Tag Archives: seeds

Planting out and potting up

There has been a change in the universal energies! I’ve been getting my hands dirty on the plot as the month of May gives way to June. It’s all change on a few fronts, so I’ve made some attempt to return to my happy place. It really is a happy place, I feel different, so I’m trying to go with it. There are now nineteen tomato plants in situ on the allotment. Most of these are home sown and grown. Fourteen of them, are mine with a fair few shop bought. I’ve bought another six today, to fill things out a little more. If there is one thing that gets grown this year, its most likely going to be tomatoes.

From what I remember, I’ve sown red, yellow and black tomatoes. I didn’t label them, so it’s  all very tomato roulette when plugging them in. There are two shop varieties which are yellow, with no idea what the ones I’ve bought today are. All of the plants have been sunk into raised beds, each with its varying soil level. It has, after all, been nearly two years since I did any ‘meaningful’ growing on the allotment.  Over the course of two days, tomatoes have been transplanted, watered and fed. This week, the temperatures have increased and growing has accelerated. The crucial thing to maintain now is to make sure that these are watered regularly.

Tomatoes will grow quickly, given the right conditions. When nourished, they will crop abundantly. I’d quite like a few tomatoes, if I’m honest. Such a number, might actually yield some! Watering should keep me going to the allotment; should keep me focused and attentive in making the plot productive. The fact that I want to go there, do things and enjoy doing so, is incredibly important.

The allotment is gaining momentum, but there are still plants at home.  At home, there is a small but select group of chillies. All of these are now in their final pots, with the last few potted up. There are ten pots altogether, with Cayennes and habaneros to be looked after. I’m trying to decide, if like with the tomatoes, I want to find some more partially mature chilli plants. The are a little spindly and wiry looking; however, once they’ve been fed and watered properly. they will hopefully start to fill out a little and gain some height as well.

Cayenne chillies will hit a stride as they get comfortable. I’ve experienced Habaneros as being slower growing; nothing unusual given the heat difference between these and cayennes. There have been chocolate habaneros before, but not many. There may only be a three or four plants, so we shall  what these amount to.

Tomatoes on my mind

 

It’s that time of the year again. I’m thinking about what tomatoes to grow. At the moment, I have a handful of chillies, growing very slowly and pretty much left to their own devices. They are relatively happy, so it’s logical to think of the next phase of sowing.

There are tonnes and tonnes of tomato varieties out there, and I’ve certainly collected a few varieties to have them in my seedbox. These have all been road tested in different forms over the years, so choosing the annual crop is actually quite challenging.

I’ve gravitated away from the dwarf, bushy varieties that produce cherry type tomatoes. This was, in the first instance, about sowing something different. Cherry tomatoes are certainly a good starting point; they are easy growing, abundant and offer a tasty harvest. As a salad tomato, they do serve a purpose and are quite effective plate fillers. I grew a variety called Minibel for a long time, and I suspect I will try another cherry tomato in the future at some point.

Seeds have been located, and wait to be sorted in my seed box. There are standard seeds such as Gardener’s delight and money maker; varieties that have been part of the GYO armada for many, many years. There are also heritage varieties; tomatoes that for one reason another, we don’t find in supermarkets, that are older in origin. I find these varieties really interesting, particularly when it comes to the Beefsteak types. In my experience, these are slow-growing and the crop is quite small. The plant puts so much power into a handful of whopper fruits, you need quite plants to have a substantial harvest.

Heritage tomatoes also open your world up to different shapes, sizes and colours of tomato. My favourite non-red tomato, has to be yellow stuffer. This, when combined with sweet yellow peppers, makes a fantastic chutney. You won’t find yellow tomatoes very often in the supermarket or fruit and veg markets, so growing your own is rather magical. I need to get some more yellow stuffer seeds, I rather fancy making that chutney again! We shall see if yellow brandy wine, yellow pear and cream sausage are in anyway comparable.

