We’ve only just begun

chillies-in-grow-lightsLittle chirrups of green waving in the propagator, a sight that never, ever gets old.

Chilli germination seems to be as hit and miss as ever. Half the varieties are romping away and now under lights (including all the Black Nagas!), while others are resolutely not bothering. It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not it is fresh seed or old. I can stick some new seeds in, but there is a bustling queue for the heated propagator now.

My dilemma, as every year, is whether to cull? I sow more seeds than I want plants, particularly when it comes to chillies or my stock of older seeds. Every year I wonder which/how many seedlings to keep and which to either bin or pinch off for a (tiny) side salad. If I bin or eat the extras, the Fungus Gnat of Doom has a tendency to bless my seedlings with root-eating maggoty bounty and soon I am sowing again. If I don’t, my one set of growlights is rapidly overwhelmed, and there are rumblings of disquiet from Him Indoors as our windowsills become terraced with tinfoil-collared pots.

raspberry-cuttings-bucketAfter days of rain it’s been gloriously sunny today. I hope March is kind. Trays of wispy onion seedlings will be sent off for a survival test in the greenhouse soon, together with a couple of bags of early potatoes. I spent yesterday re-installing the shelves, trying not to drop the nuts for the cropped bolts. They are a b*gger to find again in the soil. My spirit level just reaches across 2 struts so I am reasonably assured the shelf isn’t listing. I forgot to sow mangetout for a greenhouse crop this year, which at least means I can shelve both sides. Also in the greenhouse is a bucket of Joan J cuttings, just to see whether they will root. They seem more intent on developing early flowers though.

chitting-broad-beanThose disgusting, holey broad beans chitted pretty well – the second time that beetle damage hasn’t really affected whether or not they grow. So that’s me convinced. Next time there are holes I’ll pop them in the freezer for a few days and be a lot more sanguine about it. Though probably less sanguine if beetles are skittering around the bottom of the tin again.

rhubarbBoth plots are pretty wet, but nothing like as bad as last year. I think I am a week away from my first rhubarb crumble, which is very exciting! Not much else I can do up there till it’s drier – I’ve redone all the woodchip paths, setting a layer of thick card underneath for water absorption as well as suppressing opportunistic weeds, and they’re both dry and look very smart. plot-92-woodchippedThe only other job to do is sort out a base for the shed’s new spot. It’s a job I am dreading and is becoming increasingly urgent, though at least the efforts of shifting slabs, mattocking and barrowing will eat into my winter layer of chubby.

muck-bayI volunteer at Epsom’s Riding for Disabled once a week, which is something I love and used to do as a teenager sometime last century. As a Brucie bonus I take about 150L of rotted manure away each week. All my allotment fruit is gradually getting a thorough mulching. The horse manure (and it’s nearly all pure poo, with very little bedding) is obligingly sorted into bins ranked by age. My only, but very real, concern is that the heap’s becoming increasingly mushy & unstable with all the rain and hides unexpected crevasses. I’ve already sunk to nearly below welly-level once. I can see a very smelly accident in my future.

The pictures below are of the gooseberry bushes being ashed, fed & mulched. The buds on the little Invicta are already breaking forth, so it’s not a moment too soon!

My plans to use some of last year’s crapaudine beetroots for seed might just have been thwarted. I lulled myself into thinking that they would be ok in the ground, since they were last year, but we’ve had some savage frosts. Most of them have started rotting – I assume they’re unusable if, when you squeeze them, bright red gunk oozes from the crown…Five of the least soft have come home, stuck in a pot and my fingers are firmly crossed. If not I’ll try again next year, setting a reminder to stick them in a clamp in the garage come late Autumn.

mulberry-charlotte-russeThe remaining parsnips are sound, and starting to leaf up so I’d better get on with eating them. Three of them are destined to be left for seed so I have my own fresh Guernsey Half-Long parsnip seed from this year. Plus extra for seed circles or anyone else who wants it.

Plants I ordered on t’internet have started to arrive. I use the ‘it’s not seeds though’ rationale with Him Indoors, who just sighs. I am very, very excited about the Charlotte Russe dwarf mulberry which is residing temporarily in the greenhouse. I tried mulberries for the first time last year and they’ve gone straight onto the ‘must-grow’ list. You can apparently espalier the larger varieties, but I have no room for more trees on the plots. That’s something for when I have my half-acre walled garden. A potted dwarf will just have to do.

And bookending this post is a very lovely pink-flowered rosemary, bought last year from Pepperpot Herbs at the Wisley show and flowering now. My balcony blue variety is just a couple of weeks behind.


12 replies

  1. I am having the same joy with chilli germination. It feels like they have been in ages and only two are starting to break the soil level. Its nice to see your photos of your gooseberries, fruits the one thing we dont have any of on my plot so im search for ideas for autumn/next spring. Had to laugh at your winter layer of chubby. I also am wearing my extra winter coat, but it really needs to go and Im hoping digging will help!


    • I can’t dig yet (am itching to start), my plot’s like slurry. Fruit is wonderful on a plot. So much of mine never makes it home, like peas. Hopefully both of us will have teeny chillies poking up soon.


  2. I have clinical over-propagation syndrome. Recognised horticultural sickness, I understand. Symptoms are many and quite serious: inability to resist seed catalogs, knowingly sowing orders of magnitude more seeds than could ever sensibly be used, anxiety over limited propagating space, neglect of family unless they invade the greenhouse, unrealistic dreams of self-sufficiency and potentially blowing the pension fund to open a nursery. Ssdly, once infected, there is no cure. Symptoms can be managed by weekly dose of Gardener’s World, although there is some evidence that this simply encourages the patient!


    • I used to blow all my money on shoes and cocktails…now it’s seeds and hoarding pennies for a house with an actual garden. Who’d’a thunk it?!


      • Jealous of your manure supply, by the way. Our local stables used to have an enormous mound of pretty well rotted manure that one could help oneself to. They sold it all to a manure supplier and have done a deal with them to collect so that source has gone, sadly.


  3. I am envious of your Rosemary. Last year my son was living here with his dog and he (the dog that is not my son) wee’d all over my rosemary and it died. We bought a new pink rosemary (as I have nice healthy purple up at the plot) to go into a new bed in the garden which had ‘dog protection’ around it. Anyway, dog now moved down the street and dog protection removed but pink rosemary no where to be seen?!? I can only think that the borage that also grew in the bed last year blotted all light out (the borage was HUGE) and it died. Ah well, I will be visiting a nice garden centre in a couple of weeks and a new pink rosemary might just be coming home with me to replace. I will also be restricting the borage growth as it was too enthusiastic.

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  4. How long would you leave seeds in the freezer and do you prepare in any way? E.g. In a paper bag, plastic bag etc?


    • For beetles? I’d put them in a paper bag/envelope and freeze the beans for 2-3 days then defrost and sow. The seeds need to be properly dry before freezing or moisture will bust the cell walls.