Spring is on its way! Every farmer, gardener and outdoor working person will be able to identify with this, there is something in the air. One day we just step outside and the air feels and smells different. Bulbs are flowering, birds are singing and there is more heat in the sun. But it’s more than that, it’s an essence of things to come.
Amanda’s Potato Sacks & T&M Potato Sacks
My greenhouses are now filling up with fruit, veg and flower seeds that have been recently set. I love this time of year. I started out by asking Mark to find my potato sacks and give them a cold shower, so that there was no risk over overwintering pests or diseases in them that could affect my crop. After leaving the sacks to dry out in the big greenhouse until the weekend, I then set about choosing which seeds to grow. I did plan in January what I wanted, but then I changed my mind again. I do understand why garden designers say to just plant a few types of seeds with the same colour palette as it gives the garden uniformity, but I don’t like this style. I agree that it looks really effective, but to me, life is too short to just grow one type or colour of something.
So come Saturday, I sowed my potatoes and put them on the path of the large greenhouse where they will stay until the frosts have passed and they have been earthed up maybe once or twice. I also potted up some hot chillies and some mild peppers.
On Sunday I emptied everything out of the smaller greenhouse and gave it a good brush out. Mark then dug the greenhouse border over for me, pulling up a few weeds that had germinated in there over winter. Whilst he did this I took a variety of different sized pots into the house to give them a warm soapy wash in readiness for refilling.
Potato ‘Charlotte’ & Chilli Pepper ‘Poblana Ancho’
While the pots were drying I then set about sieving the garden centre compost. I enjoy doing this as its a great workout for my upper body. I place about three to five scoops of soil into the sieve and then shake it like mad until I have a fine potting compost in the tray below. The rougher stuff that is left in the sieve then gets thrown into the large borders in the bigger greenhouse, as its still good stuff just not great for the seeds. Sieving the compost also shows me what quality the shop bought stuff is like. I have bought what I thought was good value compost only to find out that it’s full of twigs and hard material and vey occasionally some clippings that seeds would not be able to push through. T&M sell incredicompost® but I have not used this as yet.
It takes me at least an hour to sieve about thirty litres of compost, it thirsty work but it’s nice in the sun. Mark is cutting the lawns so I sneak off to put the kettle on. Once inside I then look through my three tins of seeds. I am banned for buying seeds, according to Mark I have enough seeds to last me a few years. I like to have a choice though, and I always grow something new each year. Although I do have my favourites that I grow each year. These include sunflowers, peas and tomatoes.
Cycad seeds, Sunflower ‘Russian Giant’ & Pea ‘Aderman’
I am probably too methodical, but once my compost is sieved, I three-quarter fill all of the clean pots, this way I can see if I have enough compost, as it annoys me when I get to the last three or so pots at the end of the day only to find I have to drag everything back out and start sieving again.
I then put my seeds packets in order and using my seed sower device that looks a bit like a syringe I plant the number of required seeds into the pots. Sometimes I will sow the whole packet, but occasionally I just like to try a few seeds, this way if they fail the first time around, or an unforeseen change in weather kills them. I can always make a second sowing.
I start by planting three pots of Geraniums, I have not grown these from seed before so am excited to see how they differ from shop bought ones. There are eleven seeds in the packet so I put three per pot. Then I plant a single pot of Basil ‘Lemonade’, I love this herb, it’s so versatile. I also do a single pot of Basil ‘Rubin’, this is a very strong burgundy basil that I want to share with my friends and family. The Sunflower ‘Russian Giant’ are next, I plant five pots, two seeds per pot. Next is another plant I have not grown before, it’s called Malvin ‘Mystic Merlin‘ and it’s a mallow. The packet says its good for cottage style gardens and back of the borders, the flowers are lilac, purple and blue. This pack of seeds was part of a gift that I had for being blogger of the month towards the end of last year. I don’t think I have ever seen this plant before, so I can’t wait to see what it looks like. The tomatoes are next on the list. I am growing the Vegetable of the Year (2016) Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’ variety. It’s the best for blight resistance and as we had blight last year because of the warm wet summer, I am hoping I will have a much better crop. It’s also Year of the Cosmos so I plant up three pots with these seeds. Summer isn’t summer without going out into the garden and eating peas from their pods so I sow ten Pea ‘Alderman’ Heritage, they go into individual one inch pots. I never grow rows of peas, I train them up a wigwam and do succession sowing during the year. This way I can avoid the pests and crop for longer in the year.
Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’ & Cosmos ‘Xanthos’
I am eager to try a new vegetable too, so I sow three pots of Patty Plum Squash. These green skinned ones look like they would be nice stuffed and roasted. They also look good for a squash soup.
Finally I plant up my Cycads Species Mixed, again a free gift from T&M, there are only three seeds in this pack and one of them is huge as large as a fifty pence. It says they take one to three months to germinate, this is another new plant for me. I have seen them growing in botanical garden greenhouses, and I am a bit dubious about how big they are going to grow, but like I stated earlier, life’s too short to just grow one type of seed. I have a plan, that if they do grow they can stay in my small greenhouse turning it into a nursery and tropical space, whilst the bigger one can be for my fruit and veg. Mark did say if it gets too big it can always go outside, but being a greenhouse plant I don’t think it will survive. The Cycads are slow growing though so hopefully I will have few years to think about what to do with them if they actually grow.