There are two varieties that I know I will definitely have on my list. These would be Marmande and Roma. I have found that Marmande is a brilliant cropper; it is wonderfully abundant. Roma is  a plum tomato, really very resilient and also a good cropper. In sorting out seeds, I did stumble across tomatillo seeds as well. I’ve been meaning to  sow these, as an experiment to see if they would actually work. I’m rather intrigued as to how this small piece of Mexico might take off in the middle of England.

You might ask, how many different plants does any one allotment need. All of the tomatoes that are grown will get used. Be it in chutney, salads or used in the base of Indian dishes.  Growing different varieties, having lots of plants does make for an interesting experiment, and any extras do got to good home.

At some point this week, I will take the plunge and sow tomato seeds. As with all the seedlings, I will be keeping an eye on them in case we have a cold snap. In comparison to the chillies, tomatoes do tend to be more resilient and less susceptible to keeling over-she says, crossing her fingers- but do need monitoring anyway. They do grow quickly and will need potting up as they develop. It will be late May before anything is planted outside to they will need to be hardened off in time.

I do tend to grow tomatoes outdoors, with no cover. I did try to cultivate them in a polytunnel, but found that they became leafy and didn’t crop that well. With being outdoors, plants are exposed to pollinators and the winds. There is a lower level of maintenance too. You do get cordon/indeterminate tomato varieties, those that need shoots removing. I have defoliate plants when there has been a lot of foliage to help ventilation. Having too much foliage can also be a product of what you feed and water the plans with as well. So make sure to see what is in the make up of any fertiliser if you are using it.

Eight years on #gdnbloggers

petalcoastercard

Eight years ago, I was coming to the end of my initial teacher training; the PGCE was over and I was looking to the future. I had also started to do an experiment.

During that final summer time, I wasn’t feeling particularly positive. I had no idea whether I would make it through the course, my morale was very low and I wondered whether the vocation that I felt was just a whisper on the wind that I had misunderstood. For some daft reason, I threw aside the applications for NQT posts having been sat in the garden trying to fill them in in the sunshine. I took the bus to the High street, went into Wilko’s and came out with seeds and pots.

I really fancied sowing those seeds, and how difficult could it be to sow a tomato, a chilli and why not throw a runner bean into a pot. See what happens. A few weeks later, I was in a gardening store, and I saw a crate of onion and shallot sets. There were far too many for me, so I sunk some into the garden-my parent’s garden-and gave away the rest to a neighbour.

Watching seedlings come through-the summer of 2009 was freakishly warm-and then having chillies and tomatoes growing lusciously and then cropping, was something of a marvel to behold.

As the summer drew to end, my sweet peppers were damp but productive; something had clicked, changed; I found that I rather enjoyed sowing seeds, watching them grow, and you know, those four courgettes a week did come rather handy in Mum’s kitchen. I thought about expanding the science experiment-that is in essence what it was-and to be fair, Dad was thought there were a lot of plastics pots lining his garden.

I knew that there were allotments in the area, the neighbour who I had palmed off onions too, he told me about them. Off I went to a search engine to investigate.

What he didn’t tell me, and it was only after I called the allotment secretary as listed on the local authority information, that I found that the onion neighbour were the one and the same. I know, daftness. I put my name on the list, I wanted an allotment.

 

 

I had already been documenting my seeds sowing; by writing things down, I used another website. Horticultural Hobbit was born, there was a growing-literally-body of work. I even asked a good friend of mine, to give the name a face, give the name a face. He took one look at me, and came up with the figure holding carrots. The figure that we now know as Petal. I was adamant. that this would be my alter ego, that the allotment in the shadow of the Shire Country park and Sarehole mill would be a good record of my growing adventures.

By November, I was renting half an allotment plot. This was now about allotment adventures.  It took two weeks to clear it, and to get cracking. There was half a plan-sketched out-as to what I wanted to do, what I wanted to achieve. This was going to be anything but easy.

Put quite simply, I didn’t have a clue. What I was doing, how I planned to do it, was a bit of a haze. What I did next was to join an online forum, I had questions needed answers. This was by far one the best things I could have ever done. To have joined a community of like minded people, from whom I could learn,  use as a sounding board and also pass on the benefits of my mistakes.

