Monday, 21 March 2011

Running to keep up

This really is an exciting time of year for a gardener - perhaps, other than the height of the summer's harvest, the most exciting of all. Seeds keep going into trays and pots, on an almost daily basis, and almost as often, last week's show signs of life.

I started repotting my tomatoes today. Although I'm still waiting for the final few varieties to arrive in the post, reminding me that sowing season is still in full swing (the later-sown tomatoes apparently grow faster to catch up with their older siblings), I'm having to separate the largest plants already, which are showing signs of their first true leaves. This is partly my fault - I sowed ten to thirty seeds per pot, because they'd spent a year in a paper envelope and I expected most to be dead. Tomato seeds are famously vigorous, so I needn't have been so liberal - one pot inexplicably houses nearly 40 seedlings (good going from a pack of 30), so the sooner I separate them, the better.

I have taken to putting the date on the labels when I sow, so it hit me that it's nearly three weeks since the first batch went in. Given the wisdom is that they get planted into their final positions after 7-8 weeks, we're already approaching the halfway point. Scary and exciting in equal measure.

Meanwhile, I ought to mention the other things I have on my windowsill. While the tomatoes have taken centre stage in my thoughts (and posts) recently, I haven't forgotten to sow lots of other spring veg. I now have two trays of shallot sets 'Red Baron' bought on impulse in the Wilkinson sale (inspired by Monty Don on the first episode of this year's Gardeners' World), aubergines 'Turkish Orange', 'Rotonda Bianca Sfumata di Rosa' and 'Violetta di Firenze', beetroot 'Boltardy' (just emerged today!) and 'Chioggia', broad beans 'Karmazyn' and 'Red Baron', and okra 'Burgundy'. Outside there are more broad beans, as well as peas 'Serpette Guillotteau' and turnips 'Snowball'. Elsewhere, chillies and the curious South American fruit cocona (Solanum topiro) are keeping me on my toes.

And as for ornamentals (although some are also edible, most have been chosen to complement the vegetable garden), I've got 32 tiny Calendula 'Art Shades Mixed', two trays of ungerminated Musa sikkimensis (the Darjeeling banana, a plant of which I bought last year and have adored for its size, speed of growth and sheer indulgently tropical appearance), just-emerging sweet peas ('America', 'Beaujolais', and 'Senator', all heirlooms), stubbornly dormant Lobelia 'Red Cascade' and nasturtium 'Jewel Mix', and adorably vigorous Cosmos 'Sensation' and 'Daydream', and castor bean 'Impala' (soon to be joined by 'Carmencita Red', 'Carmencita Pink', and 'Zanzibariensis'). Having just sown trays of Delphinium 'Pacific Giant Mixed' and Eschscholzia 'White Linen', my garden sounds more skewed towards flowers than vegetables, but trust me, it's just a little prettification of my plot.

As I say, it's a busy time! I'm amazed I've managed to keep up so far - but it'll take more self-discipline than I normally possess to prevent it all falling apart in a month's time...

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