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

I’m sow excited

Last night I had a seed sowing binge.

I’d hope that I’m amongst friends here and that some of you can relate to this:

I had a sowing binge.

It was only because I ran out of compost that I had to stop.

I even accidentally sowed some French Bean seeds a month early, and then extracted them from the dry compost (i’d counted them), dusted them down, and returned them to the packet. I’ll sow them for real in April otherwise they’ll get long and straggly on my windowsills.

Pots of newly sown seeds.
Just a few of the pots jammed in one of my propagators.

Last night I filled a second propagator with some of the new seeds that family friend Anne gave me at Christmas, and I also sowed a few more of my favourite flowers.

First up was a tray of my trusty Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’. I first sowed these back in 2011, and they’ve self sown ever since – into small cracks in paths, into garden pots, into the backs of borders. They are tremendous value for money, and my Suttons seed packet is pretty much all I ever needed. They just keep turning up and flowering everywhere, with lush dark green foliage and deep red, yellow, or white and pink delicately brushed flowers.

antirrhinum-chuckles-on-flower
The Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’ plants over-winter, and have self-sown for 6 years so far.

I’m hoping that this new batch will give my new incoming garden the same successful generations of flowers… although I’ve got plenty of the self-sown ones already resident in my garden pots that are all ready for the move.

Next was a few Sunflower ‘Helianthus Annus – Autumn Time’ from Thompson & Morgan. They’re a kind of burnt orange short sunflower, reaching about 3 feet tall. I’ll be sowing the taller ones later. Like the Antirrhinums, these will probably find themselves self-seeding into the next season, but only if the birds let them – the packet notes that they ‘make great food for birds’. I need to persuade my father to make me one of his bird boxes.

This was followed by another new choice for me – a small tray of Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ from Mr. Fothergill’s. These are pink and white pom-pom looking plants that reach about 2 foot tall. They look pretty flouncy, but apparently these release their scent particularly when touched – so I thought i’d give them a go and I’d aim to plant these near my new garden’s patio and the path.

Add to the windowsill a few pots of Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mixed’ part of Mr Fothergill’s royal 90th birthday commemorations. I’ve really struggled with sweet peas in the last few years – it doesn’t seem to matter how many I grow, they’ll all die – either by being annihilated by snails and aphids, flattened by wind, or roasted by sunshine. My first year was great – Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ worked a treat, but they failed ever since. Fingers crossed with these.

Sweet Pea 'Cupani'
The successful Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ – hopefully ‘Royal Mixed’ will be a success this year.

Then, as I began to pack everything up, I found the old Secret Santa wooden Kitchen Garden mini ‘windowbox’ planter from 2011… so I threw some compost in, and sprinkled the last of the old Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ seed into it. This might come to nothing as the seed is old, but I’m giving it the chance. I can easily re-sow over the top with some other salad seeds.

So that’s it, as I sowed these pots and trays, the urgent sound of ‘Tony Ices’ ice cream van blared past my house with it’s off-key shrill tune. My mind wandered to hot sunny evenings in the garden as the flowers gently sway in the breeze. Surely that’s a sign of what’s to come?

Happy gardening,

Andrew

 

The tulips begin to bloom and the propagator is full of new life

Last year’s Tulip bulbs are now coming into flower, and the seedlings are thriving in the propagator.

I came home in the sunshine earlier this week to a crimson welcome, and the green shoots of new life in the propagator.

The Tulip ‘Negrita’ bulbs that I planted last year have overwintered and spent the last few weeks throwing lush, waxy-looking, green leaves and stems skywards. Now I have been rewarded with their beautiful blooms.

Tulip 'Negrita'
Tulip ‘Negrita’ on flower.

There were about 10 bulbs and they seem to all be present and happy..

Tulip 'Negrita'
Tip-toe through the tulips (nepeta and a nettle) with me.

However, I also stumbled across a terrible thing, and it comes as somewhat of an absent-mindedness confession, of which I’m not really happy with myself about – it looks like i might have forgotten to plant ANY of the beautiful cream and green lacy Tulip ‘Madonna’ bulbs. I found bag of them on my bench. There was a bit of a hole in the bag – so i *might* have planted a few, but there’s no sign of them yet.

As for the bulbs in the bag – they looked quite dried up, but i’ve planted them out anyway and now they have two chances. They’ll be massively behind for this year though – which makes me annoyed with myself.

Ending on a happier note…

The seeds that I sowed at the beginning of the month are doing pretty well. Both Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ seeds are now sturdy seedlings, there are 5 Tomato ‘Minibel’ seedlings, and 1.1 of the Sweet Pea ‘Candy Cane’ seeds have germinated.

IMAG1142
The Tomato ‘Minibel’ seedlings are doing well in the propagator.

Add to this, the Parsley ‘Laura’ (a delicious flat-leaf variety that’s great with mushrooms,  scrambled egg, or as a salad leaf) is thriving.

With the sunshine out, it finally feels like summer is lurking just off the horizon somewhere.

Sowing – Tomato, Courgette and Sweet Peas

The propagator has been filled with freshly sown seeds – ready to bring the garden to life in 2013.

