There are many things I look forward to in November, bonfire night, my Mum’s birthday, occasional Black Friday Deals, Cyber Monday, and even Mo-vember when the men in our office would compete all month with each other to grow the best moustache, and be sponsored by the rest of the workforce to raise money for prostate cancer research. But the one thing I didn’t look forward to was an empty greenhouse. So this year, I thought I’d have a go at overwintering more than just a few delicate plants, tubers, strawberries, and kale or onion. Only, it’s all gone a little bit wild.
My intention was to set off a few seeds, with the hope that they would germinate before the cold weather set in – that said, I wanted the seedlings to be big enough to be transplanted into 2-3 inch pots so that they could put down a good root system and then become more leafy in early spring. The seedlings had other ideas. They were so happy to be placed in warm autumnal compost that they grew exceptionally fast. Last month I transplanted the bigger babies and placed them in the cold frame to calm down. All was going well until, suddenly the cold frame was too small, the weather had turned to biting winds and heavy downpours meaning they could no longer be moved to their final growing positions. What the dickens was I now going to do with all the plants that I had grown?
To be honest this has been the best Autumn for me in gardening terms ever. Looking back over the last three years of my Autumn posts I have noticed that we are having similar mild temperatures, little frosts, but biting winds, that sometimes turning into damaging gales. As with previous years, slugs seem to invade my greenhouse at this time of year, more than Spring. Sneaking in to munch on fresh seedlings. Also, this time last year I was banned from gardening because of my chemotherapy so, maybe it’s just a case of truly appreciating the greenhouses more, and choosing to be in them regardless of the weather.
So this month I have been in The Office transplanting Old English (Orange) marigold, Snow Princess Calendulas, Malva Moschatas, Larkspur, cornflowers, Nasturtium, Radish,Turnip, Heleniums and Radish. I still need to do the Amaranthus, but I ran out of pots. Then when I transplanted them, they grew like crazy in the mild weather.
I’m still waiting for the foxgloves, Knifophias, liatris, and grasses as well as the hyacinths. I lost the two white lavender cuttings,I tried to rescue from the garden centre.
The tiny single leaf cutting I took from my Christmas cacti in the spring has grown threefold. He will be brought into the house in early December where he will live until it’s time to give him as a present to an unsuspecting relation or friend.
Joy of joys, I still have a yellow stuffer tomato growing with a few ripening fruits. I am trying to beat my own record of having a tomato from an unheated greenhouse in December. I really hope I can achieve this. I wonder if there is a record for this? I am sure I read somewhere that tomatoes are perennial, but that as growers we treat them as annuals. Have you heard this? I’m going to experiment with my current plant – though I’m not holding out much hope, you can bet your bottom dollar that as soon as I write this, it will either succumb to blight, frost or just die back to annoy me.
The other indoor border plants are showing no signs of going dormant for the winter. These plants never get slug attacked. But then again the cacti and Aloes are spiky, the money tree is woody and maybe the houseplants don’t taste great.
I need to give the greenhouse a good sweep out and tidy up a set of staging, which is now mostly holding seed germination trays, string, hand tools, solar lights, and other gardening paraphernalia. I need to do this on a fairly dry day so I can lay stuff on the grass without getting soaked.
Meanwhile in Ty Mawr the spent tomatoes, aubergines,amaranths and marigolds have been cleared away. All done by Mark as due to my heart failure, I’m not allowed to lift heavy or repetitive loads or dig. The shelves are full of dahlias drying off to be wrapped in newspapers for the winter. As well as the spider plant, three baby money plants, again for unsuspecting relatives or friends, a basket of winter heathers and cyclamen from a dear friend, and random bits and bobs like spare secateurs, string and scissors.
The left and back have been dug over, but the canes and wire framework has been left for next year’s fruits. However, one of my T&M aubergines is still standing in the back border on account of it being absolutely tiny and hardly any bigger than when it got transplanted there in early summer. It’s now going to be another experiment to see if it can overwinter in an unheated greenhouse. This little plant never gave me any fruits, so I’m hoping the fact that it’s established before any other food stuff goes in next year, it may turn out to be early fruiting and the most tasty.
The right border has 2 snail munched pepper plants that appear to have gone dormant. Again in my madness, I’m going to see if they will last out the winter. Next to it is the purple nicotiana that insists on pushing up more flowers – although it is starting to get a bit droopy. A chilli pepper plant that is still only about two foot high yet continues to produce red hot chillies – albeit rather late in the year. If I remember correctly the chillies don’t usually die off until December with me, so who knows, it may be chillies and turkey on Christmas Day.
The onions have slowed down their growth, but look ok. They have been joined by a turnip that the slug missed last month.
Then in my infinite wisdom (sarcasm is such a low form of wit…) I asked Mark if he would help me put at least small 60 pots of plants from The Office into the newly dug borders. Which roughly translated as” Mark, will you put these plants in the soil, while I stand about looking like I know what I am doing, and not making a huge mistake when they all drop their seeds and you have to dig out flowers from fruit next year please?”
Then I made him put some in the right border too, just to make use of the sparsely populated soil.
I’m trying to convince myself it will be okay! On the plus side I will have a spring filled greenhouse of black cornflowers intermingled with bright orange marigolds. Both plants will attract bees which in turn will pollinate my fruits. The plants will also make the stems of tomatoes and aubergines look pretty and colourful,and give off a beautiful scent. They may also help with deterring pests.
On the negative, I may accidentally attract a colony of slugs. I may have planted the flowers too late in the year and they may not get enough root establishment to see them through the cold weather – although each plant was very pot bound and could no longer support its leaves due to the rapid growth. And finally I may end up wishing I never put flowers in the food greenhouse as they now grow like weeds. Only time will tell.
Lastly the cold frame is still full with foxgloves, violas, marigolds, larkspur and cornflowers. I don’t think there is time before the first frosts to put them in winter pots, so,they will stay there until spring.
Over the next few days, I am hoping to ask Mark to dig up the rest of the dahlias, and cut back the strawberries. We need to move the geraniums and begonias into one of the greenhouses to keep warm. The raspberry canes have been cut, we need to move s plum tree, and cut back the shasta daisies the Gladiola stems and the spent hollyhocks. Believe it or not the grass also needs cutting too.
I’m still off sick at the moment and although I feel so much better than before, I still get hit with unexpected fatigue as well as feel the cold so much more. I don’t have the energy that I used to, nor the strength or stamina. But what I do have is the passion to learn more and more each day, the need to feel the sun/wind/rain on my face, the love for gardening and wildlife. If nothing else I have found out that nothing can make me more happy than being able to play in the mud once again.
Until next time.
Love Amanda xx