What followed was growth, development and further scientific enquiry.

Growth. Development and a journey. A journey, that is on going and to this day.

There have been peaks and there have been troughs. That’s a lot of tomatoes, more courgettes that you can shake a stick at. There have been weeds galore-current, state of play, by the way-and storm damage, sometimes not enough time in the life space continuum; everything has ebbed and flowed.

 

 

It is impossible for me sum up in this post every triumph and disaster, every seed sown and harvest made. Plus you can find it all in the archives. All in all, a journey is documented and is shared.

Sowing seeds and then writing about it has had benefits that I could not have possibly for seen. I remain a teacher, although my jobs have varied since that summer of 2009. There have been a few posts, where I have been able to use gardening to support students; at one point, I grew chillies in a classroom. The plan is to continue with the vocation.  I have become a trained listener, started to train as a counsellor, as the impact of gardening on my own mental health has encouraged me to consider how the mental health of others could be supported. In particular, work carried out with veterans, mental health and gardening really struck a cord and led to the development of the Pledge for Warriors.

Then there was the writing outside of the blog. I was able to write guest blogs with the support of Michael Perry and this tipped something of a balance.  I felt that this was really positive step forward and helped to move within the blogging and gardening community. Plus, there was the whole ‘bollywood gardener’ hashtag, I couldn’t tell you how that came about, but I am grateful for Michael coining it and I am keeping it! Plus, I remember swooning and almost keeling over when termed as being gardening royalty…that is a dream that I will continue to keep a hold of as motivation to persevere.

I am still trying to be a part of that community, but what this did was edge me towards writing a book. I looked at the guest blogs that I had written, and had a gut reaction. Two years ago, in something of a haze I sent my youngest sister a text message; I was going to write a gardening book based upon the blog.

“Okay, good luck,” she said. “Do what you want.”

I did.

There was definitely a haze, and I did write that book. I wrote two. Now, they might not be Pulitzers, and you won’t find them on The Times 100 Best seller lists any time soon. But they are my books, and I am very glad to have written them both. They are not perfect, I don’t pretend to be perfect in anyway; I have however, learned from the processes and there is further development, dare I say it, growth. Writing the two gardening books led me to the Indie authors community and has set me onto another, additional pathway. A pathway towards fiction, towards writing in another direction.  I wrote ‘Fragment’s and that couldn’t have been more different to Plant pot tales and so grow eat. This writing journey continues, and there is a release scheduled Spring 2018. As for a return to gardening books, maybe; there are plans.

allrangetwo

Then there was the swag, the merchandise that the figure holding carrots-Petal-was emblazoned upon. Petal, who gave her name to Petal’s Potted Preserve, and was far more than the Orticultural Obbit; far more than just my alter ego. There have been lots of bits and pieces-through trial and error-that have been developed, shared and have actually gone to loving homes. A good sign, I guess, of how much this blog, the process of gardening and growth has changed as there is now also a Petal shop.

Petal is something that I believe in, that I enjoy developing. She is a brand. A brand that is diverse, growing and hoping to get bigger, better and stronger. There are many different facets to Petal, the Orticultural Obbit and her Potted Preserve. To date, I have have uncovered just a few. The plan remains to keep searching, to keep growing and developing.

It truly has been an interesting eight years.

 

Over due intro to the plot #gdnbloggers

You can also view the video here.

Thought I should perhaps add a little context with where all of the fruit and veg that is grown comes from.

The allotment plot has been going through peaks ans troughs over the last six years, with some great successes and some rather wearing disasters. This is just brief overview of the plot. It is hoped that over the coming months, there will be some planning and preparation on the plot with it gradually being tidied up for the forth coming growing season. It is something of a mess at the moment, and turning it around will take some time and effort.

Sowing Psychology Sunflowers 2015

sunflowersseeds

It is that time of year again. I have sown sunflowers. Sunflowers are really simple to sow and grow, and offer bright splashes of colour when the growing season is in full spring. For the last few years I have been supporting the The Big Sunflower Project and also trying to get fellow educators involved in sowing sunflowers as stress busting activity.

