Amanda’s April inspirations

Hello Everyone,

I hope you are all well.

These last few weeks have been really busy, April is an inspiring month. Before I set out to write this I had a quick read of my April 2015 diary and last years blog, as I was convinced that I was lagging behind in the greenhouse. However, according to my journal we had only just finished constructing the big greenhouse and we only had potatoes growing in sacks, onions and strawberry plants in the greenhouse so it turns out I’m actually a little ahead this year.

 

Potting up in the greenhouse

 

It’s hard to know where to start so I will begin by saying that my plug plants from Thompson & Morgan arrived, they include a Barnsley Baby Mallow, Nicotianas and Petunias. They have been potted on and are growing rapidly. To make room for my ever increasing seedlings, last September I sowed Yarrow, Californian poppies and nigella which have been hardened-off and planted either straight into the borders or into decorative pots. I have saved a few for mum  as I like to share my plants with her in return for cookery lessons.

 

Yarrow and Californian Poppy

 

The September sown sweet peas have been pinched out and I would recommend reading Kris Collins sweetpea diary for some really good tips on successful sweet pea growing. The geraniums have germinated and are taking on that distinct leaf shape that makes them so identifiable. Before long they will be transplanted into pots of their own so they can establish into healthy specimens before being moved outdoors. I thought I planted a pot of red and a pot of green basil but one pot has nothing in it whilst the other has both in it! The variety shown looks really pretty together and I’m wondering if I have stumbled across a new summer taste sensation Basil Lemonade and Rubin mixed with fresh tomatoes. Has anyone else combined two basil tastes together?

 

Potted plants in the greenhouse

 

Only one sunflower has germinated I’m not sure why this would be as they are in the same small greenhouse. I have sown more as these are one of my favourite plants. I’m still waiting for Malvin Mystic Merlin. I am also waiting for the Dahlia Cactus Flower, the Hot Chilli Peppers Prairie Fire, the Cycads, most of the Squashes and the Perennial Sunflower Helianthas Maximilian.

I have very recently sown two cucumber seeds, two pots of Baby Leave Lettuces, more Spencer Sweet peas, five pots of Everlasting Strawflowers, five pots of the half-hardy annual Bells of Ireland, three pots of Snapdragons, as well as several pots of Verbena Bonarienses as although this hardy perennial will happily self seed in our garden, last year the Blue Tits stripped the seeds and we have only two or three plants left out of the many we grew from an original seed packet at least six years ago. I have also sown some Asters as I love that it flowers mid summer to late autumn so it’s perfect for pollinating insects. In addition I have also taken the Begonia bulbs out of storage and put them in individual pots of compost to bring into growth.

 

Tomatoes

 

We are really impressed with the Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’, all the seeds have germinated and there is rapid growth. I decided to plant a whole packet on the basis that they might not all grow, but I should of had more faith. Luckily I can give some plants to family and friends as well as keeping three for myself. The Aubergines have germinated and so has the Sweet Bonita Pepper. These have been moved onto the hanging shelves in the big greenhouse and they are loving their new position. Also on the shelves are the Aloes, Cactuses and Spider plants, as well as a germinated Banksia Hookerenia, I can’t wait to see how long it takes for this to grow into a decent sized plant, at the moment they have a pair of leaves that seem to be opening wider apart and getting bigger each day. I have trays of germinating seeds on the shelves too, a mixture mostly of the flowers mentioned above. What has surprised me most is that as the shelves are nearer the roof the plastic tubs stay hotter for longer, meaning that the compost warms up quicker hopefully giving the seeds a more temperate state. One drawback is though that they do dry out a lot quicker.

Also in the bigger greenhouse are the Charlotte Potatoes. They have, in the last month, grown so rapidly I cannot earth them up any more as the sacks are full.  The leaves are strong and vibrant, although I am tempted to put them outside I always wait until the farmers in our neighbourhood take the plastic off their crops before I even think of hardening them off.

 

Potatoes

 

As I mentioned I am waiting for most of the squashes but I do have one Patty’s Pan that has grown, albeit a little weedy. Not everything has worked out unfortunately.  My direct sown two dozen radishes shot up for about two weeks then died. I don’t know if it was the rapid change of temperature from cold to very warm and then back to very cold again or the fluctuating light levels. Either way they are no more. I don’t know if I will grow any more of them. I don’t have a specific veg patch in the garden so perhaps I will wait until early autumn and try them in the bigger greenhouse in pots on the shelves.

