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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:

tomatoes-3rd-May

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:

tomatoes-in-growhouse-3rd-May

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:

radish-seedlings

Roll on a month and now they look like this:

radish-3rd-May

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!

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July updates…at last!

Long time, no blog – been concentrating on house decorating for the last few weeks while the weather is nice enough to have all the windows open! That’s not to say the garden has been left to its own devices, but after all the plastering, sanding and painting has been done, followed by watering, feeding and pest control in the garden, I haven’t had much time or inclination to go round taking photos. Oh well!

So here to kick off with, an evening shot of my biggest hanging basket, planted up in early June and doing pretty well now:

petunia-basket-in-situ-18-july

and a little closer:

hanging-basket-petunia-18-July

It’s a 12″ Easy-fill basket that I planted up at the beginning of June with absolutely no planning whatsoever – I just chucked everything at it, lol! So it has fuchsias from my own cuttings taken last year plus a mix of stuff bought at the end of May from my local garden centre: a couple of verbenas, a large purple petunia, two mini orange petunias and a trailing silver foliage plant I haven’t grown before called Dichondra “Silver Falls”. It’s a right old hotch-potch, but it looks colourful so I’m not complaining! Having said that, it would be nice if that hole in the middle where the basket is showing would close up, but you can’t have everything…

My tuberous begonia cuttings from last year are really kicking on now. Here’s a comparison shot of the better one:

begonia-cutting-june-july-comparison

I am very tempted to cut off the tall leggy bit (out of the top of the photo), but can’t quite bring myself to remove anything with flowers on it, so of course, it stays!

My divided primrose has come on nicely:

primroses-may-to-july-comparison

I now just have to decide where I want to put the new plants. I rather like having them in containers so that they can be moved around, but I’ll think about it.

 

Now on to the veg, starting with my carrots, which have put on a whopping great quantity of top growth since last month:

carrots-june-july-comparison

I’ve been keeping them covered in fine gauge mesh to protect against carrot root fly, but I have to remove it to water and to harvest the occasional spring onion (also growing in this pot), so I hope the pesky little critters aren’t sneaking in during the few moments when the cover is off. I’ve had a little dig around the tops of a couple of the plants and there appear to be carrots forming, but of course I won’t know the extent of them until I decide to pull them up – not that I know when that should be! Probably ought to look it up!

Next is my cut-and-come-again lettuce:

lettuce-20-july

It might look a bit sparse, but that’s because I’m constantly nipping off the oldest leaves for my salads and have been doing so for a couple of weeks now. I was afraid the hot spell we’ve been having for the past week or so might induce them to bolt, but so far it hasn’t. No other real problems to report – I was thinking they’d be awash with aphids by now, but no such thing – although I have succumbed to using organic slug and snail pellets in the pot because the copper tape was no longer deterring attacks from those particular pests. Ah well – I tried! I’m thinking of sowing some more seeds in modules to replace my original plants and keep the succession going since I have no idea how long they actually go on for.

And speaking of seed sowing, I’ve been dotting random radish seeds into gaps here and there:

lettuce-and-radish-20-july

these being amongst my lettuce! I lost a few lettuce seedlings to slug attack, so I thought why not fill the gap with something else? They are supposed to be ready to pull in 4 weeks, so I shouldn’t have long to wait!

On to the spinach:

spinach-june-july-comparison

which doesn’t look massively different to how it was, but there again, I’ve been harvesting the outer leaves as soon as they get big enough. The pot has also acquired a smattering of radish seedlings to fill up the space – I don’t like empty soil if I can avoid it. Slugs, snails and aphids haven’t been a problem, but I am fighting a constant battle with spinach leaf miner. I’m finding eggs on the undersides of pretty much every leaf, every day, and if I didn’t remove them with such frequency I don’t think I’d have a spinach leaf to my name by now!

Here are the eggs in situ:

spinach-leef-miner-eggs

They are laid in clusters and you can see how tiny they are in comparison to my thumb and fingers, but allow them to hatch and the grubs will tunnel through the leaf eating it from the inside and making a horrible mess of it. Add to that the fact that several generations are produced in a single season and you have good reason to be vigilant and rub the eggs off as soon as you see them!

Next we have my dwarf french beans, which have come on a treat:

french-beans-june-july-comparison

(They haven’t actually changed colour, by the way – that’s just my camera not coping with different lighting conditions!)

The beans are forming nicely:

french-beans-close-20-july

Not ready for picking yet, but not far off.

I haven’t had any major pest problems with these – the odd nibbled leaf and cluster of blackfly, but nothing to worry about. Looking forward to a pretty decent crop from just six plants by the looks of things!

Last but not least, my tomatoes:

tomatoes-june-july-comparison

getting a tad on the tall side! The plant nearest the camera (“Sungold”) has had its tip pinched out (they all have, in fact) but I’ve left 7 trusses on it, which is 2 more than I usually try for outdoors. I may be being a bit hopeful attempting to get that many to ripen in an English summer, but you never know.

Close-up of some ripening toms, “Sungold” and “Matina” (the larger one):

matina-and-sungold-20-july

No problems with these thus far: blight hasn’t reared its ugly and inevitable head yet, and I don’t appear to have drowned the plants by over-watering in this recent hot spell, thankfully!

I picked and ate my first ripe Sungold on the 17th July, and my first Matina on the 18th, and lovely they were too!

Fingers crossed for a long and successful cropping period for all of us hard-working gardeners….:)

 

 

Last minute veg!

It’s getting a bit late in the season for this, but, inspired by the BBC’s Big Allotment Challenge and by browsing the interweb, I have decided to sow some veg in containers.

Now, this is not completely new to me given that I grow tomatoes in bags every year and tried french beans in a pot last year (I’m having another go this year, but no germination yet!) but I’ve never grown either carrots or spring onions before, so this could be quite a challenge.

Here is my micro-allotment(!):

carrots-and-onions-sown

The pot is 38cm square by 28cm deep filled with multi-purpose compost, and in it I have sown 3 rows of carrots (Chantenay Red Cored 2) with a couple of rows of spring onions (White Lisbon) on the outside edges (planting onions alongside carrots is supposed to confuse the carrot root fly, so here’s hoping!).

I’m also planning an identical pot of perpetual spinach and possibly a couple of smaller pots with cut-and-come-again salad leaves, so we’ll see how it goes.

I’ve temporarily put some wire mesh over it to stop the local cats from scratching in it, watered it and placed it in what should be a sunny spot if we ever see the sun again this summer!

I have to confess that at the moment I’m envisaging a summer-long battle with slugs, snails, aphids and any other pest you can name, but I might get lucky and have something to eat at the end of it all…