more over these last few days. It’s given me the chance to clear away the final remnants of last summer’s season and prune a Buddleia and trim down the mystery rosebush to encourage the buds to grow into this year’s flowering branches. So, with spring well and truly here, I’ve decided to sow some more seeds for this year’s garden.

Gardening kits

If you remember back to December, I received two gardening kits for Christmas – one from Unwins (or should I say ‘Secret Santa’?) and one from the Gardeners’ World brand. I’ve unpacked these and set them going – with Parsley ‘Moss Curled’ and Chives set in the Gardeners’ World kit.

Three pots for herbs from a Gardeners' World branded kit
The Gardeners’ World branded herb kit.

The Unwins kit was a bit misleading – as it shows the great range of salad crops on the box, but when you open the box there’s just two packs of mixed seed. So, i’ve actually not sown them and have chosen to grow another crop of Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ in the kit instead. Maybe i’ll come back to the mixed seed – as I had been excited by trying the Pak Choi.

flowers you can eat

Last year I rescued a few withering Nasturtium ‘Peach Melba’ plants and they really did well and brought a lot of much-needed aphid-eating hoverflies into the garden. So, this year I’ve bought a pack of Suttons’ Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mix’ to replicate the effect.

Nasturtium 'Peach Melba'
One of last year’s Nasturtium ‘Peach Melba’ plants recovering in the garden.

I’m pretty sure that the packet for last year’s seed mentioned eating the leaves, yet these new seeds recommends eating the flowers as part of a salad. I’ve never tried it as it feels a bit destructive to me – much like eating the flowers of Courgettes – again, apparently a delicacy. Maybe I’ll try eating some this year though.

Don’t eat these though…

My first sowing of the Salvia ‘Farinacea – Victoria’ seems to have produced just 4 plants – a bit disappointing really. The packet does say germination takes between 7-21 days, so I’ll leave the pot alone for a while longer, but set a few more. The blue flowers really seemed to draw the bees in last year, so I want to be sure I get a repeat this year.

Thankfully, last year’s Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’ has survived the winter and has begun growing again.

I’ve also picked up a packet of good old Cineraria ‘Maritima Silverdust’ – in a bid to add that delicate silver/grey foliage amongst the blue flowers of the Salvia.

The Crocuses awake!

The Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ bulbs have grown and are about to flower, and some of the veg are already growing.

The Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ bulbs that I planted back in October, are now right on the cusp of opening after months of growing up through the soil – and for a few weeks, snow as well.

Crocus 'Giant Ruby' bulbs about to flower
Some of the Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ bulbs that have grown and are ready to flower.

I planted around 70 bulbs and it would appear that most are doing something. Many have the dash of purple as above, whilst the ones that I planted during November are somewhat behind (I planted them because the Antirrhinums just wouldn’t die!).

I’ve seen a few bees around (including a big fat bumble bee inside a Tube train on the District Line of London Underground the other day!), so hopefully those that have woken early will find these and feed on them – as it’s absolutely crucial for bees to get this early food in order to survive.

Getting a head-start with the vegetables

I sowed some seeds back in the middle of January, and these have been busily growing in my propagator. The Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ have grown very fast and I have been busy nipping out the tips of the plants so that they grow strong and sturdy (and don’t grow too much before i can plant them out). Hopefully these will be far enough ahead that they will survive if/when the aphids swarm again.

Pepper (Sweet) 'Friggitello' seedlings
Pepper (Sweet) ‘Friggitello’ seedlings

The Pepper (Sweet) ‘Friggitello’ seedlings have been steadily growing, alongside my second attempt at growing Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’. I have high hopes for these Peppers, and as I sit here typing, I’m reading the packet which describes them as ‘small, very sweet, conical fruits. Perfect for stir-fries’, I’m looking forward to them even more.  These should be ready to harvest between July and October (about the same time as the Aubergines) – so they’ve got a while yet.

I do believe spring is here!

jobs for the weekend

This weekend I aim to do the following:

  • Remove weeds and any dead foliage from the garden.
  • Sow Chives and Parsley indoors (remember that Gardeners’ World kit?)
  • Check up on the Strawberries – the cold weather once again gave them a hammering and I’m not sure how well they’re coping at the moment.

Merry Chivemass and Herby New Year

A second growing kit arrives, and relieve the post-Christmas boredom with ‘Attack Of The Sprouts’ game from Eyegas.

IMAG0271
BBC Gardeners’ World Herb Growing Set

Christmas has brought me a herb growing kit containing Parsley, Chives and Basil from the BBC Gardeners’ World range.

I’ve never had luck growing Basil, but I promise to try to in 2012.

This takes me to a total of two window-sill style growing kits that I’ve received this Christmas – with the other kit from ‘Secret Santa’ giving me a range of vegetables to grow.

So, as the last few hours of pre-Christmas 2011 ticks by, I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has been following/reading or commenting on this blog and the twitter feed, and I wish you a very Happy Christmas and New Year!

And if you get bored over the Christmas period waiting for your garden to wake up again, then here’s something to entertain you on a Christmas vegetable theme…..

Play ‘Attack Of The Sprouts’ game (always gets me through Christmas!)

April Showers (June Edition)

Rain arrives! So, it’s off to the garden centre where I pick up some strawberries and yet more herbs.

At last – the rain arrives. And it does it properly. Everywhere has been completely soaked by almost a day’s worth of rain.

Admitting defeat, I ventured off to my usual gym session but got stuck in my car for 10 minutes whilst thunder, lightning, hail and torrential rain turned the carpark into a reservoir.

About 90 minutes later it had stopped and the sun was out, so I took the chance to go Homebase, and Garden and Leisure in nearby Huntingdon to see if i could find some nice plants and some pots.

Having found the pots i needed to do some overdue houseplant re-potting, I found myself looking round the garden plants and noticed that the bees were all over the bright blue flowers of the Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’, so in the basket it went.

Salvia
Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’.

Over at Garden and Leisure I remembered that I had a ‘get a Strawberry plant for free’ voucher, so decided to pick up two Strawberry ‘Fragaria x ananassa Elsanta’ plants (very green and lush). Last year’s Strawberry ‘Judibell’ are all but dead – apart from a few runners where they shouldn’t be, and a couple of tiny signs of life. I picked up some more organic compost and then ended up with yet more herbs Parsley Japanese ‘Cryptotaenia japonica’ and Tarragon French ‘Artemisia dracunculus’ (the latter is good with chicken apparently).

Monty Don said a couple of weeks ago on BBC Gardeners’ World, that if you’ve had a Tarragon plant growing in your garden for more than a year, then it is undoubtedly the Russian Tarragon as it is hardier and is characterised by a bitter taste. However, whilst Russian Tarragon was in stock, the French Tarragon also says that it is frost hardy, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one does when I plant it out.