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 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.

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!

Rocket returns to earth

A second wave of Rocket has been set; the first Courgette is almost ready for picking; the Aubergine’s patiently await planting out; and the Campanula begins seeding.

Today I planted (launched?) the second wave of Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ into my windowbox. The first batch had germinated within three days – but these have been planted in warmer temperatures and also in a slightly different compost – so we’ll see how these fare.

Rocket Skyrocket is sown

I found the last batch had the peppery taste, but the leaves were far from being as big as the ones on the seed packet or as big as the ones that you’d get if you bought one of those (overpriced) bags of rocket from your local supermarket.

I’m a serial buyer of bagged Rocket because I generally eat salad leaves every day, but I found that the previous wave of Rocket just wasn’t producing enough and was spending a lot of time just sending up flower buds that seemed to appear every other day.

Maybe the differences with this second round will help to achieve a better crop.

Speaking of crop, this week I expect to pluck the very first Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ from my two plants. They are both producing them but the plant at the sunnier end of the garden has been a bigger plant, and ahead of the one in the slightly shadier part of the garden (close to where last year’s one had been). This year of course, I’m also feeding them with the Doff Portland Tomato Feed, so this might attribute to the slight boost as well.

I’ve also collected seeds from the Campanula ‘Persicifolia’ which show up every year. It’s now finished and so where there were once beautiful spires of white or blue flowers, they are now covered in little brown pods ready to guarantee next year’s blooms.

The bees come into the garden – loving the Digitalis ‘Primrose Carousel’ (the Foxglove)  and in particular the blueness of the Lavender. I’ve struggled repeatedly to catch a photo of a bee on any of the flowers in my garden – either because the bee is moving too fast, or the wind is frantically flinging the plants around… but it looks like i might have caught one at last.

A bee collects pollen from Lavender
No prizes for spotting the bee.

To do…

This weekend’s duties include planting out the Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’ plants with supportive canes (one of them seems a bit wobbly) in one of those wicker boxes (which i’ll need to buy), plus fill in any gaps in the borders with plants.

It all starts on the windowsill

The 2011 growing season for the garden has started – on the windowsill

So 2011’s garden is well underway.

Tray of seedlings growing on a windowsill
Sweet Pea, Marigold, and Aubergine spring to life on the windowsill.

 

Back two rows are Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’, middle 4 rows are Marigold ‘Boy O’ Boy Orange (French)’ – these should discourage black/greenfly that feasted on the veg last year, and in the foreground are Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ – a bright, climbing and very fragrant variety which should help bring in the bees and other bugs. They’re about 5 inches tall now and need to start going outside a bit to harden them up a bit before going outside full-time.

Lots more to plant, or already underway including Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’ (again for the bees), and Courgettes, Rocket, French Beans, Peas.

Perhaps this year the Strawberries will have established enough to provide fruit?