As an exercise in mindfulness, sowing seeds, watching them grown, is something really important for me. I have experienced the positive and psychological effects of pottering around the plot, so spreading the word is something that I will always do. Sowing sunflowers is just the thing! This year I am sowing seeds that were saved from one of last years sunflowers. I remember to this day, mum decapitating it and waving it at me so that it could dried.

The youtube version can be found here.

Sunflowers will grow quickly if they have optimum growing conditions. It is a little cold right now, the sun does seem to have disappeared for a bit. This may slow down seed germination, but I am as hopeful as ever. Sunflowers are also really good for wildlife when they have come to the end of their life; birds will eat the seeds and small insects will live in the stems that I tend to leave until Spring.

You can find out here about last year’s post about sowing Psychology Sunflowers.

Sowing Seeds on a Saturday

Today is the first day of my Easter Holidays, and that means starting to think about what is to do on the allotment. In particular, inside the polytunnel.

The youtube version can be found here.

Whilst I have tried plants and potatoes in the poly tunnel, this is the first for seeds. I have scattered an assortment of radishes, beetroot and different types of lettuces. There were all year round butter head lettuces, as red yugoslavian, lollo rosso, little gem and one called rouge D’Hiver. With radishes, we have a mixture. In terms of beetroot we have have the usual boltardy and Chioggia.

It was very cold in there! Less warmer than it was the other day when the shelving was built.

 

I hid in the poly tunnel, whilst Mum did some digging outside. Whilst it was cold, the plot has started to dry out a little bit more. I think the worse thing that might happen in terms of the weather might be a deluge of April showers. No news yet on the beans sown the other day, I suspect the poly tunnel needs to be a little warmer.

 

Penny pinching and planting

Gardening, and allotmenteering, lays itself open to be very expensive. At least in the outset, and making preparations. Flicking through seed catalogues, surfing the companies online can also mean for pennies and pounds being spent.

Seed saving, as well as swapping, goes some way towards alleviating that cost. I have benefited from a number of swapped seeds, in addition I have passed on seeds for others to try. This particularly true, of people who wish to sow heritage seeds. Many seed varieties of yore, have been forgotten, save for the efforts of studious seed savers who have diligently saved seeds to keep them in circulation. There are off course many techniques, some simple others less so, that allow this to happen. With chillies, for example, one needs asbestos gloves given how potent some chillies can be. With tomatoes, one needs a penchant for slime in fishing them out of a jam jar. Beans, can be left to dry, and plucked from a crispy pod. It is that is simple. You will also get those plants and vegetables that are wont to sow their wild oats and cross widely. So that is seed saving, encouraged and plausible.

 

In tending the plot, an interesting experiment has developed. There are some roses that are more expensive than some of their plot counterparts, bought from a mail order company. The counterparts, are from a shop, where everything is priced at one pound or from a shop where goods are priced at being a penny below the pound. You can see the statement of the obvious. There is not much in the price of these two groups of roses, approximately £1.50 would separate the roses from online and the high street bought ones. Before the snow descended, the online ordered ones were actually demonstrating some growth on the thorny stems. The high street ones, did actually look a bit sorry for themselves. They were also still covered in green protective wax, that I had thought would have disappeared by now. 

 

Previously, spring flowering bulbs had been planted. It would be a surprise if any of these actually came up now,to be fair. All, generally, from those high street shops where you spend a pound. In the past, these have been reasonably successful. There are also some blueberries and redcurrant plants.

 

As I venture into these high street shops, I do wonder about the success rate. More recently, there have potatoes, onions, different seed varieties on the shelves. A reflection perhaps of how more and more people are choosing to grow their own food. The variety does seem to be getting more and more extensive, and more value compared to the stock held by garden centres. For many years, there has always been a clamour for Aldi and Lidl with their gardening GYO offers. With Wilkinsons also proving themselves to be a useful resource. 

