Friday, 11 June 2010

My babies!

We're away from after work today till late Sunday. Nathan has a day off so I've asked him kindly to set all the pots on damp kitchen towel and water them lightly accordingly.

I feel like I'm abandoning my babies! How sad is that?
Hopefully, fingers crossed, all soils will stay moist and I will see some growth when we get back.

The small crate of salads is growing well so far. The garlic has produced a shoot. I cut a hole in the lemon seed so I hope to see a shoot when we get home.

The tomato seedlings are looking very interesting and determined to grow despite my poor attempts at pricking out.

I dragged poor Nathan around B&Q again last night. Bought some cane, more compost, rose food, Ericaceous feed for my Japanese maple and larger pots for the sunflowers in case we can't get in gear in time to put them in the ground.

Got home and fed and caned-up the roses. fed my maple and added more compost to my potato bags to cover the stalk - as apparently thats the maintenance procedure - keep the stalk covered so that you end up with a mound around the potato plant.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Why didn't I think of that?

I was just looking through some of my favourite gardening blogs then happened upon Diane's Garden. It never occurred to me, and I don't know why as I'm a designer by trade and by ultimate passion, to draw a plan of my garden as is then work on that plan to create it into a project more suitable and which covers my need's and want.

Oh yes I have a vision in my head of how I want it to look. As I'm learning, I am realising very quickly that rules have to be followed. That one can work against nature temporarily but not in a long term fashion. At some point mother-nature will scold and send me to my bedroom with no supper.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Everything's coming up roses.

I've been looking at the rose bushes wondering what it is that is bothering me about them. They're bearing blooms, they're being supported by sticks but they're looking very sparse and un-bush like. What to do. In my child-hood home the roses were very bush-like and I guess that's why I've been viewing my acquired bushes with confusion.

I've just spent the last 10 minutes trying to to find an answer to this and so far I've only find details on how to plant. That job has already been done for me... now what.
I know that my pink roses bloomed earlier than usual so I might be able to work out what type of rose they are based on that. This is what I've gleaned so far. The red roses are smaller and definitely a different type and bloomed at the start of June.

It's probably very obvious to everyone but me how to grow these bigger but you've got to remember that although I vaguely know that I probably need to fertilise it more etc - I need to know exactly how and what and even where. I've found this and here which gives tips on how to prune to make the bush grow more shoots that will flower.

My "exotic" seed sowing, however need a boost that this lack of weather isn't providing.

I've found some fascinating things, really get into the mind-set and personality of Mother-nature here. says this:

Passion fruit germination:

"Soak seed in warm water for 24 hours before sowing, in a good seed compost at 1/4" deep. Keep damp soil, not soaking wet. Keep pot in warm situation 20°C/68°F, 24°C/75°F. Cover the top of the pot with clear plastic so the humidity will remain high. When you see some tiny plants starting to sprout, slowly open the top of the pot, a little each day, so that the new seedlings don't go into shock from the humidity being lowered too quickly. "

On other websites I found the same info again and again:

Seeds like to be heated from the bottom - 70-80F for faster germination. Some people soak seeds in warm to hot water overnight before planting.

Papaya seeds:

"Papayas are normally propagated by seed. To start a plant, extract the seeds from ripe papayas and wash them to remove the gelatinous covering. They are then dried, dusted with a fungicide and planted as soon as possible (the seeds loose their viability rapidly in storage). Plant the seeds in warm (80° F), sterile potting mix. Seeds should be planted in sterile soil as young papaya seedlings have a high mortality rate from damping off. Potting soil can be sterilized by mixing 50-50 with vermiculite and placing in an oven at 200° F for one hour. Under ideal conditions the seeds may germinate in about two weeks, but may take three to five weeks. Gibberellic acid can be used to speed up germination in some seasons. Seedlings usually begin flowering 9 - 12 months after they germinate.

Seedling papayas do not transplant well. Plant them in large containers so the seedlings will have to be transplanted only once, when they go into the ground. Transplant carefully, making sure not to damage the root ball. To prevent damping off, drench the potting mix with a fungicide containing benomyl or captan. Set the plants a little high to allow for settling. A plastic mulch will help keep the soil warm and dry in wet winter areas, but remove it as soon as the weather becomes warm. Plant at least three or four plants to insure yourself of having females or plant hermaphroditic plants."

I don't think some of that will apply to UK growers wishing to just grow an interesting plant with no hopes of growing fruit.

