29 Apr 2020

Pot(ter)ing on

Last weekend, and for a few days before, stage two of annual veg growing, otherwise known as Peak Bottleneck, has been reached here.

Tray of seedlings on a balcony ledge
Just one of the trays on my tiny balcony

Peak Bottleneck, as every balcony gardener knows, is when things start to back up and there are too many arrivals (tiny seedlings) and not enough departures (bigger plants).  Suppliers of seeds will be feeling the same right now, with too many orders coming in and not enough staff to fulfil those orders. Their solution is to temporarily close down their websites to stem the flow; my salvation lies in a newly purchased mini greenhouse, which has been put together but still resides in my living room as a useful night-time spot for my baby plants.

Plants in modules or tiny pots dry out quickly so need regular watering; my other time honoured remedy is to pot everything on into bigger pots (7 or 9cm) until they're sturdy enough to be planted into the garden and withstand rain, wind, slugs, etc.  A healthy plant has a much better chance of survival but even those will be challenged by baking heat and a lack of regular watering. Best to keep them nearby, for now.

I have a balcony full of seedlings and do the Hokey Cokey dance most evenings when a decision has to be made as to whether I dare leave any of them out overnight. Daytime temperatures have been in the 60-70°F zone, dropping to around 45°F at night (chilly) so tiny seedlings are brought in, bigger plants (brassicas, etc) stay out. And when I say ‘bigger’, I'm referring to the plants that have matured enough to show their first true leaves, like this Bolivian Giant achocha - a vine that will eventually grow to over 3 metres (and hopefully be dripping with large, pepper-like fruit).

Bolivian Giant achocha seedling showing first leaves

The tiny seedlings are the modules of tomatoes and chillies that didn’t get sown until the beginning of April as I didn't want them stretching towards the light as they grew. Now that they're soaking up the outside light during the day, the tomatoes are doing well, 50 and counting, the chillies not so much. Another evening basking in the soft flow of warm 26°C air from my fan heater might help. I shall persevere.

Tomato seedlings ready to pot on

My job today is to prick out my tomatoes, if I can find enough spare small pots. I know where most of the pots are because they're currently occupied by sweet peas sown in early January. Those sweet peas need to be planted out as soon as I've built a structure for them to climb and that task is subject to me deciding where everything else will be planted. And then I can start again with round two of sweet peas, beans, peas, beetroot, salad leaves, etc, etc, etc. It's akin to one of those sliding puzzles where one bit has to move before the rest fall into place.

Wish me luck!

19 Apr 2020

Spring progress ... but not as we know it

Mid-April, even in the southern counties of the UK, can be cold, wet and windy. This year though, there have been some joyously warm days when spring has overlapped with summer and brought vibrant colour to the garden.

There’s nothing like a few days of warm sunshine to bring everything out in the garden - me, the flowers, germinating veg seeds and, of course, more seed sowing! A little garden update is due ...

Deep pink cyclamen lit up by evening light in the garden
Evening light, setting sun and ... pink.  I may have stopped breathing for a moment.

Let’s start with some colour.

11 Apr 2020

Chuffed as a Weed: #2 Myosotis

Forget-me-not flower growiing out of a wall

With spring well underway, I’m spending quite a bit of my gardening time bending over to pull out weeds. Little and often is my method for keeping the worst weeds at bay, but what is a weed anyway?

4 Apr 2020

End of March in the Veg Patch

Narrow garden within a low wall, with soil for growing food plants, surrounded by paving.
Hardly a vision of beauty, although this space will fill up fast.

Isn't it lovely the way our gardens are giving us hope and keeping us sane, carrying on regardless while the world beyond the garden gate is mostly off limits? Even if the weather isn't good, I like to have a wander around the gardens here most days and feel much calmer for it. I'm lucky that I have two gardens to look after - the veg patch and the car park garden - plus a few borders including the triangle by the washing lines which is mostly maintenance free (although there are some gaps crying out for new plants).

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