Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Where everything stands

The peas are swelling fast.

It's time to do a thorough update on the plants I have, the seeds I've yet to sow, and my plans and concerns at the moment. I feel like this is one of the pivots of the year, where a snap decision either way can set the next few months.

First, I bought more seeds. In my defence, they were super-cheap. When my sister visited a couple of weeks ago, we went to a discount book store in town, and they had a bargain bin full of branded seed packets - all the major names. 2 packs for £1. I held back at the time, as I didn't want to stall my sister, and I wasn't in a buying frame of mind. I finally went back a couple of days ago, and I was right to wait - they were now 4 packs for £1. There was a lot of good stuff, including - annoyingly - some I'd ordered from eBay at a much higher price (cavolo nero and Greek oregano for example, neither of which I've yet sown). I settled on 12 packs, which is a lot, but I don't have to grow them all this year. At that price, how could I refuse? Incidentally, the price of the seeds (printed on the backs of the packets) amounts to £21.50 - quite a saving!

I got:
  • Carrot 'Amsterdam 3 - Sprint'
  • Carrot 'Autumn King 2'
  • Lettuce (romaine) 'Pinares'
  • Lettuce (iceberg) 'Lakeland'
  • Mesclun mixed
  • Sage
  • Parsley 'Giant of Italy'
  • Wallflower 'Aurora'
  • Poppy (Icelandic) 'Ballerina Mixed'
  • Poppy 'Shirley Single Mixed'
  • Nemesia 'Carnival Mixed'
  • Ornamental Grass Eragostris spectabilis
The carrots were to replace my current stock of seeds. I've read that carrot seed has a short shelf life, and when I tried the homemade carrot seed mats championed by Annie's Kitchen Garden, not a single one germinated. The two varieties here are small, container-grown and large, maincrop respectively - covering all the bases. I have a lot of random cut-and-come-again salad seeds, but no hearting lettuces - I'd like to give the latter a go. Sage, well, I wouldn't normally grow perennial herbs from seed, but I always fail with shop-bought sage plants, so this might be a way forward - I adore sage. As for parsley, my current herb seeds (like the carrots) didn't yield much this year, so I need to replace them. As for the flowers - well, I love all of these, and there's still just enough time to sow them this year (some, like the wallflower, won't bloom until next year anyway). It occurs to me that the grass (a real random purchase for me) is in the same genus as teff, an Ethiopian grain used to make flatbreads. But I digress...

How are the tomatoes? Mixed, frankly. I gave my mum a selection of plants, but was dismayed to discover I'd run out of a couple of varieties already - 'Snowberry' and 'Sun Belle'. It turned out that I'd given a couple to my friends, and planted some myself, and the remaining plants all died. Well, they aren't quite dead, but all their top growth has withered. It remains to be seen whether they will bounce back - otherwise, I'll take side-shoot cuttings from the survivors. It could be a coincidence, or maybe these varieties simply don't take so kindly to neglect as their brethren.

The top plant, 'Jaune Flammée' is still by far the largest and healthiest-looking.

The flower buds on 'Costoluto Fiorentino' look quite different to the other varieties'.

Several of the 'Gardeners' Delight' plants indoors have started flowering - more through stress than anything else, I think. I've put them outside.

By the end of today, I should have around 25 planted in their final positions, i.e. into half growbags. The first ones to go in seem happy enough, although a lot of wind (the greenhouse, unfinished, offers limited protection) means they still look a little weedy. I intend to have 45-50 plants myself this year, to provide a year's supply of fruit, which was my original goal. At a kilo a plant, minimum, I should be able to manage that - though we'll see how I feel about watering in a couple of months' time. Indoors, there are several dozen plants remaining, though many have suffered from a lack of regular watering, so they may have to be ditched. I've started moving the rest outside regardless of their size and state, simply to give them a chance at getting some rain (there's been plenty of that this month here).

The same can be said for the aubergines. A few have thrived, although they grow achingly slowly compared to their cousins the tomatoes. Some have simply fried on the windowsill. Hopefully I will have a couple of each variety, which was my intention.

Pumpkins and other squash are thriving. Most varieties have germinated, some indoors, some out. The ones on the front windowsill have grown quicker, in the warm, but they are all doing well. I want to keep back two plants of each variety (there are around ten kinds) for myself, and sell the rest. My first melons went very leggy and died, but I sowed a second batch, which I've lost track of (all these cucurbits essentially look alike as seedlings). The cucumbers are everywhere too - just one variety sown so far, 'Armenian yard long' (I have a few of last year's 'Crystal Lemon' seeds left too), but they look happy for now.

The beans are looking great. The first couple of batches of broad beans have flowered for weeks, and now some pods are swelling (though I think the high winds will have drastically reduced the yield). The last batch, of crimson-flowered broad beans, are now healthy seedlings. The French beans are large, and I planted the first few today, one each into medium-sized terracotta pots. I also planted five runner beans, into a huge pot, with a very tall wigwam of reclaimed privet and Buddleia prunings, a good 7 feet tall (I learned my lesson last year - they grow huge!).

Young broad bean pods - I find it funny how they point upwards.

French beans to the left, runners to the right (and a tiny pumpkin 'Marina di Chioggia')

Finally, the less said about my ornamentals the better. I have seriously neglected them - which is a real shame, but I just don't seem to be able to juggle everything at once (I'm basically too lazy). Hopefully I'll have a few Cosmos, sweet peas, and Lobelia, nonetheless.

So it's a mixed bag overall. I have never in all my life been as self-disciplined as I should have been, but in gardening you really see the results: wilting, shrivelled, stunted plants, screaming out how inconsistent you are - you sowed them, labelled them, gave them love, then withdrew it and they died. Maybe the plants that survive are particularly tough as a result, but that's a very charitable interpretation. At least the perennials - in particular soft fruits - are racing ahead, regardless.

There is going to be a glut of raspberries at this rate - the hundreds of flowers are swarming with bumblebees!


Sally said...

Great pictures - I like looking at all the the pea grows down but the broad bean up! How did that all evolve?!
Also like the idea of using discarded prunings for the staking canes - and they probably won't split like the bamboo ones do either!
And I'm just thinking of how wonderful all those raspberries are going to be...the luxury of being to eat a big bowlful rather than a just a sad shop bought punnet's worth!

Scyrene said...

It is odd - I feel the hanging pods are more natural-looking, but I've no reason to. The prunings idea was slow to hit me - I'd stripped and shredded and chopped up a load of branches before it occurred to me I needed something to replace my old bamboo canes, which have started falling to bits. They're actually better, for the peas at least, than a straight upward stick - all the bends, twists and forks giving them lots to hold on to.
As for the raspberries, it is a treat indeed! I had bowls and bowls of them last year, and there are far more coming this time around. I'm hoping to have enough to cook with and preserve, as well as eating handfuls fresh :)