Windowsill Propagator LHS
Windowsill Propagator RHS

Its that time of year again. My first act each morning is to check on the seedlings in the windowsill propagator. I sowed my first chillies on 11th February, and they have long-since been pricked out and placed in my experimental light-reflecting box nearby. Since then peppers have been sown and have germinated, the first tomatoes are up and need pricking out, I have the first annuals and I am rapidly running out of space.

Dahlia Bishops Children Leaning
Straight Chilli Seedlings

I’ve been really impressed at how well the light-box experiment has worked. The Dahlia ‘Bishops Children’ seedlings right at the back show some signs of leaning slightly, but the chillie seedlings at the front have grown straight and strong, without being turned, and are actually doing better for leaning than the seedlings on the propagator. My job for today, apart from pricking out, is to make another reflective backdrop for the other two trays in this area.

I always manage to forget that just because I can cram lots of quarter seed trays – or re-used supermarket plastic trays – on to my propagator and then on to the trays behind, it doesn’t mean I can carry on sowing without having space issues. Once pricked out into pots or modules, the space requirements increase dramatically. And so the dance begins.

Plant House

The strong hardy seedlings and plants from the greenhouse (above left) will get moved in to the colder, more draughty Plant House (above right). The Plant House acts as part mini greenhouse, part vertical cold frame, depending on what I need. The large pots were my attempt to over winter some Arctotis plants. It failed, which I would be happier about if I hadn’t managed to kill the cuttings off last December. Still, it confirms that I want to stick to hardy plants from now on. The large pots will come out to be replaces by trays of seedlings and small plants not yet ready to be hardened off. Later it will be home to tomatoes and perhaps chillies. Space made in the greenhouse will be rapidly filled by modules of beetroot, cabbage, broad beans and brassicas destined for the allotment. Oh, and the hardy seedlings started off upstairs in my study. And the new sowings of hardy annuals and perennials I am anxious to start off. I think I just ran out of room again…

Beth Chatto Plants

None of which is helped by the arrival of my birthday plants from Beth Chatto’s wonderful nursery. These arrived last week, beautifully packaged in newspaper and shredded paper: Aster divaricatus, Aster x frikartii Mönch, Phlox stolonifera ‘Blue Ridge’, Aconitum ‘Sparks Variety’ and Geranium magnificum. I potted them up and let them rest in the greenhouse, but they were quickly ousted to the Cold Frame to join the Broad Beans and strawberry runners.

Cold Frame

From there, things either get planted out (in garden or allotment) or added to the plant nursery. This is the collection of pots of things that I have dug up from the garden but would like to hang on to for future gardens, the rescued seedlings of beech, hellebore and anything else that looks interesting, and things that I haven’t quite got round to planting yet.

Writing about it all isn’t going to get the dance moved on, however, so I am off to take advantage of a beautifully warm sunny Spring day. The bubble wrap is coming off the greenhouse, the self-opener going on to the roof vent, seedlings will be potted up, moved on, cleared out, and hopefully I will then have made room to sow more things…

All of which will accompanied by the woefully pathetic attempts of the collared doves to build a nest behind our defunct satellite dish. He collects sticks, she attempts to make a nest from them, they drop to the ground. I hope they move on before their noisy and frequent coupling results in eggs. I can’t see the next generation surviving the drop…

Bad choice of nest site
Nest debris

45 thoughts on “Let the dance begin!

  1. Hi,

    Look at all those seedlings! Your garden/allotment will look amazing! :)

    Thanks for the link to Beth Chatto, I’ve picked out quite a few things I’d like and have some space that needs filling, fast.

    Doves/pigeons are notorious for picking the most ridiculous places to nest and often their nests are little more than a pile of twigs, so it wouldn’t surprise me if she does attempt to lay!

    1. Hi Liz, always happy to help others spend money on plants ;-) Besides, I blame you for my Aster divaricatus purchase, you made it look so lovely last Autumn… I suspect you may be right about the doves, they certainly haven’t given up yet. Just hope I don’t have to scrape up baby bird bits :-(

      1. I’ve been trying very hard not to spend any money at all on the garden, but with the new space opened up now the Summer house is gone, I need to put something up to help screen the fence so I’m looking for tall perennials like the flat topped aster I had last year and then some veronicastum. They grow nice and fast so I know within a few months I’ll have a nice screen, and plus the insects love both and of course they provide nice late interest! :D

        You could try fashioning something on the old dish to stop the collared doves from laying? Either that or try scaring them away regularly if possible, hopefully they’ll decide it’s too unsafe and settle in a more appropriate place.

