Classroom experimentation

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I have long wanted my own teaching space; and having acquired one, wanted to ensure it has some Greenary in it. Adorning my window sills are Cactii. Christmas Cactii to be exact. Most of them, and there are 13, are what I term rescue cactii. Rescue in that at the beginning of term-September-I espied them in a local DIY store, looking a bit miserable, sorry for themselves and reduced to something like a pound each. I thought why not, these are cactii, they don’t need to be pampered. They should be okay. Besides, they flower; they could look pretty ugly in the right sort of way.

For a number of weeks, they sat happy and a few of them in fact flower. I think in total, three have flowered. Red and pink so far. And they have been stunning. The students have grown attached to them. In the picture above you see Bruce. Ain’t be pretty?

The cactii were allocated name by my 60 students. Each put a name on a ballot. They were drawn from a hat with random allocation.

The psych room cactii are

Lancelot
Valerie
Meg
Desert
Rob
Christabelle
Collin
Nelson Thorne
Herburt
Bruce
Ezra
Cactus Jack
Kevin

As indicated before, a few have flowered. With only a few more weeks left, I do wonder about the rest! Here’s hoping.

And! One last thing. The ponsietta. I normally have flowers on my desk. Once small bunch over a fortnight. The horror today, when they weren’t there! It took a whole for the bright red plant to register. “That’s not reall!” Were the cries from the classes. It is, and hopefully it will stay real. The premise being to keep it past Christmas.

Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural hobbit

Kevin the miserable, moody aubergine

aubergine_floweraubergine note

This year, there were high hopes for the aubergine analogue study. Why? Because of this guy. Okay, admittedly, I grew him outside, and did temporarily have a plastic greenhouse over him and Claude the astia Courgette. Alas, the wind took it and it was goodbye greenhouse. At one stage, there was a plastic bag covering him as a cloche.

There are many naysyers with aubergines, and to be fair, I can see why. These are fickle, fanciful creatures. If they do not like the conditions, noses are turned up and little feet are stamped. The aim of the aubergine analogue study was to learn from the kevin mistakes.

Not sure if I will try again!

Yours in anticipation

Horticultural Hobbit

Gladys-the Butternut Squash Triffid

Six foot tall, triffids are terrible tyrants.

Perhaps that is an exaggeration.

Armed with a packet of seeds, last year I tried to investigate just what makes triffids tick. So Gladys the Butternut came into being. At that time, last summer, space really was at a premium in Dad’s back yard. Gladys was grown up, rather than out.Seemed a good idea at time, And boy, did she grow.

Growth was incredibly rapid, and for someone who knows nothing about growing curcurbits, that was scary. I have since learned that curcurbits are incredibly greedy feeders. They benefit from pooh in their beds to help them do their thing,

gladysbutternut

All seemed well, there were flowers.I think all in all, five blooms arrived. I may have used a couple to play with Bruno actually. There were fruits, but these were fruits that were simply not working. A failure to pollinate the most likely reason. There were prior to this, many many male flowers, the girls took their time arriving.

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I do think I will try again. Just need to consult my notes this time!

Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

Bruno the Ghostrider Pumpkin

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Last year, the one true result, had to be Bruno the Ghost rider Pumpkin. Mama H took pity on a £1.50 seedling whilst we were visiting the Garden Cafe in Kings Heath. I was dubious, at first. Pumpkins have never really hit my radar, I wouldn’t have given them much thought. So why not?

Planted in a tomato grow bag-the £1 sort from poundland-the seedling was observed at close quarters in Dad’s garden. He was protected, first of all, with the bottom of a pop bottle. Cut off and used as a cloche. A good move, else slugs and bad weather would have taken Bruno before his time. He grew, grew, and grew; becoming a triffid of one sort. It was a heartening process, to see something so small, grow into a beast!

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By late summer last year, there were something like four babies. I couldn’t quite decide what to do with the fruits. There was no knowing, would one take off; would all four? Well one did. Precious and therefore pampered, the one fruit did come off. About six weeks before Hallowe’en, the fruit was taken off the vine. Dad reckoned that if it wasn’t removed, it would probably go bad. Taken off, it was left to ripen on the window sill.

Then what happened? Well, Ma curried it.

Yours in anticipation

Horticultural Hobbit

Still a very sorry, soggy sight….

Soggy still, the plot yeilds a wearied shake of the head. As we anticipate another dose from the Siberian beast from the east; there does not seem to be any let up from the elements. My heart well and truly sinks, each and every time a drop of rain falls.

