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!


  1. Oh...I feel your pain, I'm on the same merrygoround! Where to move what to and maybe not prick out just yet as pots are thin on the ground. Love all your seedlings...I say...Bolivian Giant achocha sounds exciting!xxx

    1. First time growing this giant achocha, Dina - I’m confess to being rather excited at the prospect! I usually grow fat baby achocha (more because I don’t pull the self sown seedlings out in time) and decided it was time for a change. Achocha seem to do well even in the most dismal of summers here so I have high hopes! Good luck with your potting on - we all grow too many plants, don’t we! Xxx

  2. You are so organised! I unfortunately didn't think to buy myself some seed and potting compost early enough and by the time I thought about it we were into lockdown. I have been using my own compost with grit added and just hope that it will be ok for all the little plug plants that are arriving en masse! I've managed to find enough small plant pots thank goodness so now have everything potted up. Mine are just in the greenhouse with the door open at night time, so I hope they will get hardened off ok, I don't think we should have any more frosts down here in Devon, otherwise I'll be dashing down to close the greenhouse door while you are seeing to your little plants!

    1. I’d love to lay claim to being organised, Pauline, but I only have seed compost because of serendipitous purchases last autumn. I’m sure your seedlings will be fine - better off probably as I’d lay bets that your own compost is far superior to shop bought! I think we should all be safe from frosts now - my waking thought this morning was to wonder how many weeks it was until mid summer - the year is speeding by!

  3. I know peak bottleneck well - I’m glad it’s rained too as now I can get plants moved outside

    1. I rubbed my hands with glee at all the lovely puddles outside, the garden looked so perky after a quick refresh. As lovely as the sunshine is, I think all gardeners will be glad of the rain.


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