Lemon seeds and mango:

Again, I keep seeing the same advice. To scratch the seed/stone with a nail file or pierce a hole to allow water to get in.

How to do this is best explained by Ruth on

General fruit growing:

"If their pot is too large or if they have an unrestricted root run then the whole plant will simply get bigger and bigger but it will refuse to flower and therefore produce the fruits. By limiting the pot size you are limiting the ability to grow and this is seen as a threat, so the natural mechanism is to produce seed for the next generation. A suitably sized pot for an adult plant would generally be of 12 inches in diameter."

Fascinating eh?

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Gardening blog recommendation

I thought I'd share this beautiful garden and it's blog with you.

I would love to produce something as wonderful as this - blog and garden wise.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Survival of the fittest.

When re-potting the tomatoes, I had some leftover weaker looking specimins which I decided to just throw in the garden... to see what happened. I totally forgot about it, but as I was filling up some new pots, I happened to notice a very familiar looking seedling. Two of the tomato seedlings had made a home. Now these two are obviously very determined as I didn't sow them just chucked. The sickly looking sunflower I put in my growbag with the herbs is looking pretty snug too. Watch this space!

I've gone a bit gung-ho now and I've sown a garlic clove and some passion fruit seeds. Just to see what will happen. I'm wise to the fact that the garlic needs to be sown in autumn for results but I'm interested to see what occurs now. At some point I will add papaya seeds, avocado and mango to my fleet. I'm enjoying the experimentation.

I really don't like re-potting. It seems too dangerous for the plants. Have thinned out my pouch of basil which I'm not convinced was the best way of doing it. It's made to look so easy and yet I really do not find it so.

Success! and weed control.

It's pretty evident to me now that I am going to have to do something with the actual garden. The weeds are out of control and the pumpkin plant that our friend gave to us is growing at a super-duper rate.

Every time I pop into B&Q, I look at the weed display and have to turn away again as there is too many bottles and packets to choose from. I very unwisely figured that you just spray this around your garden and it only kills the weeds and not the plants. I have since learned otherwise.

So what to do?

There are a number of plants that I want to keep or feel I should keep is more accurate. I also want to plant the pumpkin as apparently they need deep roots and who am I to neglect poor penelope to her roots needs. Never forget your roots!

There are a number of options and it is pretty clear that I don't have time or patience for most of them.

Laying down old carpet or some sort of covering for years on end is not my bag. However I think if me and Nathan can get our arses in gear, my plan will be this:

1. Dig up as many of the weeds as possible.

2. Treat other weeds growing in areas such as the gravelly section of my garden with this procedure or vinegar.

3. Mulching. I've found a lovely black bark which I think will look pretty amazing. However I think I need more reading into this. There is no point putting down something that looks cool but stops all plants from growing.

On an old note, my baskets are looking pretty funky now and have flowered. My totally inappropriate efforts at pricking out are looking ok. One sunflower got a beheading when a tomato plant fell on it. Still not sure how that happened. The tomato plants look willing to survive for a bit longer.

The potato bags are showing little green buds - how exciting!

I'm feeling pretty happy about it all.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Pricking 'ell!

Finally... finally got the compost and the vermiculite needed for pricking out the seedlings and transferring as many as I could into their own pots. 

I bounced about B&Q again much to Nathan's dismay. Bought some ties, the above vermici-wotsit and grabbed some night-scenting flower seeds. Next project. Also chose a new shower hose and rose for our pants bathroom. Why the previous owners never got a new one while they were there I don't know. I managed only 3 months with the highly inappropriate-for-use shower head. One way to experience a multi-spray shower I guess. Managed to wash down the rest of my bathroom whilst showering. Lots of fun. Terribly frugal.

Got in at about 10pm then decided it'd be a great idea to repot on my lap on the sofa in front of Desperate Housewives.

I wouldn't recommend it.

I don't think I have enough patience for pricking out :/

It's very delicate work and fiddly. 

Soil gets everywhere.

As does vermiculite.

I started by mixing up the compost and vermiculite in a bowl. Well I say started, initially I tried to do this in a small 7cm pot and realised what fool idea that was straight away. So I did a Hansel and Gretal routine to the kitchen and back for a bowl, leaving a trail of compost for no-one in particular. I then filled all the pots, that I had grabbed from the £1 shop, halfway up with this mixture then tried to work out how to get the seedlings out of each pot.