The final job we did before I wrote this blog was to decide what to do with my massive Peace Lily, Money Plant and Aloe Vera.  They had outgrown their pots, and last summer I let them live outside, and apart from the Peace Lily the others successfully overwintered in the large greenhouse. Unfortunately they are now too big for the windowsills in my bungalow. My home is compact so we try not to have too many pots or ornaments cluttering the shelves. So I asked Mark if I could dig up the expired radishes in the border in the small greenhouse and settle them in the soil in there.  I have no idea if this is a good idea or not, but I really didn’t know what to do with them.  I didn’t want to give them away or plant them outside. I am hoping that it might make my small greenhouse look tropical and provide evergreen foliage throughout the year. I am hoping the heat they may generate will keep the seedlings warmer at night. I’m hoping it’s not a decision I live to regret!

 

Peace Lilly, Money Plant and Aloe Vera

 

I still have plenty of other jobs to do. I need to build my cane and string wigwam for my eating peas, keep an eye on the long term weather, as believe it or not there are sleet and snow showers forecast as well as frosty nights. I have to find and wash the bigger pots for the next stage of transplanting. If that’s not enough, I also want to keep up with all of the other cracking blogs on the T&M community page, and take a look at some of the growing guides. Whilst sorting out some DVD’s last weekend I came across the T&M E-zee Guide to planting Flower Pouches, I must watch this again as I would like to be able to gaze up at my ‘Night Sky’ Petunias.

Soon it will be May, another busy month, what with watering, thinning out, and repotting. But for now, I’m going to continue to enjoy the longer lighter evenings, pottering about after work with sieving, sowing and settling plants, sitting on a stool listening to the blackbird singing his evening song. The best things in life are definitely free.

Until next month,

Happy Gardening,

Love Amanda X

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

Expert tips for bigger and better sweet peas

3 simple tips for bigger sweet peas

Left to their own devices sweet pea plants will work their way up their supports, going on to produce masses of colour and scent. However, with a few simple training tricks you can turn an every-day display into a real show-stopper!

My tips here will encourage the fastest growth and the biggest blooms on the longest stems. You can see the difference my training tricks bring about in the photo below.

 

Training difference in sweet peas

Training difference in sweet peas.

 

Sweet Pea ‘Turquoise Lagoon’ in the left hand pot has been left to its own devices, while Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’ on the right has received some regular attention from me – and what a difference it makes. When I get home this evening I’ll have to add the next tier to the Tower Pot frame, it will be another couple of weeks before I have to do that for ‘Turquoise Lagoon’.

If you want the same results, simply carry out my three easy maintenance tips:

Remove side shoots: Check plants every few days for side shoot development. These divert energy away from the main stem, which delays flowering and reduces eventual flower size. Use snips or your thumb and forefinger to pinch out shoot growth as close to the main stem as possible.

 

Remove sideshoots

Remove sideshoots

Remove tendrils: Sweet pea plants put a lot of energy into producing tendrils and latching on to available supports. Divert that energy back into the main stem by snipping off tendrils before they latch on to a support.

 

Remove tendrils

Remove tendrils

 

Tie in: With no tendrils to hold up stems you’ll have to provide an alternative. I use sweet pea rings to keep my stems in place. They are quick and easy to put around both stems and supports, with plenty of room left between them. Therefore, avoiding any stem damage, and the rings can be used again and again. It is so much easier to work with than fiddly twine or raffia.

Sweet pea rings

Sweet pea rings

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Seed sowing and potting plugs during April

At last Spring is finally here! Not wanting to wish my life away, but it’s been a long underwhelming winter. I’ve been sowing seeds since February but now it’s all systems go: As one batch of seedlings needs potting on, it’s time to sow another batch. T&M plug plants have been arriving regularly. This year I decided that I would be well and truly geared up in the greenhouse: 9cm pots washed and stacked by colour (perhaps a little too obsessive?), new plant labels written up in advance with indelible pen (sick of guessing!), propagating lids washed (green algae tends to block out the light!), seed modules matched up with waterproof seed trays.

 

Ricinus from seed and sown seedlings

Ricinus from seed and sown seedlings

 

In preparation for the onslaught I moved all perennial divisions and bulbs outside into the sheltered gap between greenhouse and shed. The potted tree lilies were being nibbled by mice (ungrateful vermin, quite happy to accept the hospitality and shelter of the greenhouse over winter), now temporarily housed in the auricula theatre. My treasured tender salvias and cannas were allowed to stay inside, along with last summer’s T&M trial Fuchsia ‘Eruption’, which are showing signs of life, and of course sweet peas sown last autumn.