  2. I love the Plant House and the idea of the plant nursery….I need to consider these useful ideas and where I would put them….I have not begun to grow seeds yet but will start today or next weekend…just a small amount…I prefer to sow from seed outdoors once it warms, but I may change my mind in the future…tomatoes, peppers and eggplant I do not grow from seed…I buy organically grown plants…well done Janet…birds sometimes are not the brightest around nest building time…I had a bluebird last year that kept attacking the window the bird house was mounted to because it saw its shadow…I finally had to take the birdhouse down…we were exhausted from hearing her peck her window reflection thinking it was another bird…

    1. Hi Donna, I think the problem is that you can never have enough space to sow seeds and grow plants on! You just expand to fill the space you have and a little beyond… I think buying plug plants makes lots of sense, if I wasn’t so addicted to trying new varieties I would do the same, I’m sure it would work out cheaper. Plus I always end up with too many plants, and my friends get fed up of my gifts ;-) Hilarious about the bluebird, though shame you had to move the box. I’ve never come across nestboxes you can attach to windows, just feeding stations – does it mean you can see inside?

      1. yes you can see inside but the location of the box is important so it is hidden some where the birds can nest without feeling threatened or else they will attack…also if there is too much light on the window from the outside ot inside, it poses problems like I had….

    1. Hi Sue, we clearly both have excellent taste ;-) And thank you for posting about Beth Chatto, I’d forgotten how good they were both for choice and quality.

  3. Oh the dance – I love it.

    At least you have a lot of options with the greenhouse, plant house and cold frame as buffers to harden off or store plants.

    I too am checking seedlings .. looking forward to pricking them out .. but not looking forward to finding places to put them to grow on (may have to make a cold frame). I have some tomato and pepper seedlings already under glass outside and they seem to be doing fine (despite a fluttering of snow on Friday!).

    Enjoy the sunny day :-)

    P.S. I did take soil temperature readings last week in the Leitrim garden .. and will post my results shortly.

    1. Hi Ferris. I now have both cold frames up, one nearly full, and only the plant house has room for more. Turns out lots of things needed potting on, which is a lovely task, but they then take up so much more room! Making a cold frame or two sounds like a grand plan, particularly now that you can work on the house again. Will look forward to reading about your soil temperature readings. Good grief that sounds weird!

  4. You are so organised — I must, must get a move on!

    (And I must concentrate on the veg, though that Beth Chatto link is calling me. Hardy geraniums, hardy geraniums….)

    1. Not so much organised as restless! I get itchy fingers and have to sit on them to stop myself sowing too much too soon. There’s loads of time yet, don’t let nutters like me distrub your peace – or pace!

      Everyone could always do with one or two new hardy geraniums…

  5. That dance, playing with plants and seedlings, alot of us know that all too well. It takes alot of skill to do the choreography, something to be proud of!

    I’m hoping to visit Beth Chatto’s garden and nursery this year, it’s within reasonable driving distance from us.

    Happy sowing btw! :)

    1. I envy you being close enough to visit – though I think my Bank Manager is grateful for the distance… I am misrepresenting myself if the choreography comes across as controlled and graceful. Think the crazed dancing of tribesmen high on local hallucinogens rather than ‘Nutcrakcer’, or even ‘Dirty Dancing’!

  6. You are so organized with your greenhouse, seedlings, cold frames and plants. I am having a bit of a time getting the energy needed. The snow is starting to leave, so I better get to it fast. Time to organize and get outdoors.

    1. Hi Donna, its more a sign of how impatient I am, and my tendency to grow Too Much Stuff! i could have three times the space and still over fill it, even though I have learnt to sow thinly in very small containers. Be gentle with yourself emerging from winter – I’ve had weeks of anticipation and too-early sowing to get to this point.

  7. Janet, glad to hear the light box experiment went well. I’m just about to start planting up seeds in the coming weeks and I might give this a try.

    1. Oh, good luck Marguerite, look forward to reading about how it goes! I was surprised at how effective it appears to have been. It is about to be severely tested – I now have over 30 seedlings relying on the lightboxes to help them grow straight and tall…

    1. Avoiding broken limbs before May is the trick… And minimising casualties due to hurried movement in the now very crowded greenhouse…

  8. Wow! That is some dance. You are so organized with everything. Windowsill propagator, green house, plant house, garden, allotment. That is excellent work your are doing.

    1. Thanks Bom, I always feel rather inept and behind with it all. It must come across better than it feels on the ground! I am lucky to have the structures though. This will be my first year with cold frames and greenhouse – up until now it has just been the plant house, and that fell over at a crucial time last year and wreaked havoc!

    1. I fear they will be keeping anyone sleeping in the guest room from, um, sleeping…

  9. Hi Janet, all those seedlings, I have been following this path for 25 years. Last year was the finally. It is a bit of a relief, last week I made use of the main greenhouse to get the flamboyant begonias started off and we will probably find some other permanent use for our greenhouses, they are handy for overwintering more tender plants of course. Looking at all your lovely seedlings am I feeling nostalgic already. The collared doves, can you really tell him from her.

    1. Hi Alistair, I don’t blame you for cutting back on the sowing. Its only wanting lots of edibles, and the fact that I want to re-work the pond bed, that has me sowing so much. But I couldn’t not grow tomatoes. And chillies. And now with the allotment… I just get myself into these situations! Re the doves, am making assumptions based on the apparent fact that they are rather old fashioned about roles.

