I have to confess, in the last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling a little negative about this whole gardening lark – the potatoes appeared to have just vanished, the onions had a disasterous planting out, and things were looking pretty bad.
However, nature has finally noticed that spring is here, and things are growing with enthusiasm. My potato plants have finally put in an appearance (well, 9 out of the 10 I planted anyway), the cabbages seem to have endured my green “planting out” fingers and even the onions – which I were certain had died – are finally showing signs of going green once more, and actually starting to grow.
At the same time, the twig that is our little fig tree is putting out in impressive array of budding leaves, and it’s starting to look like things are going to grow in our garden this year after all!
This weekend saw me finally getting around to putting out the summer cabbages; as they were in pots rather than seed trays the process went a lot better than the onions, although it was still a bit of a battle.
My problem this time around was simply that I hadn’t compacted the soil in the pots very well (read: at all) – I’d thought I was being kind to my little seedlings and keeping it easy for them, but the upshot was that when I upended the pots all the soil fell out and I was left holding a very naked looking plant. So there’s something to remember for next time, although now I’ve got my pellets I’ll mostly be using them!
The positive side of starting them in pots and then planting them out is that this year each plant has plenty of room around it, so hopefully they’ll be a lot happier and heart up more enthusiastically – time will, no doubt, tell.
My onions, however, continue to look rather like they’re all dying. I think I can put this one down to experience; I’ll stick to pellets and pots from now on until I’m feeling more confident about using seed trays without killing everything.
As I think I’ve mentioned previously, I tend to take a partly-organic approach to growing in that I don’t like to be using chemicals to combat pests. Last year the price I paid was that the pigeons and the cabbage white butterflies probably ate more cabbage than I did, but in the main I’m pretty content to share my crops with nature.
That doesn’t mean I don’t intend to discourage the beasties though, which is at least part of the reason for our more recent purchase – we got ourselves a bird feeder (well two actually, a seed feeder and a peanut one). My reasoning is that the more birds we have visiting the garden, the more likely some of them are to eat up the various bugs trying to scoff my crops.
Of course the other risk is that the birds themselves will be eating it instead, but it’s worth a try – and of course it’s nice to encourage the birds in anyway. For a few years I’ve had a robin who comes and watches me when I’m working in the garden, and it would be nice to think he’ll bring some friends along to have a snack while I dig.
We’ve probably managed to do this at just the wrong time of year – the birds are hardly starving right now! – but we’ve already seen a blue tit, which is the first time I can remember seeing one in our garden since we’ve lived here, which is pretty exciting. Now if I can just train them to chase the pigeons away, I’ll be a happy man…
I have to confess that I have a bit of a weakness for garden centres (I wonder what that says about me!) and this whole crop-growing business gives me an excellent excuse to visit them.
This weekend we popped into the best garden centre I’ve found in the area, Burston Garden Centre, which is just a little bit out of Watford. It actually has an impressive range of just about everything, and I’ve never gone there and been unable to find what I was looking for – something worthy of a shameless plug!
I actually popped in there during the last week (well, I was passing the front door!) and managed to pick up a couple of small items – firstly some of these really cool little compressed pellets; just add water and they expand up into little net-wrapped pots you can plant seeds in, and then plant out directly when they’re big enough. It’s my answer to the trauma of the seed trays I mentioned last time.
The other purchase then was the last few seeds; some odd-looking courgettes called ‘One Ball’ which, as the name suggests, are spherical – and also some ‘companion planting’ in the form of Limnanthes Douglasii, which are widely acknowledged as very good for attracting both bees (for pollenation) and hoverflies (for eating all manner of nasty things) as well as being pretty.
I had been meaning to keep a very careful tally, but of course that would have required me to keep hold of receipts and write things down as I go along; here’s my best attempt at a total for the season (excluding some bits I’ll talk about later!)
- Summer savoy cabbage seeds – £2.49
- Red onion seed – £1.99
- Sweetcorn seeds – £1.99
- Seed Potatoes – I’m a little hazy but I think around £4.00
- Courgette seeds – £3.00
- Limnanthes Douglasii – £1.99
- Cool little pellets for seedlings – £5.00 or so
Gosh. Well that adds up to less than £20 for the year; at least that gives me a target for the volume of food I need to produce!