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 I think that these were the variety that grew from that old out-of-date Erin seed kit.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! 😀

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

Garden Review 2017 – the Flowers

As February rolls on, and flashes of greenery and flowers begin to appear, let’s take a look back to the summer of 2017 with my top 5 flowers in my garden.

Following on from my recent review of the top 5 vegetables in my garden in 2017, it’s time to share the most successful flowers that grew in my garden last season.

I can’t wait for Spring to really kick off, and for the flowers and lush foliage to return. For now though, here’s a quick fix:

Rose ‘Ernest H. Morse’

Rose 'Ernest H Morse' on flower
The Rose ‘Ernest H. Morse’ is very fragrant, and flowers heavily.

I’m a sucker for Roses, and this Hybrid Tea bush Rose ‘Ernest H Morse’ was one that I picked up from a market stall in Ely, where they were doing a 3 for £15 deal.

Ernest H Morse rose on flower
The Ernest H Morse rose flowers heavily.

This heavily fragrant rose has grown about 3 feet since I planted it into the soil concrete-like clay when I broke my lawn in April 2017. In fact, the day I picked up my keys to my new house, this rose was in my car and amongst the first things I dropped off.

Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’

purple Sweet Sultan 'Mixed' flower
Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ flowers came in a range of colours.

A family friend gave me a load of seeds that she’d saved from the front of her gardening magazines, and amongst these packets were Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’. I’d never heard of them before, so thought I’d give them a try.

A white Sweet Sultan 'Mixed' flower.
A white Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ flower.

I’ll definitely be growing these again in 2018, as they work well with the Cosmos.

Gladioli

A lone Gladiolus stem
Up goes the Gladiolus stem…

I found just one Gladiolus bulb whilst picking the plants to move from my old house to my new one, and in its new home in the fresh border, it performed the best it ever has done.

Pink and white Gladiolus flower
The Gladiolus flower was well worth the wait.

However, this Gladiolus was clearly not the same one that flowered in the old garden in 2013-2016. I hope that that one brought a dash of surprise deep pink colour back there to the new resident.

I have purchased some more Gladioli bulbs, and will be adding more to the border for this year.

Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’

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

I’d never grown Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ before, nor any Cosmos from seed, but I had previously purchased a couple of these plants from a garden centre and enjoyed their cheery daisy-like flowers.

This time, I grew them, although I admittedly sowed them so early that I worried that they would be too straggly to come to anything much. They spent too long in their secondary seed modules before planting out.

Pink Cosmos 'Seashells Mixed' flower in sunshine
Cosmos came in many colours.

However, after a few weeks, they had recovered and within a few months had become huge plants that filled my garden with cheery pinks, purples, and white flowers, set upon sturdy green stems and delicate leaves.

Cosmos flower with bee
White Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ with a happy bee

I’ll definitely be growing these again in 2018.

Tulip ‘Mixed Garden’

tulips on flower
My Tulips in pots at my old house in April 2017, just days before I moved.

I bought a pack of Tulip ‘Mixed Garden’ back in 2016, and planted them into a few wooden troughs that I rescued from my late-uncle’s garden when we were clearing his house.

At that point, I was living at my previous house, so I made sure that I didn’t plant them in anything I couldn’t pick up and move with – and I remember driving to my new house with a car boot full of beautiful tulips gently swaying in the rear-view mirror.

They put on a beautiful show in my old shady garden, and they continued that in my new sunny one.

They’re emerging again right now – with their waxy green leaves curling out of the compost. I’m hoping for a similarly beautiful display in the next couple of months.

That’s it!

So, if this hasn’t cheered your February winter blues up, then I don’t know what will.

With bulbs poking through the soil, green buds appearing on shrubs, and even the first blue tit inspecting my as-yet un-used birdbox, it feels like winter’s grip is loosening a little.

There’s seeds sown in my propagator, the shed is tidied, and I’m getting ready for what 2018 can bring.

Will you be growing any new flowers this year? What worked well for you last year? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, thank you for reading, and happy gardening!

Andrew

Peas, Cosmos, Sunflowers and a spot of Archaeology

The bank holiday sees me spend 4.5 hours in the garden playing catch-up with nature.

It’s been a Bank Holiday weekend, and so today (the Bank Holiday Monday), I decided that if the weather was good then I would spend a few hours in the garden, and if it was bad, I’d spend it painting my new house indoors.

