Tuesday 21 February 2012

Baby it's cold outside!

As I write this*, the weather is starting to turn, to improve, to warm up, to tempt the novice gardener into a false sense of security and lull them into a mad frenzy of seed sowing, and frantic seedling-based activity.

I've seen this before - I feel like a wily old sea dog advising the hapless fisherman that they'll need a bigger boat.

I might just chew on a stick or something for effect whilst I type...

I have been collecting seeds over the past few weeks, both by emptying the contents of my wallet at the nearest garden centre and via the generosity of kind folk out there in Social Media land @HorticulturalH with an honorary mention.

Of course, this meant that I had a mass of seeds and nowhere to store them (I'd lost my seed tin and it's contents - still A.W.O.L). However, yet again the milk of human kindness washed over me (I needed a bit of a bath afterwards, as you know how milk goes when it sits around for a bit) and I was kindly sent the most amazing seed box - which I will keep for as long as I am sowing seeds - how gorgeous is this. Thank you, you beauty - you know who you are!

I've gone off track haven't I...

Yes, so (places chewing stick back in mouth) having been caught out before now and sown seeds aplenty only to find out that weeks later through lack of sunlight (we live in a shady house - that's not to say it's dodgy you understand, just lacks a little sunshine - which is not to say it's an unhappy house, just a little dark... Oh, bugger it). The lack of sunlight means that the poor little seedlings that poke their way through the compost searching for a little sunlight end up getting "leggy" and rather too feeble to hold themselves upright. Result - another sowing required and a lesson learned.

So this year - with the aid of my new highly organisable (?) seed box, I have a plan - well, a bit more of a plan than I've ever had before.

I spend a short while last week organising all my seeds into their respective sowing months slots in the seedbox - stood back and looked smug for a second.

Bask in the smugness...

There are a few seeds which are indicated sowing time of around now, but I'm holding out - I'm determined not to have any failures this year (seasoned gardeners will now this is utter foolhardiness, but I'm keeping my glass half-full).

As a result, I have not really sown/planted anything other than onions, garlic and a batch of peas.

So, to the onions - I bought 100 sets (I can't be faffed with seeds - though they smell lush) and on Sunday morning TheBoyWayne and I donned our cold weather gear and headed out.

We arrived at the site gate - locked, and nobody to be seen. Another sign that one might be a little early, but hey - we were there. I opened the gate and we made our way to plot 35.

I marked out the first line (with held from TheBoyWayne) and we started to place the onions sets firmly into the ground. Birds will pull at them, but if you firm them in nicely you shouldn't have too many casualties. Line one, then two, three and four - five or six lines in total and the job was done. The ground had a slight frosty crust, but nothing a quick forking (steady!) didn't sort out.

Onions - done.

Garlic followed soon after - a much quicker job. 3 bulbs - resulting in about 25-30 cloves, which will result in about 20 plants I'd imagine. Maths never was my strong point...

Anyway - just so I remember what they were:

By this time the cold was starting to take it's toll on the pair of us. One snotty nose and one slightly aching back - I'll leave you to decide who had what..

So - a quick wash of our hands and we'd head back.

En route to the tap we passed the chickens, which of course needed a quick visit to say hello and we all converse in chicklish chit-chat for a bit before TheBoyWayne decides that it's actually quite boring having a pretty much one way conversation (he should try having himself as a son sometimes).

Then - upon reaching the tap I remembered the sign at the gate "the taps have been switched off to avoid frost damage and will be switched back on once the weather warms up a bit" - or words to that effect. So we returned home proper grubby boys.

That is of course after TheBoyWayne had his Peppa Pig inspired splash in the muddy puddle to "clean" his boots.

Thanks Peppa!

We arrived back home to LadyWayne preparing Sunday lunch (we had some friends due round later that day), and TheBoyWayne decided it was a much more attractive proposition to help mummy out in the nice warm kitchen than outside in the cold with daddy. So, I cracked on getting some peas planted.

Now, anyone who's grown peas before will know that they throw down a long root system, and that starting them off in pots can be a bit troublesome. So, rather than sowing direct and feeding the local mice (one entire sowing was devoured by mice one year), I grow mine in loo roll centres.

Bear with me.

Loo roll centres make great "root trainers" - taking the roots straight down and giving the plant a better start. You simply fill the tube with compost, sow the seed and when ready to plant out, you place the whole thing, cardboard and all straight into the ground. The cardboard degrades after a time, but not before it's acted as a channel to focus the water straight down to the roots where it's needed most. You'll need a lot of loo roll centres for this method, so get a network going, ask friends and family to save them for you - you'll need all you can get. Storing them can be a challenge, but simply fold them up and stuff them inside another tube to save space:

Then, when ready to use, simply stand them up in a seed tray, fill with compost and sow 'till your heart's content.

Not sure if you can tell from the packet - but these are simply "Peas - Spring".

They are now sitting in the greenhouse - I'll hopefully see little green shoots poking through in a couple of weeks.

Until then, I will be mostly chitting potatoes...


*this is a slight lie, because it's 20:30hrs and it's a bit parky outside, but you get my drift...

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