Tonight I’ve continued the sowing of seeds for this year’s garden. Fuelled by another sunny drive home from work, I’m pretty satisfied that Spring has finally arrived.

Seeds in compost sitting inside a propagator
Tomato, Sweet Pea, Parsley and Courgette are ready to spring into life.

First up is something that I’ve not grown from seed before… a tomato. I’ve never been a massive fan of tomatoes but I was given some seed last year for Tomato ‘Minibel’ which grows happily in pots and produces cherry tomatoes. This ideal as I have little space to put them, and a few small fresh tomatoes will work well in the myriad of salads that my life consumes. Tomatoes are hungry things – so I’ll need to make sure that I use my fertiliser on them regularly in order to get the best out of them.

Tomatoes that never were
Spot the spider! 2010’s tomatoes looked good, but the wind soon flattened their hopes of producing any more than this.

My mother gave me some tomato plants back in 2010, and they did reasonably well, so this year I’ll put them in the same spot (gets the afternoon sunshine) and see what happens. Hopefully, like 2010, the wind won’t suddenly arrive and decimate them again.

Tomato 'Minibel' and Courgette 'Black Beauty'
Tomato ‘Minibel’ and Courgette ‘Black Beauty’

Speaking of which, I’ve also sown some more Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ seeds – just two – in a vain attempt to actually have courgettes as good as I had them back in 2010 when I was getting a bit of a backlog. For the last two years they have been disastrous – with mildew killing them off in 2011 after only about 2 fruits, and last year’s two dying – one from mildew again, and the other from a nice big healthy plant being chomped through the main stem by slugs and snails.

Hopefully these two harsh winters will have slowed the snails and slugs down even further, but I’ll have to keep an eye on them.

Compared to last year, it seems that I’m behind schedule. But with such cold weather, and now what seems to be full Spring ahead, I’m hoping that things will catch up. Besides, some of my plants (in hindsight) had gotten a bit ‘leggy’ because they’d been waiting too long indoors for the all-clear to go outside.

Running out of windowsill to sow Courgette and Dill

Whilst clearing windowsills to make way for some newly sown vegetables, an unwelcome pest gets its comeuppance.

I’ve just sown a couple of Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ and some Dill seeds into some pots and popped them into my propagator with the Cineraria ‘Maritima Silverdust’ that’s busy germinating.

In a couple of weeks i’ll also be sowing some French Bean ‘Blue Lake’. I last grew these in 2010 and was kept in a steady supply of green beans for the whole harvest season. Fingers crossed that they will be as successful this time too.

Harvested Courgettes and French Beans.
My harvested Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ and French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ from 2010.

I’ve been rapidly running out of windowsills, so I’ve cleared an entire windowsill of my Spider Plants ‘Chlorophytum Comosum’ – which i often add to containers as bedding.

Scale Insects
Close-up of Scale Insects. Photo: Gilles San Martin.

However, whilst clearing the windowsill I’ve discovered that these plants had Scale insects – tiny brown/orange sticky bugs that suck the sap and secrete a sticky solution over the leaves and anything else they come into contact with.

So, I’ve really had to clear the windowsill with hot soapy water (and a blast of Dettol spray for luck!). Those Spider Plants are now outside where they’ll spend the rest of their days – dodging frosts.

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.

The first of the 2012 seeds are now sown

The first seeds have been sown in 2012 – a mixture of Aubergines, Peppers, Salvia and Sweet Peas.

I’ve just sown my first seeds of the year!

Six pots containing newly sown seeds.
The first seeds have been sown.

Yesterday I popped over to the wonderful Twenty Pence Garden Centre where I picked up a new propagator and a small bag of compost. I managed to somehow resist even touching seed packets – knowing that I’d already done my buying for 2012 and that there were also plenty of seeds in the secret santa gifts and my farewell present from CBM.

As last year’s Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’ plants just didn’t seem to be far enough ahead, and following the suggestion from fellow blogger Barry at The Gourmand’s Progress, I decided that I would sow the seeds in January to give them a head start.

I took the opportunity to see what other plants in my seed collection were recommended to be planted in January and it turned out there were a few… so after some rummaging for pots, I ended up with a propagator full of sown seeds ready to start life.

The seed packets
The four types of seeds that have been sown.

Having seen the bees swarm around the one Salvia Nemerosa Ostfrieslan plant I picked up by chance last summer, I decided to hunt down this vivid blue flower for myself. So I’ve planted a small number of Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ in a bid to replicate this for myself.

Despite being decimated by greenfly last year, I’ve sown some more Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ in a bid to get them that bit ahead of marauding pests. These were determined to survive (and they did) but the pests damaged their young leaves and buds, stunting them in their bid to scale the canes.

I’ve also sown a couple of Pepper (Sweet) Frigitello – apparently they are ‘vigorous plants with small, sweet tasting, thin walled conical, green fruits which turn red’. These will be joining the Aubergines in the wicker basket.

So there we go, 2012 has properly begun, and the propagator is now sitting on a windowsill waiting for the signs of lush green growth to push through the compost.

Have you sown anything yet? What are you going to try growing this year? – as ever, let me know in the comments below!