The weather has been mostly dry and a warm 20C, so out I went at 9:30am, and I came in for lunch, and then packed up at 3pm when some drizzle began to get annoying.

In that time I planted my first row of peas since the 20-30 foot row ones that I used to grow as a child in the 1980s. This time, I’m only doing 6 foot, but I carefully sowed the climbing Pea ‘Alderman’ seeds from Unwins into the softly hoed trough alongside my re-positioned fence, and carefully covered them over.

A handful of Pea 'Alderman' seeds.
A handful of the Pea ‘Alderman’ seeds that will hopefully be bringing me delicious fresh peas.

The ground was fairly soft, due to the rain overnight, but I still plonked the rose on my watering can and gave them a soak. I love peas, always have, and so I hope to see those little shoots start to emerge.

One thing’s for sure, the Hitchcock-esque situation I’ve induced by adding two bird feeders into the garden, might increase once those peas start to emerge. A few twigs should put them off a bit, but I’m going to have to keep my eye on them.

A row of freshly sown Pea seeds.
The satisfaction of a freshly sown line of Peas. This brings back memories.

Having sown the peas, I decided to start planting out some more plants – my Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ which I sowed back in March, have become quite long and lanky, and have been desperate to go out for some time, whilst also desperate to grow in any direction other than upwards (a bit like my rubbish sunflowers).

Cosmos 'Seashells Mixed' on flower
My Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ seedlings needed flowering and were already flowering, and have no idea where the sun lives.

Also, my Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ seedlings, which are a plant that are completely new to me, were planted alongside them as I dug my new border.

My spade went in, and suddenly DONG!, there was resistance against the spade and a resounding resonance. I’d found something. Something hard.

A little more digging found something metal buried about 5 inches below the lawn. I soon realised that this slight hummock which sat in the area I was turning into a border, contained a drain and this was the manhole cover for it. My Archaeology course with Open University finally paid off, but sadly there were no obligatory Roman brooches or post holes.

Finding a buried manhole cover.
2/3rds of a drain manhole cover is in my garden, part under my fence, and presumably the rest under my neighbours’ decking.

This part of the garden has different soil – it’s more ashy, and had bits of burnt material. I can only guess that this was where previous owners used to tip out the ash from the fireplace before that all got bricked up.

Whilst planting this border, I also popped in a pretty perennial Geranium ‘Himalayense’ that I’d picked up the other day when I went to spend my national gardening vouchers at nearby Parkhall Garden Centre. This will look lovely right by the backdoor when it gets established and comes back on flower with it’s purpley-blue flowers.

A Geranium 'Himalayense' on flower.
The beautiful gentle flower of perennial Geranium ‘Himalayense’.

I’ve just sown some more sunflower seeds. Back in mid-March I sowed some Sunflower Helianthus Annus ‘Autumn Time’ seeds. This gave me three plants – one got stripped overnight by slugs, one has got some black blotchy leaves (although seems otherwise healthy), and one is fine – although none of them could bring themselves to grow more than an inch straight up at any time – they’re not much more than a tangled mess, so I thought it would be good to grow some more, if not to just save me embarrassment when someone spots them.

I’ve also plucked out some older Sunflower ‘Giant Yellow’ seed, which did grow perfectly well a few years back in my old garden. Hopefully these will add to the colour, with their majestic cheery yellow heads, and provide the birds with more food in the winter, perhaps a few seeds for my food, and a load of plants for the next year. Fingers crossed!

There’s so much going on in the garden right now – and I’m digging my garden layout as and when I’m planting out, and when the weather (and soil) allows me to. It’s a race against time though.

Thank you for reading, and happy gardening!

Andrew

 

Keep Calm and Prick Out

It’s time to start pricking out some of the seedlings and move them into larger pots and onto the next stage of growing.

The Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ seeds that I planted a few days ago have sprung up, looking not much different from grass initially, and also the Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ seedlings have gotten to a size where they need to be moved on from their tray into their own spaces.

So, with my trusty old 40-plug tray, I filled it up with multipurpose compost, and with a pencil to hand, I carefully began the process of pricking out each seedling and setting it into a small hole in the middle of each plug. This took me a fair while. You need to be delicate with this process though, so time really is of the essence.

Tray of pricked-out Cosmos, Hollyhock, and Sweet Sultan seedlings.
Tray of pricked-out Cosmos, Hollyhock, and Sweet Sultan seedlings.

