May catch-up, long overdue!
My problem with blogging about gardening at this time of year is that I find myself so busy doing things I don’t seem to find much time to write about them.
However, happily – or unhappily! – the weather gods have decided to bestow upon us a typical Bank Holiday weekend of patchy rain and gloom, so I have no excuse not to fire up the computer and record at least some of my doings.
March saw me making the first sowings in the veg department, namely my tomatoes. Many people start them in late winter, but as I don’t have a heated greenhouse – or any greenhouse! – the earliest I can realistically expect to begin is a week or so before the end of March.
I sowed 3 varieties, “Sungold”, “Gardeners’ Delight” and “Marmande”, in shallow pans of sieved multipurpose compost, placing them on the hood of my tropical fish tank for bottom heat – I do actually own a windowsill propagator, but if I can use the heat from something else, all the better! – and they came up in a matter of days. As soon as they were through, I moved them to a sunny windowsill and was lucky that we enjoyed a lot of bright weather at that time, which enabled them to grow into stocky little seedlings ready for pricking out individually into 6cm pots. Very swiftly they outgrew those, so I re-potted them into the 12cm pots that should hopefully last them until they make their final move into growbags at the end of this month.
All of that seems fairly simple, and indeed it is, except for the fact that without a greenhouse I have to play a very canny game to grow them on in the early stages.
My basic aim is to get them outside as soon as possible and as often as possible in order to free up space indoors for other things and to enable them to grow in the best light, but of course, being tender plants that really don’t enjoy temperatures much below 10C, I have to be very careful about how and when I put them out.
Last year was a bit of a doddle, being one of the mildest springs I can remember, but this year’s Arctic blast in late April gave me many a tricky moment. Some days it was fine to put them out, but they needed to come in overnight; some days it was okay to leave them out overnight as well as during the day, and others it wasn’t suitable to put them out day or night, so I spent quite a lot of time carting them to and fro, often changing my mind mid-move!
It seems to have worked out alright thus far, though. Here are nine of them:
For the purposes of photography I obviously needed to remove the enviromesh cover that I place over them for protection from the elements, but I put it back immediately as I like to keep them under some kind of cover for as long as possible.
The remaining four plants are still short enough (just!) to reside in my growhouse (a cupboard-shaped coldframe, basically), but they will soon need staking and moving on to join their friends:
They look a tad yellow in that photo, but they aren’t in real life – just a trick of the light.
So, that’s the saga of my tomatoes: I shall be heartily glad when the last frost date has passed (last week of May here) and I can finally stop trundling them around!
At the end of March I turned my attention to some other salad crops, thankfully, less Prima Donna-ish ones than tomatoes! As the weather seemed quite mild at the time, I thought I’d try sowing some radishes directly into a container outside with a single layer of horticultural fleece for protection. After little more than a week, much to my delight, they emerged, and by the 6th April they looked like this:
Roll on a month and now they look like this:
There are two varieties here: the round ones at the front are “Jolly” and the cylindrical ones at the back are “French Breakfast”. I grew both last year and liked the taste equally, though on balance if I had to choose between them I’d probably prefer to grow “Jolly” because it matures more quickly.
I’ve never actually tried to sow seed outdoors as early as the end of March/beginning of April, but I thought I’d give it a go and having been rewarded with my first harvesting-sized radishes in only four weeks, I shall definitely be doing it again!
I also started some salad bowl lettuces and spring onions at the same time, germinating them in containers indoors then putting them out under fleece in mid-April, but as yet they are showing little enthusiasm for getting going – I think the late April cold snap may have had more than a little to do with that. Hopefully they’ll put on a spurt when the weather turns a little warmer again.
And apart from a small sowing of coriander (indoors) that’s pretty much it for veg. I will be growing a couple of runner bean plants, more to fill a space on a fence than anything else, but I won’t be doing French beans, perpetual spinach or carrots this year as I simply don’t have the room to get a decent enough crop.
I haven’t even touched on ornamentals in this post, but that will be my subject next time – hopefully before June!