The water is, as you can see, still standing, and does not seem to be any hurry to go anywhere. The puddles are more than a couple of inches deep. One step in the wrong direction, and you will need to be fished out somehow. I took a walk down there as dusk fell, to see what exactly the damage was. The raised beds seem to be okay. It is the surrounding flat that is in the most trouble; especially the far side of the plot. There a lot of water has pooled, covering a third of the plot and submerging one rose bush.

On the near side, one would have expected some of the over wintering onions to have risen. I had to delicately return a few today into their holes; they had exited, most likely at the beaks of a bird or two. I couldn’t see many if any that had started to sprout. Perhaps it is still early; though they were sunk in October some time. Or perhaps, with the increased levels of precipitation, the hungry water logged clay has eaten them. I am feeling sorely disappointed about it really. I don’t recall last autumn or winter being so damp and squalid. There will be a lot of surprise, if anything that is over wintered actually comes off.

The wendy house really is a shadow of its former self. With no cover, it looks like a bare skeleton with its flesh picked off. I am debating the investment into a proper wooden wendy house,-yes, a shed- of the same proportions. One that won’t take flight or keel over. Though you cannot be sure of that not happening, given the erratic nature of the elements. One has been window shopped, and may well be purchased before Christmas. From first glance it does fit within the allowed parameters. The one job that is also weighing heavy on my mind, is the filling of the raised beds with compost. There are 12 beds in all. Whilst there builders bags full of leaf mold; these take time to break down. It would be nice to have the beds usable within time. I have yet to get my head around finding manure possibly, to put into the beds. That would at least break down and cook over the winter months. Ultimately, I think the entire plot will be raised beds; a shame, since the clay could actually be quite useful in being so nutrient rich.

The seed stashers have been fished out of Dad’s shed. There is vast plethora of seeds between the two boxes. Some which I will try and use, others which I may not. For example, the aubergine seeds; I have a number of varieties. The aubergine experiment failed to work, in that there were no fruits at all. Lots of foliage based plants, with pretty purple flowers. But nothing else. So they may well go. One thing I plan to have a go at, is to sown some seeds and place them onto the classroom windows. Perhaps some tomatoes, chillies, courgettes; various things that could be transplanted with growing season.

Ice Ice baby

Ventured down the plot this morning. Was all rather crispy and crunchy underfoot. Not quite sure which one is safer; having slushy mud under foot or Ice.

A sheet of ice covers the puddles that dot the plot. Looks a lot like a sheet of glass, that would be really quite precarious if one was to stick a wellington through it. There is little beauty to be observed on the plot at the moment. The desolate damp nature, makes it all a bit dreary. Though the potential is there; that is the upside. It could all be beautiful.

There are things growing though! Not many, I might add. There are green shoots scattered around. Suggesting onions and garlic are taking flight. For the moment, we shall see!

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Puddly, pools, paddle boat?

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Walked down to the plot today, just to see what difference a couple of days had made if at all. Needless to say, it hasn’t. It was dry today, or at least I think it was; the little that I saw of the day having been inside for the most part. All that is missing really, is perhaps a couple of gold fish, a frog, a rubber ducky. Watching the news as I speak, the newsanchor suggests that the precipitation will continue into next week and there is possibility of the white stuff also descending. Well, they always say that at this time of the year. Apparently, 93mm of rain fell over the weekend. That would make sense, given the level of water that seems to be just sitting there on the plot. This flooding business may only get worse.. The wendy house, a former shadow of itself, stands there all skeletal looking. I would just it to be dry for a spell. Dry. I don’t mind cold. But dry, and lack of precipitation perhaps.

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I’ve attached the links as I have yet to figure out how to put videos and things in. It is somewhat perilous just getting to the plot. The red wellingtons squelched some what in making my way to the plot. As you get closer and closer to plot 2a, the surface underfoot becomes muddier and muddier. It is difficult to stop sliding around and not ending up one’s backside. I met another plot holder as I left. He had a story to share, given how I had shared my excess of onion sets with him. He had sunk them, as you do. Only for evil squirrels to dig them up, bite the bottom and then rebury them. This is apparently what the critters do with acorns and such like.

When it comes to my own plot; something is growing. Something has sent up some green shoots. There are a couple of green shoots belonging to broad beans. Easily recognisable with the big, wrinkly leaves and stout shoot. The shoots of the onions and garlic are quite slender in comparison. All is not lost, just a bit of it. Perhaps some rescuing could be done in the Spring. Though this spring, putting in onions at the point didn’t really work; or the onions for that matter. Even so, it was from the spring that we had the start of this years miserable freak weather. The sogginess is just as demoralising as not having a productive plot. I have been advised to move; but I really don’t want to. Having worked so hard on this one, I’d like to see all that hard work pay off.