You've got to understand that by this point the sunflowers were about 5 inches tall and lolling all over the place.

I had both my gardening bibles with me however they both only gave tips on how to transfer seedlings to a pot rather than how to get them out of their present pot. I eventually squeezed them out and separated them that way. Many a leaf broke despite the advice being to hold the leaves. I did as many as I could then showed my attentions to the tomatoes. 

These were shockingly delicate and I'm wondering if I've made a huge mistake here. I guess time will tell. My method for getting them out of the pot didn't work so well this time. I squeezed and the whole thing fell out in a soggy wet lump. I didn't use all of these and the rest I've randomly threw in the garden just to see if any of them have a huge will to survive. I'm quite cruel I agree. I felt like I was pushing my children out into the woods at the age of 3 and seeing if they return grown up and unscathed. Perhaps I'm too harsh on myself... and perhaps just a little bit twisted.

I added sticks to the sunflower pots and tried a number of ways to hold those suckers up. I don't remember it being so involved last time I grew sunflowers as a kid. I'm sure we just stuck it in a pot and watched it grow.

I highly recommend not doing what I did. I recommend doing this or this but not this:

and certainly do not do this kind of thing at gone 10pm on your lap in front of the telly.

I'll make the mistakes so you don't have to.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

What I have learnt so far...

1. When a plant plug goes limp in places or even fully, it's not the end of the world. Just water it some more and the rest will thrive and even the limp bits might plump up again.

2. Even slightly damaged plants can perk up. They will be scarred but can carry on quite happily with a bit of love.

3. I won't worry about poking trailing plants through a planter/basket liner ever again. After looking at other baskets, which I hadn't done before, I noticed quite a few hadn't bothered to do this and the trailers had trailed better for it. The other option would be to cut out a curved section rather than an actual hole.

4. I will line a basket, next time, with a plastic bag with drainage holes to slow down water drainage.

As you can probably guess, I came home to find that the days rain had perked the baskets up and there is one beautiful flower in the planter. It is a white flower which is a little strange as the bloom-ed plant is a blue isotoma. But I'm not complaining.

Blimey! I am sat here smiling thinking I may have it in me yet.

Wanted - For seed murder!

Spent a wonderful day in Norfolk yesterday. Visited Holkham beach and Wells-Next-The-Sea with a group of our friends.

Got chatting about my "gardening" and sure enough found some fellow gardeners in our group of five who have/are successfully growing in containers and the outdoors. Both proved to be encouraging and very generous by offering a plant or two to me to continue growing. Made me worry less that my peppers and chillies weren't growing. They may just need longer to germinate. Although as I wrote this I had a little look and each page I looked at suggested different things. Hmm, this is exactly why I am writing this blog. Too much mixed information for the first-time gardener. However I'm wondering if my kitchen windowsill just hasn't been warm enough for the peppers and chillies.

Went back to one of our fellow gardener/friend's home and she showed us her containers which were all growing wonderfully and her plot in the garden which looked ever so professional. Apparently she'd only just started too but clearly quite a bit before me. She'd just been following a book her sister got her. Very inspiring but it's given me the fear again unfortunately. I think I'm going to have this trouble until I get more solid results. I left with a small pumpkin plant which I have named Penelope and I'm hoping that I may not only grow a pumpkin in time for this Halloween but make my own pumpkin pie with it. My friend reassured me that the more results I get the more I will love gardening.

Our other friend who has been successfully growing chilli plants has offered me a chilli plant too, that she grew from seed.

My baskets are looking very sad indeed in places. They are also drying out like no one's business. They seemed to stay moist when they were sitting on the grass but now they are hanging up it seems I have to drench them. Strangely enough some parts are wilting but others are thriving so I'm on tenterhooks to see what happens. I do believe I am seeing flowers buds as well. I'm sure the next bit of sunshine we have will get those going. When we have sunshine again, is another matter.

I still have to prick out the sunflowers and tomatoes and the basil needs thinning out. I worked out what was wrong with the herb set. I'd managed to sow the seeds too deep. I believe I've solved the problem with one of the pots but sadly only the basil is striving to live. The parsley and chives may not survive. It looks like they germinated then had too far to grow.

I'm thinking my huge fear is not failure exactly but killing something that is alive or heeding something that could live. That fear has clearly become fact with the herb set which was also a lovingly-picked present :(