Saturday, 2 April 2011

Silly Season

Calendula seedlings, straining to be transplanted from their plugs

April has dawned. If March was busy with sowing, it was a walk in the park compared to the next few weeks.

I started well; my academic work was done on Thursday as planned, and I spent yesterday having lunch, a couple of drinks, then shopping and attending a concert with a friend. It was a great day, completely different to my normal life, which recently has settled down into comfortable cloistered quiet.

Back home now, I have an almost insurmountable number of garden-related tasks to do. All the March sowings (with a couple of notable exceptions, as I mentioned recently), are proper baby plants now, and most will need repotting in the next week or two. Meanwhile, I keep buying more seeds! Some were planned purchases - I didn't see any point in ordering corn, pumpkins, or cucumber seeds until April/May, because I couldn't sow them any earlier. But plenty of others are impulse buys - not outrageously so, in the sense that they don't fit in the with general scheme - but I keep remembering or discovering plants I love, and want to grow. This week, it's basils. I have already sown normal Genovese basil, and some mammoth basil seed my sister gave me (both are now sprouting), but I love every kind, and yesterday three more packs of seeds arrived - 'Dark Opal', cinnamon, and Thai. I don't have a problem getting basil to germinate, and indoors, on the windowsill, they thrive - a tray of plants will give a handful of leaves almost every day for three months or more. But outdoors, it's another matter - they die almost instantly. A huge mollusc population, and less-than-Mediterranean summer temperatures probably don't help. This year, I'll try again - but I expect to have to keep them in the greenhouses at least.

The oldest tomato plants are getting pretty big now

It wouldn't be right to end without mentioning the tomatoes. Every variety has now germinated - the last ones came up overnight - and the population mentioned above has easily met my expectations - a few laggards will probably take it to around 240 in the end. That's not counting the cuttings I'm hoping to take - having read a few months ago that the side shoots will root and produce healthy plants, I knew I'd have to try it. That could foreseeably double my numbers - but I'll only do it on a large scale if I have mass deaths/I sell out all my spare seedlings. Incidentally, I have a huge waiting list of friends and family for free plants now - including the friend I spent yesterday with, who has a greenhouse that's stood empty for years. I had idly considered installing plants there last year - before I built my own - but the distance was prohibitive (it's about 2 miles away - good exercise, but more walking than I'd want to commit to for three or four months), especially for daily watering. But it occurred to me that a self-watering system could be rigged up, and in fact my friend was very positive about it, so she might tend it too - I'd give her half the produce, say. What with all the other greenhouse crops I have - melons, cucumbers, okra, chillies, and more - I need all the space I can get!

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