The Cosmos roots were quite long, whilst the Sweet Sultan roots were quite shallow but clumped. Carefully up-rooting each seedling, whilst holding a leaf (rather than stem) takes time, but it avoids the sickening feeling of snapping them and knowing you’ve just killed a plant.

I left one plug hole blank, so that I can easily get water through into the base, and this left me with room to add in the Hollyhock ‘Majorette Mixed’ seedlings, and sow two further of those seedlings to make up the 39th plug. There was quite a range of sizes with these seedlings, with some quite tiny, and one quite large – odd considering that they came from the same seed packet, were sown in the same pot, at the same time. I guess everything is just a reminder of nature’s roulette.

All this pricking out has helpfully condensed my windowsill jungle together, and resulted in one of the three propagators being closed down.

Hollyhock Majorette Mixed seedlings
Two Hollyhock seedlings planted from the same seed packet on the same day, with such different results.

With these three sets of seedlings pricked out, I turned to the Sunflower ‘Helianthus Annus Autumn Time’ seedlings. Only three of about five germinated, but I potted each one up in their own 3″ pot. I’ll probably grow a few more, along with the full size variety, but I’ll sow those seeds in a few days.

Are you at pricking out stage yet? Have you seen a contrast between seedling sizes? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, happy growing!

Andrew

The 3 Little Propagators

The third propagator came into action this weekend, as British Summer Time arrived and I fill another windowsill with seedlings.

I’ve been on a seed sowing frenzy these last few weeks, and now I have 3 propagators full of seedlings and freshly sown pots, and a number of other pots, taking up space on 5 windowsills.

The first propagator saw an early leap from a Hollyhock ‘Majorette Mixed’, with Sunflower ‘Helianthus Annus Autumn Time’ and a Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ close behind. These have now migrated onto windowsills, and more seedlings have since emerged from their pots. They’ll soon need pricking out so that they can grow on in their own pots.

Hollyhock and Lupin seedlings in pots.
The Hollyhock and Lupin seedlings were soon up.

I loaded propagator 2 up a few days later, and that swiftly followed with more seedlings – the Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ seedlings in particular sprang up (and have now been removed), with a slower appearance from the Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’, but then this is older seed, so I’ll keep an eye on the progress and re-sow with newer seed if they fail to grow much. My original sowing of these seeds still inhabit my garden, so even if this fresh batch fails, I will still be taking them with me to my new garden, as they’ve self-sown into my garden pots. The Antirrhinums have been joined by Parsley Laura ‘Petroselinum Crispum’ – a flatleaf parsley I like to use in the kitchen, and Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’.

I realised that I had a couple of single-pot tall clear plastic domes, so I commandeered these into action – becoming micro propagators for Tomato ‘Minibel’ and Monarda Austromontata ‘Bee’s Favourite’ also commonly known as Bergamot. I’ve never grown Monarda, but apparently the bees love it and from the photo on the seed packet, they do look a bit like dead nettles with little delicate flowers. The seed was tiny, and I think it takes ages to grow.

Tomatos and Monarda inside propagator domes.
Tomatoes and Monarda inside propagator domes.

Meanwhile, on a cooler windowsill the Sweet Pea Royal Mix have nearly all broken the compost – there’s just three seeds left to appear. These haven’t needed a propagator, but like the rest, I’m making sure that they have enough light and water.

I’ve just filled up propagator 3. This time I’ve given in to previously hopeless attempts, and sown some Aubergine ‘Early Long Purple 2’ seeds after being re-inspired by GoTropical’s video on them and how he’d has had luck with them. I’ve only sown three, but I’m determined to get at least one fruit from them… ever, as they’re another great alternative to pasta for me.

Joining them in the propagator is Poppy ‘Coral Reef’ which is a pink oriental poppy, some Sage which I commonly use in cooking, and some fresh Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ seeds that I bought this weekend. I’ve had mixed luck with those in the past, but they’re very elegant, and historically they’re credited as the original Sweet Pea variety from 1699. These don’t really need the propagator, but I thought I’d pop them in, if only to encourage them along to the same stage as the other Sweet Pea plants on the windowsill.

Sweet Pea 'Cupani'
Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ – when they go right.

This is such an exciting time of year, and it looks like everything is go, despite it still being cold and misty some mornings.

How is your seed-sowing going? What are you growing this year? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy gardening,

Andrew