  10. Looks like you’re in full swing, and I’m a bit jealous you can celebrate your birthday with plants from Beth Chatto! The light box idea is intriguing, turning is no fun…

    1. Hi Cyndy, I am rather lucky re the plants. I am trying to work out whether the geraniums are large enough to split or if I should wait… So greedy!

  11. Hi Janet – am so impressed with this happy production line of sprouting in the protected locations of Blue Peter lightbox, greenhouse and plant house. You have inspired me to emulated the bubble-wrap around effect on the latter as my heath robinson affair is an old glass shelving unit with plastic seed tray walls. Was feeling chuffed as my 25 Salvia nemorosa have survived the transplant stage but with other seedlings coming on I am running out of room in my kitchin aka greenhouse. Might have to suspend cooking for a while ;)

    1. Hi Laura, I am very impressed at your 25 salvias – what on earth are you going to do with them all?! The “stopping cooking” idea made me laugh, but it shows you have your priorities right ;-)

  12. It’s great your light box worked so well; is your whole house full of plants? it sounds like it might be. I am almost ready to begin putting some things in the greenhouse, more in my post tomorrow. Your garden and allotment will be so full, good for you! Christina

    1. Hi Christina. Actually, for once, only my study is over run with plants. And the kitchen window sill… Changes in how we use the house mean I have lost the use of two out of three sunny windowsills upstairs, though I may be able to persuade FIL to nurture one or two special projects. Its why space has become such an issue – at least until I can consign tomato seedlings to the greenhouse. Wee bit cold for that yet. Am very excited to hear you have your greenhouse up, can’t wait to see and read all about it!

  13. Running out of room for all your seedlings is a good thing! Could have none of your seeds thriving. Your allotment is going to be filled with such great veggies this spring and summer.
    Doves arent the smartest birds I am afraid.

    1. Good point Janet – successful too-many seedlings much better than total failure. And yes, doves seem to be very thick birds. Fun to watch though!

  14. I am behind you Janet and have not reached the pricking out stage yet but no doubt the annual greenhouse shuffle will soon begin. Isn’t it fun though and when the clocks spring forward soon I am sure that we will enjoy being able to spend more time out there. Your birthday presents look great ~ hope that your special day is or was filled with flowers and fun. Happy Birthday xxx

    1. Hi Anna, I had a lovely birthday thank you, and flowers were involved – as was champagne! “The Greenhouse Shuffle” would make a good title for a book. I think the only reason I am ahead is because I know I have such limited room and so many more things I want to grow – start them off early and kick them out to make room for the next lot is my philosophy, except that lots of the early things are tender. Whoops…

  15. WOW! You have a lot going on there Janet! Hee hee! Lot’s of dancing going on here too with the seedlings, trays and pots. My windows are full, the mini greenhouse is bursting, not got a cold frame (must sort that out) and I’ve not really got sowing properly yet. Soon…very soon…my grown up greenhouse arrives. YAY!

    I had a chuckle at the doves but I hope you don’t find chick splats :( I do every spring, so sad :(

    1. Hi Karen, how exciting to have a new greenhouse arriving – and perfect timing too! I foresee lots of happy hours spent sowing and pricking out and generally pottering. Particularly good when you can garden in the rain without getting wet!

  16. Dear girl – you ARE a whirling dervish!! Thank goodness my season is several weeks behind yours I am clearly in denial…….

    One thing we use to do at our nursery was (and I’ll be shot down for this, I’m off to duck under a wall) anyhow, one thing we did do was to miss out the pricking out stage.

    *still alive then…..!!*

    I’ll explain my old boss got sick of the tray/prickout/pot thingmyand we use to turnaround slot of plants all from seeds or cutting. It doesn’t work for everything but he swore by sowing lightly and say using 2 trays instead of one etc. Whilst it sounds bonkers by giving seedlings extra space initially, you skip from pricking out o potting up when nicely established.

    In the long run it gives you a bit more jiggle time (when u jiggle your room for tray-pricked out). You can get to the 4-6 leaf stage + with this technique.

    Might sound daft, but I’m converted. Initially u need a bit more space (but you will anyway, it’s a kind of intermediate aid bit like Bridget jones pants….!) Although when first he told of this aborration I was very reluctant – but slap me with a kipper, for lots of things it does work.

    No egg sucking intentions re my lengthy response -just something which might be helpful for some of your dancing! Xxx

    1. I need all the help I can get Fay ;-) Will try that out, thank you! No way I am wasting a perfectly good kipper slapping you though…

  17. Crikey – you get so many comments – I had to scroll for ages! (All good)
    I have also started what I like to call “The Seed-tray Shuffle”
    At least it means Spring (proper) is nearly here!

    1. Ah, but at least half of them are my replies! Thank you for scrolling down and commenting anyway – I used to think it wasn’t worth it, but now I know how much I appreciate hearing from people I refuse to be put off by being the 57th person! I like the term “seed-tray shuffle”, it perfectly describes the “of course I can squeeze some of that it, if I just…” justifications I go through all the time at this point of the year.

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