After writing out a set labels on the back of old lolly sticks for each set of seeds, I then placed the tubs in wicker baskets and cover them with cling film to help retain heat and moisture during germination. I need to find my Dymo Machine so I can make individual labels for each pot, as I can guarantee things will grow at different times and I will move things around on the staging, and before I know it, my tomatoes will be in the garden borders and peas will be in the greenhouse, as I will have muddled the labels, or worse Mark will knock the labels off whilst watering and then I will have no idea what is what.
Just when I thought I had finished, I decided I would direct sow two dozen radish into the small greenhouse border. After all the soil was looking bare.
The above list might sound excessive but in all I only planted about thirty five pots and four sacks of potatoes. This will give me a good start and add to the plants that are now recovering from last month. It also leaves me with the opportunity to sow again later in the spring.
Petunia ‘Anna’ & Petunia ‘Night Sky’
Greenhouses aren’t just for germinating seeds though, they are a great place for bringing on plug plants, I am expecting a delivery soon from T&M of Petunia ‘Anna’, Petunia ‘Night Sky’ and my favourite Nicotiana ‘Eau d’ Cologne’. I have also ordered the shrub Barnsley Baby a Lavatera x clementii I have always fancied one of these and as it was on a special offer I could not resist. It comes in a seven centimetre pot so I might need to bring it on before it gets planted in the garden.
Greenhouses come in all shapes, sizes and prices, I started out with the plastic pop up ones many years ago, and I would recommend starting with these before investing in a horticultural one as this is a great test to see if you have the time and energy to devote to gardening whilst on a budget. My brother bought a lean to greenhouse last year, but as yet he hasn’t even built it, although he says its definitely going up this year and please can I supply him and the girls with some plants including aubergines. I hadn’t got around to sowing the aubergines.
So I now have another list of other plants that I have to grow for myself and the family, Aubergines, for my brother Sweet Peas and more Cosmos for mum, and a selection of herbs for someone at work. I usually grow loads of plants anyway so what’s a few more?
Do you end up growing more than what’s on your original gardening list or is it just me?
Until next month, Happy Gardening,
With news that the wholesale price of onions is set to rise by 60% in the coming weeks (Daily Mail 14 March), Thompson & Morgan is advising gardeners that there has never been a better time to grow your own onions from spring-planting sets.
The Thompson & Morgan onion range not only offers an economical solution to rising prices; better flavours, better bulb size and better storage life can be had too.
The wholesale price hike has been blamed on a poor 2015 harvest, brought about by a hot summer in Europe’s main production areas, which led to bulbs ‘bolting’ (running to seed) in the field before a late harvest due to a wet autumn. Onions that do make it to supermarket shelves will be smaller in size, with larger bulbs fetching a premium price.
Thompson & Morgan’s spring planting onion sets have been specially heat treated for 20 weeks to help prevent summer bolting and extend their growth period, leading to bigger yields and bigger bulbs at the end of the season.
Crops harvested in late summer can be prepared for storage and used right through winter, or until stocks last. Thompson & Morgan has 13 product options for spring planting onion sets, including brown, white and red options as well as mixed collections for a varied harvest.
Thompson & Morgan onion set prices remain unchanged, starting at £3.99 for 75 sets – already a vast saving on supermarket prices. ASDA currently sells 3 Grower’s Selection Organic Brown Onions for 97p. 75 onions would cost £14.55 in store – and that’s before any knock-on retail price hikes come into effect.
If small, expensive supermarket onions won’t cut it for you this season, make sure to try a large variety such as Setton, Hercules or Golden Ball, all selected for their large uniform bulb shape, full flavour and long storage qualities.
For the full range visit www.thompson-morgan.com
At Thompson & Morgan we know our customers demand high quality with exceptional value, which is why we have worked hard to produce a range of products which exceeds the high standards our customers have come to expect from us.
We have awarded our ‘Grow the Best’ rosette to some of our highest performing plants.
Our horticulturalists and customer trial panel carried out extensive field tests and put the plants through their paces in a variety of environments. Once the testing is completed we are given a considerable amount of feedback from our customer trial panel which without, we could not guarantee our ‘Grow the Best’ varieties with such confidence.
Potato ‘Jazzy’ & Begonia ‘Inferno’™
With this confidence we are able to offer a DOUBLE your money back guarantee if you are unhappy with any of our ‘Grow the Best’ products.
In this range of ‘Grow the Best’ we have both flowers and vegetables, with our Potato ‘Jazzy’ providing enormous yields both in the ground and in potato bags. These really exceptional second early potatoes are full of flavour and have been awarded the RHS AGM for their fantastic garden performance.
Customer favourite Petunia ‘Frills and Spills’™ Mixed’, is grown in the British climate for the British climate which means these delightful fragrant double bloomed petunias are completely weather tolerant and resilient to whatever the British weather can throw at them. The blooms are larger than normal petunia blooms, so when they cascade over the side of window boxes or hanging baskets they will provide a stunning summer display.
