The crazy season is well and truly upon us. The time of year that sees gardeners up and down the country engaged in a frenzy of seed sowing, pricking out, potting on. Tales of germination success and failure, lost plant labels, the dreaded Running Out of Pots the Right Size… The time when greenhouse shelving groans under the weight of seed trays and pots, and panic starts to set in. Too many seeds, too little time, too little room, no pots the right size. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. All compounded, in my case, by the tension of whether we will get the small greenhouse relocated in time to plant out the tomatoes.
The good news is, the aluminium greenhouse now only needs the glass put in to be ready. Oh, and a path built inside, though I could manage without it if necessary.
It is perfectly level, thanks to TNG’s hard work, and firmly concreted in, again thanks to TNG. We really like the new position, it’s a little like when the fence in the front garden blew down in the wind. If it hadn’t, we may never have realised that we had a wonderful view of the sea available to us. With the greenhouse, having put it in the obvious position, we really didn’t give much thought as to wether somewhere else would be better. This keeps all the plant-rearing areas together, and really opens up the entrance to the back garden. But more of that in a another post. On Tuesday I will order the glass, and soon, very soon, I will be back to the luxury of two greenhouses.
In the mean time, the wooden greenhouse is full, but not disastrously so.
The tricky bit will come when all those currently innocuous little seed trays on the shelf are full of seedlings that suddenly really, really need to be pricked out. I’m quite proud of myself for being so comparatively restrained this year, I plan to sow more perennials later on and of course biennials in the summer, but I have worked hard to keep things under control. Though I am also aware that where the little coir pellets take up very little room they too will soon require potting up. I am in a race to harden off the hardy annuals so that I can plant them up as they are. But that means having the next section of the cutting garden done. Which means marking out the new paths… Same old same old, one thing depending on a long list of other things!
The other side of the greenhouse houses the edibles that would normally be in the aluminium greenhouse, together with the autumn sown perennials and some plug plants I am growing on. I have to admit that I could only sow the sweetcorn by planting out some aquilegias to free up enough pots! I really must mark out, dig over and plant up more of the wall border in the front garden, I have Stachys, grasses and agastache that will shortly be bursting out of their pots, and those pots will soon be required elsewhere. The crazy dance of Spring in my garden.
Two things are different this year. I bought my dahlias from Peter Nyssen instead of Sarah Raven, as I have done in the past. I was so impressed by the quality and value of the bulbs I bought from Peter Nyssen that I decided to give it a go, and I must say that I was delighted with the size and quality of the tubers when they arrived, and more reasonably priced too. Plus I have had more than a few incidences of ordering one thing from Sarah Raven and receiving quite another. I didn’t want to risk the dahlias throwing up surprises as unexpected as the tulips (pale pink instead of a mix of Doll’s Minuet and Ballerina…). The first signs of growth are just starting to appear, so I look forward to seeing what the plants are like in due course.
The other difference is in the potting compost I am using. I asked Sue Beesley from Bluebell Cottage Gardens nursery what compost she was using, as she had been commenting on twitter at how good it was. I knew she used peat free compost in her nursery, and am always on the look out for another option. Not that I haven’t had good results from the New Horizon peat free compost I have been using for years now, but it can be a little on the heavy side for small seeds and for cuttings. Anyway, turns out she uses Melcourt’s Sylvamix peat free growing media, which until recently has only been available to the trade. Happily that has now all changed, and even us ordinary bods can biuy it – I got mine from Plantify for a very reasonable price, and although it is early days I have to say I really like it. It is more free draining than the New Horizon compost, feels really nice, and I am getting great germination rates with it. Touch wood… I do love Twitter – and the generous and helpful nature of the gardeners, professional and otherwise, who use it.
Tomorrow the near-manic dance of pots and seedlings will move on again, as the coldframe gets emptied out ready for the next round of hardening off. Once I find strong latches, that will withstand the winds we get sometimes, I will set up the second frame too. For now though the dream of having a sunny evening cocktail hour seating area has taken a back seat to a plant area. Again. And there are more all over the patio…
I am more than ever convinced that you get the best use out of a greenhouse if you can also use a coldframe. So much easier than continually having to take things in and out of the greenhouse, plus it frees up space. My coldframe is currently full of things to go out into the kitchen garden, the sooner the better. Goldensweet mange tout and Oskar early peas, Stereo broad beans, sorrel (buckler leaf and red), mizuna, mustard, spring onions. Next up, hardy annuals destined for the cutting garden.
Have you got a greenhouse? What do you use yours for? I know Helen didn’t intend to start up a new meme, but I am sort of joining in anyway, and I am not the only one – check out Helen’s immaculate greenhouse full of succulents and interesting seedlings.
The next bit is for me, though any geeks amongst you might also be interested in my greenhouse audit! A mixed bag, so far as germination rates have gone, where I only have 3 or 5 it is usually – bit not always – because I was exercising spectacular restraint and only sowing a small number due to the small amount of space I have. Things like the phlomis, however, are a real disappointment, I have struggled to get them to germinate at all, likewise cephelaria (of any kind) and Aster turbinalis. But I am restraining myself from sowing more perennials until the kitchen garden is properly up and going and I have more space…
Pots and coir pellets – perennials
- Knautia macedonica x 5
- Salvia ‘ostfriesland’ x 4
- Salvia ‘Swan Lake’ x 3
- Phlomis russeliana x 3
- Euphorbia corallioides x 4
- Euphorbia myrsinites x 6
- Echinacea ‘White Swan’ x 5
- Selinum tenuifolium x 7
Pots and coir pellets – Hardy and Half-hardy Annuals
- Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Burgundy Beau’ x 5
- ‘White Scabious’ – no real idea… But I have lots of them, 8 to be precise
- Ammi majus x 5
- Ammi visgna ‘Casablanca’ x 3
- Cornflower ‘Black Ball’
- Dark blue larkspur x 2
- Mid blue larkspur x 3
- marigolds x 4
- Zinnia ‘Jazz Mix’ x 10, but rather floppy looking
Waiting to be pricked out
If no numbers, it means lots…
- Aster turbinalis x 1 :-(
- Cephelaria leucantha
- Verbena rigida ‘Polaris’ x 3
- Salvia nemerosa x 3
- Selinum tenuifolium x 4
- Agastache rupestris x 7
- Verbascum ‘Flush of white’
- Verbascum ‘Violette
- Pink poppy
- Snapdragons – two sorts
- Indigo Rose x 4
- Irish Gardener’s Delight x 4
- Jen’s Tangerine x 3
- Latah x 3
- Yellow Pear – this one’s your fault Caro! – x 4
- Moneymaker x 3
- Rosada x 3
I’m proud of how few (!) of each type of tomato I have grown this year, 100% germination and no massive over catering. A first. I also have various chillies, both sown this February and over wintered, and various sweet peppers, likewise. I am very intrigued to see the difference in growth and yield between the over wintered plants as compared to the ones sown this year. Some of the tomtatoes and all of the chillies and sweet peppers are still in the conservatory with the lemongrass, as the night time temperature doesn’t drop as low as it does in the greenhouse, though I do have a battle on my hands with red spide mite. Yuck…