It felt like March was seemingly against gardeners; predominantly it was wet, it was cold and there was also snow. The ground tended to be unworkable and conditions were definitely not favourable for growing (or even surviving for some plants’ case). It is hypothetically fine if you have a heated greenhouse or more of a professional set-up, but for many common-as-muck gardeners it meant a period of frustrations. Or, like me, it meant clamouring to create as much space indoors as humanly possible to try to grow some plants.
We have tried to be as industrious as possible, do what we can in the space offered to us. It means at the moment that windowsills are filled to capacity and I am getting a bit more creative in order to grow more seedlings in less space to be able to tie us over until more can go outside in our plastic greenhouses. These structures are valuable for giving us storage space, but do realistically offer little protection from the worst of the weather.
So let us go for a brief whistle-stop tour of what is going on at the moment.
- Potatoes chitting. These are Red Duke of York, a first early, and will be going into their growing pot as soon as I can possibly plant them.
- Lots of Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’ sowed from seed have grown really well and have been potted up.
- There are four types of chillies. Jalapeno, Habanero, Cayenne and Anaheim that were all grown from seed and have been potted on.
- Two types of sweet peas, ‘Spencer Mixed’ and ‘Colourspectrum’. I have done two sowings of the former and one of the latter. They have all been pricked out, potted on and are growing well.
- Carnivorous plants – Venus fly traps, trumpet pitchers and sundews have all been sown and are yet to germinate.
- Garlic Early Purple Wight growing happily away in a large bag by the back door
Currently in the heated propagator are a combination of edibles and plants that have been sown in pellets, for two reasons. One is the attempt to use less plastic in my propagation and that other is space, it means I can cram many pellets into one tray. Currently I have over 25 pellets in one half-sized tray, with space to probably get another four or five in. These pellets are so simple to use, with the addition of water they expand massively and then you place the seed in the top and cover. When the roots show through the lining, you simply pot up the entire pellet. Into these pellets we have sown:
- Tomato ‘Indigo Blue Berries’
- Sunflower ‘Russian Giant’
- Cornflower ‘Black Ball’
- Petunia ‘Night Sky’
- Lupin ‘Pixie Delight’
- Broad bean ‘Medes’
As well as sowing all these and growing on seedlings, which will undoubtedly produce far more plants than we really need, there have been other tasks to complete. This has included such jobs as:
- Splitting ophiopogonin (see below pic)
- Succulent cuttings
- Sempervivum propagation
- Potting up dahlia tubers
- Putting up a new larger greenhouse
It has been a busy period to get things going and preparations made for when the weather improves. The lists above paint the picture that we have a large garden and a lot of space; however that is not the case. We have a small peculiar-shaped courtyard garden, with few borders to speak of. It is a predominantly paved area, so we have to rely a lot on pots and a bit of creativity.
We have a solid selection of shrubs and perennials that live in pots outdoors year-round and the annuals and more tender plants will be used to bolster the display during this summer. The edibles are also grown in pots, with some resourcefulness used to grow more in small spaces. For example, once the broad beans are climbing I will under plant them with lettuce or radish so no space goes unused.
I would say planning is key to being successful when you rely on pots like this; however I admit we don’t plan as much as we should. We try, but the temptation is there to just sow more seeds, more varieties just to see. The number of plants we are growing this year would suffice a garden two or three times the space we have, so we will grow some on and give them away. Give them as gifts to friends and family to make sure they are not wasted.
There will be more seeds sown in April and further down the line, especially vegetables and salad crops that I will direct sow into the pots they are to grow in. And we will undoubtedly accumulate more plants throughout the year from places we visit, garden centres and nurseries. We might be nearing our limitations for space and numbers, but you can never have enough, can you?