Saturday, 19 May 2018

A New Brood

Cygnets out on the water. 2 or 3 days old.

Our local pond supports one breeding pair per year.  Last year several eggs failed to hatch.  This year all nine hatched.

Alternative Gown and Confetti

Sometimes you just can't escape the royal wedding hype.  I set up the school rummer bean wigwam with protection for the cold winter nights.  Remind you of anything?

Back at home the apple blossom has been more voluminous than ever.  As it blows over the lawn I can't escape the idea that it is confetti.

If that's a bit strong for you here is alternative:

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Moving On Up

The greenhouse has been reorganised to accommodate tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers 

The tomatoes are looking a bit anaemic, but hopefully the transplant to growbags will pep them up.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

How Long?

Rogues Gallery
How many days to germination?  When is it time to throw in the towel?  Could you be throwing out viable plants or are you wasting valuable greenhouse space?  Annually these perrenial questions arise.  As you can see from the above I remove non germinating seed pots to a dark corner of the shed - just in case there is a chance they spring to life. The dates of sowing are on the reverse of the labels and reveal that this batch of cucurbits is beyond redemption.

Sowing Dates
But something else I was about to give up on has revealed signs of life after I had given up all hope. It is the only dahlia I am growing this year so I was a bit put out about wasting my money and effort. The tubors have been sitting in moist compost in the greenhouse since 5/4/18 and even given trips out when the weather turned warm.

The Bishop of Landraff -at last
I was on the point of reusing the pots and compost when I spotted some growth above soil level yesterday.

The Bishop Emerges
It is not necessarily all or nothing either:  These beetroot were sown on 7th March and afforded protection from the elements in the greenhouse.  Only a few emerged within the first month despite the "seeds" being clusters of seeds  and those that did emerges have been so slow to grow that I might as well have just waited for the conventional out door sowing at the beginning of May.

But here is a warning about giving up.  Last year I tried to save some seed from our Lenten Rose plant.  "Use fresh seed" is the hellebore mantra, so I popped them straight from the seedhead into this tray on 13 June last year.  Absolutely nothing happened (except for the occasional spray of water) until about 4 weeks ago when the first sign of life was detected! 

 Today I have potted the seedlings up and have high hopes that they will flower -  next year!  I am amazed - Amazed that I had the "good sense" not to give up and recycle the potting compost and grit when I did my spring clean up.

So there's more than one answer to the question.  

Wednesday, 9 May 2018


I always think of Invasion of the Body Snatchers when I see this.  

Or should that be Alien?

Maybe Day of the Triffids

Or Little Shop of Horrors.

Fabaceae are definitely  B movie stars

Tuesday, 8 May 2018


Never guess who I saw today....

Yes it's my first tomato flower of the year!  I will have to rearrange the greenhouse to fit in the growbags soon.

By contrast here was another floral discovery for me - happily growing in mossy grass in the school garden last Thursday.

Cukoo Flower

 Not such a happy future for this one - it got strimmed over the Bank Holiday.  There goes the "environmental garden". 

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Fantastic Plastic

Everything in moderation.  A frequently cited aphorism before the sex and drugs and rock and roll generation threw out the rule book.  Well now we are learning that it is true for plastic too.  Plastic does wonderful things in the garden: hose pipes, water butts, netting, rodent resistant compost bins!  But the one thing it doesn't do is biodegrade.  So as Obi Wan Kenobe says - "Use it wisely".

Another saw trotted out by old gardening hands is "Label Everything".  It is a maxim I have fallen fowl of many times.  In the first instance you need to know you have planted or sown something in a particular space.  Who has not ever oversown a row - maybe of slow germinating parsnips or parsley or even, as I once did,  dormant Jerusalem artichokes?  Secondly you need to know which particular something that is.  Sometimes I have not got around to labelling a sowing straight away and then cannot recall which was early cauliflower and which late purple sprouting broccoli.  Now I always write out the label before setting out to sow. I always include the date too.  Why bother being so specific?  If you don't know the variety and the date sown your chances of replicating a success or avoiding a failure are minimal.  A garden label at harvest time is a message of encouragement from your younger less knowledgeable self.  Hey old chap you thought these carrots were Flakkee  sown in April but I just thought you would like to know that they were James Scarlet Intermediate sown on 18th May!  Aside from direct sowings seed trays and modules offer other challenges.  One label one seed tray, but what about transplanting.  Who gets the label or how many more do you need?  And do you label every module in a 60 cell flat?  (The answer here is to choose your size of tray or flat to ensure you have a monoculture.  Once you have more than one labelling becomes a problem.) You could try labelling a row at a time in a mixed modular tray but I now make it a rule when potting on to make a new label for every pot.  The result is that I need a lot of labels.  I bought a supply of 150 a couple of weeks ago thinking that would let me off cleaning up some old ones.  They are fast running out already so a clean up operation is imminent.

Plastic Coated Plastic Labels

Which brings us back to plastic.  Wood is good, graphite is great, but if you can't read your pencil scribed lollipop stick label after six month in the dirt come rain or shine or hail or snow you may as well not have bothered.  The green garden retailers have attempted to come up with a more ecologically sound system than white plastic labels and a black marker for addressing this issue but, to date, no viable alternative has passed the consumer test.   The downside to that indelible "laundry marker" pen is its strength. Its etchings are not water soluble. Nor do they seem to be shifted by white spirit turpentine or surgical spirit.  I know I have tried with the aid of a cloth, wire wool or an old toothbrush.  In the process I've managed inhale noxious fumes, to flick these agents into my eyes, ruin clothes and melt plastic gloves but never successfully restored a plastic label to it's pristine, just off the production line, state.  The solution to the problem of transforming single use plastic labels into lifelong use turns out to be the application of a small amount more plastic.  I cover the white plastic label with a layer of smart/invisible/magic  "writeable" tape, up one side then wrapped over the top,  and then write on the tape with the indelible marker.  It is not perfect, not organic, but it works: You know what you have grown and when it was sown and you have reduced the waste involved to the minimum. a two inch length of tape.  The plastic label itself stays pristine and is reused year after year in this way.

And don't forget the date!