 

Then there is the pot making contraption, Whilst it is labour intensive, it is incredibly useful. Made me reconsider, just how much money could be spent on pots that weren’t going to be occupied for very long. With the broadbeans currently in paper pots, I hope that this will also help the rather challenging clay soil on the plot.

 

It remains to be seen, if being savvy with pounds and pence makes any difference,

Yours in anticipation,

 

Horticultural Hobbit

Planning post puddles

As I sit here, planning world domination, sleet falls outside with the weather being its nefarious wanton self. Spring seems to be hiding its face, as further inclement weather hits blighty.

Should the weather change the face it currently pulls, it would be nice to get things going. As it stands, the classroom sills are full of seed trays. The windows are not in the least bit big. Lyon 2 Prizewinner leeks are still standing, very wiry young things that they are. Don’t seem to be getting any fatter, and further towards the pencil thin girth that they need to have. The cauliflowers that were sown, purple cape, mayflower and all year around, grew very leggy. Subsequently keeling over. Celery, remains, as does the beetroot. At last check, the aquadulce claudia broadbeans and suttons dwarf were just starting to poke their heads through the dirt in the paper pots.

The chilli adventure is still altogether frightening. At the last observation, five baby seedlings had stood up. The paper pots were removed from the heated prop and into a cold one, lined with white paper by way of reflecting heat and light. They had keeled over previously, in not being warm enough or having adequate enough light.

I would like to sow more cauliflower, and in turn some some tomatoes. There are still lots of other things to be sown too. Such as cabbages. I must still fill the raised beds. Damp lead mold has been used to get the raised beds at least a thirdish, or half full. Poop-that pops and I gathered-has then be used to cover the top of this. I have one bag left to pour into a be. Beyond that, I envisage topping the beds up with compost. Not filled entirely, but enough to get sowing. An aim, had been to sow various spinach seeds and fenugreek for Mama H. That would truly mark the start of the sowing season.

Last week, I took delivery of potatoes and spring garlic. It is most likely too early for either of these to be sown. The potatoes may well find themselves in the raised beds somewhere. I’m not sure where. Whilst I have garlic, these will replace those many that were eaten by the elements. However, I feel the section of the plot designated to them, may well be too wet, and not able to drain as quickly as I would like.

Thinking now, as to how many tomato seeds I wish to plant. I have both cordon and bush varieties. Yet, hobbitland is a blight hotspot. There yellow, red, and black tomatoes. So a veritable mix. These will be started off inside, and might just make it outside. Last year, they got to about 12 inches high inside. All very nice, but butchered by the weather, and therein a horrible waste. In the seed stashers, a hoard of beans to be sown. I don’t anticipate doing them yet. But will consider do so, in about six weeks perhaps. The mythology is to sow around the time of St.Patricks day.  This is most likely another paper pot job, one copy of an atrocious paper that will remain nameless, produces provisionally 50 pots. That is a lot of seeds. Mama H has made her opinion know. There are to be runner beans. Yes, Ma. I have those. The old favourite of Scarlet Emperor-the first runner bean that I ever grew-sits alongside one called painted lady. Furthermore, there dwarf varieties of French beans. Tender-something, as well as borlotto beans and purple queen. Though I can see Mama H pulling faces at the purple dwarf beans. Whilst I am convinced of their metamorphosis from purple to green on cooking, Mama may have her queries about them. Flicking through seed catalogues, I was trying to hunt down yellow ones.  The plan with the legumes, is to plant them where ever possible. The advantages of planting them by way of nitrogen tapping and its volume of doing so, are debatable  I was advised by an allotment neighbour, of ‘if in doubt, sow beans’, so this will be an interesting hypothesis test. Does the ground actually have better characteristics having formerly housed legumes. A half plot of beans may well seem a waste, but could potentially be useful. Having inherited a plot that is deemed a waste in itself, the challenge is to get something productive out of it. As it stands, garlic and onions have done well. Now the bar is set higher.

The snow is coming down apparently, outside. I do wish it wouldn’t. Makes planning that much more difficult.

Yours in anticipation.

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.