Sat at home, is the pot grown Reuben Blackberry. Hardy as it may be, I’m not sure about sinking it into wet clay. In addition, raspberry canes are expected at some point. Have invested in a pot making device; you know the sort, the little wooden things that you wrap newspaper around.

Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

Vamps Vanquised

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If ever you need a fluke to make you feel good. This was most certainly it.

The first of many things that I did when obtaining a half plot was plant garlic. It seemed easy to do, and why not? For one l clove you got a fairly decent return. Garlic, shallots and onions were planted, all in the chilling cold, usually as dusk fell after school. And then I left them all to the own devices.

It was quite nice really, to see the crop develop. Thick stalks, all stood sentry. All very straight backed and regally regimental. So it all remained, until late may, june. I had mulched at one stage, and fed as well. I don’t think I fed the alliuems more than once perhaps twice. I really did leave them to their own devices. A fact evidenced by a lot of grass growing in the beds, and the rain had in fact caused the clay to eat some of the shallots-in fact, most of the shallots, to be honest with you.

What you see above, is the crop drying. Was sat in the garage for a number of weeks drying out. The twenty or so cloves, formed twice that many bulbs. A lot of it was given away! There were many positive reports, in that it lasted longer and tasted different.  Good old pops, got fed up with the garlic and onions littering his garage. So decided to tidy things up, and remove the stalks.

He doesn’t even like garlic or onions.

There are many varieties sunk this year. As to whether the clay doesn’t eat them; that remains to be seen.

Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

Aubergines…Awseome, they aint.

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I don’t like Aubergines. Mama H does. Dad does. Me. I can’t stand them. So when I wanted to grow them, raise them from seed; I was feeling altruistic and egalitarian all at the same time. So they started off life, in the heated propogator. The seeds took their time, in fact I may have inadvertently actually snuffed some out in a haze of naivete. Those that did turn up, became those you see above. There were a number of different varieties in this particular experiment

  • tres native de barbentane
  • dancer
  • early long

A few others, I forget now!

But they didn’t have take their time. They had to be the most pampered, precious plants the world has known. Thanks to Grandad Mike, they were fed, watered and tickled. As tou can see, there was a lot of foliage. They didn’t leave the utility room; the sun was able to nurture them. Despite the one variety meant to be quite used to the elements, after last years experiment with Kevin, yes, Kevin the moody aubergine. This year was going to be different.

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The flowers produced were really quite pretty. These were misted and tickled, and still nothing.Not a single aubergine. This could have been down to any one of many things. Perhaps they were pot bound, fed too much, didn’t like the not so tropical environment. I am not at all sure as to which variable caused it all to be such a disappointment. Perhaps I will try again, they seem to grow. Just not fruit. We shall see!

Yours in anticipation

Horticultural Hobbit

Life gives to leaves, make leaf mold

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This time last year, there was only the one builders bag compared to this years for. At that stage, I had started to collect leaves rather late on. Must have been about late November, and the last remaining few were hanging about. This one bag, was filled with approximately eight to ten bags and these were then left to cook. I think may be once or twice, I may have added some compost activator. I don’t think this did any harm.

Taking a matter of months, the leaves decayed and broke down. Forming the dark material that you see wih the magic fork stuck into it. That was summer this year, once I had built the beds; I wanted to fill them. I don’t think, that at that stage it was entirely fully cooked. I have heard variable estimates as to when it is ready to go.So half cooked, it is in the raised beds. Covered with newspaper for some protection against flying weed seeds. The one builders bag, filled four 1m x 1m beds. So all in all, that is quite a lot really. Not bad at all for a first time experiment. This year, there are four beds. There are also more beds. With 12 beds in all, they will all need filling.

This year, as soon as the descent of the leaves started; I was collecting. Well, it was mostly Dad and and Grandad Mike, but that’s technicality. Between us, 13 bags a week were collected and taken to the plot. These were then emptied into builders bags and also the raised beds.

I have yet to understand the fill science of what actually goes on. I think the breakdown is bacterial, and the decay is facilitated by moisture. I really couldn’t tell you the exact details!

So whilst the raised beds are part filled, next year, the aim is to fill these with compost. The builders bags may well be used to top these up. However, the plot being heavy clay; the area not covered with raised beds may benefit from it somewhat. That is, however, if it doesn’t say water logged.

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Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

'obbitry of the horticultural kind

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