 

Seedlings in the sunroom

Seedlings in the sunroom

 

David is a huge chilli fan, so I have grown two each – an heir and a spare – of the following T & M varieties: Prairie Fire, Naga Jalokia, Tabasco, Tropical Heat, Padron and Cayennetta. Guaranteed to blow his socks off. Considering I have only just harvested the last of the 2015 chillies from two plants overwintered in the porch he is pretty much guaranteed to have chillies all year round. He was less than enthusiastic about the four ricinus plants that I have grown from seed, convinced that we will all be poisoned due to their toxicity. So they are growing like triffids in the warmth and sunlight of a high shelf in our sunroom, well out of reach of our seven cats. Eventually I shall plant them out on our roof terrace with grasses and exotics.

At the beginning of April I sowed Cucamelon for the greenhouse and Squash Patty Pan Summer Mix & Courgette de Nice a Fruit Rond for the allotment. We sampled the cucamelon at T&M’s Plant Triallists’ Open Day last summer. They were delicious and I can’t wait to snack on them in the summer.

Fuchsia Berry, Minitunia and Crazytunia plugs have transplanted well from their plugs into 9cm pots. I love receiving Order Despatch Confirmation emails from T&M so I can enjoy the anticipation of next lot’s arrival. Mail ordering in this way has become quite addictive!

 

Tomato Waterers

Tomato Waterers

 

I have also been busy filling gaps in the borders. With slugs and snails so fond of fresh young growth I always use my plastic Tomato Auto-waterer collars as protection around newly planted perennials. Although I have never used them for their original purpose I wouldn’t be without them. To give the plants the best start in life I have also sprinkled Incredibloom® fertiliser granules around and am looking forward to reaping the benefits.

 

Cats in the rubbish and the compost!

Cats in the rubbish and the compost!

 

And finally….not wishing to be overlooked is my Devon Rex cat Jitterbug who is showing green pawed tendencies. She does love to get involved in the garden!

 

Cat in the propagator!

Cat in the propagator!

Sweet pea diary – part 2

Just over 4 weeks from sowing, Kris’s sweet peas are ready for potting on. Here’s his daughter Ruby showing off the healthy young plants. The Haxnicks root trainers have encouraged really strong root growth, leading to fast, vigorous shoot growth.

 

Sweet pea root trainer and Ruby with the Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’

Sweet pea root trainer and Ruby with the Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’

 

Looking to produce the earliest flowers possible, the plants are now in a Tower Pot. All but the strongest side shoots have been retained, concentrating plant energy into a single stem for the fastest growth.  A few hours of supplementary lighting in the morning and evening should see the plants quickly cover the frame.

 

Tower Pot for Sweet peas

Tower Pot for Sweet peas

 

There’s still plenty of time to sow sweet peas for summer. The easy-sow seeds can be sown outside through March and April, where they are to grow. Why not join Kris and Ruby and grow Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’. Not only will you have a garden full of scent and colour this summer, you’ll be raising vital funds for the charity Thrive, which uses therapeutic horticulture to bring positive change to those with ill health or disability, or are isolated, disadvantaged or vulnerable.

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Sweet pea diary – part 1

We’ve had some good sunny days in Suffolk this week and spring is almost in the air. Have you made a start on sowing? What have you got in your propagators?

Our gardening expert Kris Collins is growing sweet peas with his kids this year. The seeds were sown on 10th Feb – they are growing Sweet Pea ‘Turquoise Lagoon’ for their colour-changing blooms, alongside Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’, launched this year to raise funds for Thrive, Thompson & Morgan’s Charity of the Year.

 

Week One Sweet Pea 'Eleanore Udall' & Sweet Pea 'Turquoise Lagoon'

Week One Sweet Pea ‘Turquoise Lagoon’ & Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’

 

The tips were pinched out last week to calls of “Daddy what are you doing to our plants?!” A quick lesson on the benefits of pinching out, and there are now two happy children looking forward to lots of lovely flowers this summer.

There’s still time to sow sweet peas indoors. Alternatively sow outside where you want them to grow. Get your Eleanore Udall seeds here – 50 % of proceeds go direct to the charity.

 

Sweet Pea 'Eleanore Udall' & Sweet Pea 'Turquoise Lagoon'

Sweet Pea ‘Turquoise Lagoon’ & Sweet Pea ‘Eleanore Udall’

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

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