Fuchsia Giant Collection & Fuchsia ‘Bella Collection’
We have three varieties of fuchsias in our ‘Grow the Best’ range, the Fuchsia ‘Giant Collection’ which is our best value fuchsia. With giant frilled blooms which can flower up to 10cm (4”) across these eye-catching fuchsias will fill baskets and containers and last right through summer. Fuchsia ‘Bella Collection’ includes a range of five different varieties with some upright and bushy and others ideal for cascading; making these beautiful fuchsias perfect for almost any type of container. Our final fuchsia in this exceptional range is Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’ which produces in excess of 2,000 blooms from the beginning of summer right through until November. Outlasting almost everything else in the summer garden, this hardy shrub can tolerate temperatures down to -10C (14F), which means it can be planted to cover unsightly walls or frames and will perform better and better year after year.
Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’
Out of all the begonias we produce, Begonia ‘Inferno’™ is one of our customer favourites. Bred to perform whatever the weather it offers colour, vigour and unstoppable flower power! Perfect for low maintenance gardens and fast growing, this is one for those who don’t have much time but still want to enjoy an awesome display.
Why not peruse the ‘Grow the Best’ range as we are sure you will find plenty of the varieties are already your favourites.
Have you ever really considered what attracts you to gardening or plants in general? Is it the way they look, the colours they produce, you can eat them or they were just the ones that the shop had at the time? For me it’s a bit more sciency (yes I’ve just made a new word).
We all know that you can set a seed, keep it warm and damp and it will grow. That part is no different to how we reproduce. (Well slightly but the theory is the same.) Except plants don’t just reproduce by seed. Some you can break a piece of them off, put it into water on a windowsill and it starts to shoot roots and grow more leaves. Others simply grow another version of themselves out the side of them, which you can then divide.
It simply fascinates me that they can do this. We can’t simply chop off a toe or take some hair and place it into water to grow another one of ourselves. If we could it might have some rather drastic consequences.
Of course we do share some similar qualities to plants in the way we present ourselves to others to be able to continue to stand as a human race. I know that sounds rather strange but we put on make-up, dress in certain ways and spray ourselves silly with perfumes and aftershaves. But plants are very special in how they do this. They get someone else to do the work for them.
Take the bee orchid. How has it evolved to know that it needs to produce a flower that looks like the bee that pollinates it to reproduce? Or the Titan Arum which has a 10 foot tall flower and smells of rotten meat to attract its pollinators? Some plants will only open when they cane ‘hear’ the vibration of the certain insect that can pollinate it. Others make their fruits attractive to birds because they need the stomach acid to soften the seed coating before it can germinate.
Is it possible that maybe plants, although do not have a physical brain like animals, really do think and have managed to manipulate the world around them for their own advantage? This might be a bold statement but really, plants are far superior to the animal kingdom. After all they have been here thousands of years before us so they should have a good head start. I just can’t get enough of them.
Until next time Lesley
We supply petunias in several plug plant sizes, but there’s a real sense of satisfaction in growing a show stopping summer display of petunias from seed.
Somewhere along the line, petunias have gained a wrongful reputation of being difficult to grow from seed. This has more than likely come about by poor sowing techniques or bad compost rather than poor seed performance. Every seed ‘wants’ to grow, some just need a few more specific requirements. It’s wrong to assume that all seeds can be sown the same way.
If you want the earliest summer colour and nice sized, bushy petunia plants to place in the garden after the last frosts in May/June, it’s a good idea to sow petunia seeds 12 weeks ahead of your expected last frost. The first week of June is a safe bet for planting in most of the UK, therefore petunia seeds are best sown in March.
Peat-based composts are still the best option for sowing petunia seeds. Our new incredicompost®
has recently been verified as the best compost for sowing seeds and raising young plants.
The temperature for germination should be between 18-24C (64-75F) at seed level and this can usually be provided in a heated propagator, if this is not available, seal sowing trays in a clear polythene bag in a warm room of the house. A room which becomes cool at night should not be chosen.
It is important to sow thinly and not to cover the seed, even a thin covering of compost can severely reduce germination. The lack of a compost covering necessitates very careful monitoring of the moisture in the compost, for if the surface of the compost dries out the young seedlings will quickly die. This is best achieved by covering the seed pots with polythene or glass and a sheet of newspaper to reflect strong light, so the surface of the compost does not heat up too much, but some light still penetrates.
Transplant seedlings once they have produced two true leaves. After potting on the temperature is important. Temperatures below 10C (50F) discourage growth of the main central shoot and encourage the development of side shoots from low down on the plant. Unfortunately this also delays the appearance of the first flowers. At temperatures above 15C (59F) basal branching is restricted, the main stem grows more quickly and flowering is hastened. By sowing in early spring and keeping the temperature cool after pricking out, well branched plants should be produced which will flower more effectively when planted out in the garden.
When the rosettes of foliage cover the compost the trays can be moved from the greenhouse to frames and grown cool. As long as the plants are frost free they are happy. Although they are not as hardy as their relatives the nicotianas, they are tougher than many people think. They can be planted out as soon as the last frost has passed.