Symbolic Forest Gardenblog

An experiment in container gardening

Archive for March, 2012

Blossom

Back in January, I mentioned that all the rosemary in Southville seemed to be blooming. I said at the time that our own rosemary bush seemed to be slowly coming into bud: two months later, it is starting to flower. On Sunday, I noticed one solitary bloom:

Rosemary starting to flower

Today, there are rather more: I will have to try to get a less lonely-looking shot.

Yesterday, I spotted that the peas sown last Saturday, and the radish seeds sown back on the 11th, are both starting to poke themselves above the ground now. Looking back, I apparently didn’t mention the radishes when I planted them. Last year we grew several batches from a variety packet called “Rainbow Mixed”: they were good for science experiments but not much else, as almost all the plants we grew produced lots of foliage but hardly any root. From a box of radishes, we would get maybe one or two which had roots worth eating. This year, then, I’ve picked a different variety, a German type called “Ostergru├č Rosa”, sold in this country under the Eden Project’s brand name. Supposedly they should turn out with long, French Breakfast-style roots. We shall have to wait and see.

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Bobbing for fennel

A bit nippy out in the garden today: most certainly not as springlike as other days, with dark clouds massing overhead. Not at all like the warm, insect-filled garden of last weekend. Still, I did the things I meant to do: replanted the pea seedlings in their final location, sowed more peas to germinate on the windowsill, scattered a few “surprise” annual flower seeds in spare corners, and retreated to the sofa before the rain broke.

The pea seedlings have, like last year, gone in a box to stand on the garden wall. I should have transplanted them earlier: they were getting rather stuck in their tiny modules. The next batch of peas will start their hardening-up rather earlier, so they can be transplanted outside rather earlier too. The fennel I repotted last week is looking nicely at home, plenty of feathery new growth coming from the heart of both plants. The sweet peas are not so happy, still looking rather listless and floppy, so I have given them a bit more scaffolding to climb up: horizontal strings wrapped around their cane pyramid.

I said last time that I would explain a bit more about the fennel, and why we decided to get some. It is, essentially, to make up for last year. We tried to grow dill last year, and it was a bit of a failure.

If you look at a packet of dill seeds, you see a rather idealised picture: a big pot with a big dill plant inside it, leaves pouring down like a waterfall. Of course, if you’re growing dill for food, that’s what you need, because you need a good bunch of the individual fronds to put in your gravadlax. However, trying to grow dill from seed, that wasn’t what we got at all. The first plants we sowed in modules and tried to pot on: that failed entirely. The second plants we sowed in their final location; they put out a few leaves, then immediately bolted to a few feet high and flowered. Hardly any leaves at all, not even enough to make a single meal out of. The flower heads are pretty: finely-divided cadmium-yellow umbels; but, to be honest, I like eating dill too much to be satisfied with that. Why did it happen? I suspect the pot we put them in was rather too shallow, and the plants’ roots felt rather too cramped for comfort.

Now, in all the books I’ve read, it says: “don’t grow dill and fennel together”. They might give a reason, too, but if they have I haven’t absorbed it, come away only with the idea that they don’t work well together for some reason. I picture the real explanation being like primary school parents’ evening: “honestly, we love little Fennel, and he’s fine on his own, but when him and Dill get together they do tend to egg each other on. Mrs Anderson still can’t bear the sight of pencil shavings, and it was four months ago now…” Anyway, whatever the reason is, as we were trying to grow dill last year, we thought that fennel must be avoided at all costs. As I’m now completely exasperated with trying to get dill to grow, this year it is the fennel’s turn. We don’t have room for more than a couple of bulbs, so we won’t get more than a single side dish from it at the end of the season – fennel gratin is delicious, by the way. I’m more interested to see if its leaves can be used like dill, or if they will end up as purely structural plants for the summer – hopefully they will give the garden a more delicate sense of height than things-up-canes can provide.

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The week in the garden

This week, it really feels as if the garden is properly getting itself going. More and more insects are out and about, and more things are starting to come alive. The lettuce and calendulas sown three weeks ago have just made their first appearance above ground, and the pea seedlings which have been growing on the kitchen windowsill are getting larger and larger, stretching their tendrils like the most grotesque of scarecrows. Today I started hardening them off ready for planting out; I probably should have done it earlier.

Pea seedlings on their first day out in the garden

More peas will start germinating soon. The first batch of this year’s potato crop went into the ground today too – well, into their container. This year we picked Red Duke Of York, as something we are unlikely to see in the greengrocers, and I’ve tried to squeeze four tubers into the container rather than last year’s three. The second batch will be planted in about a month’s time.

To get the potatoes, we popped over to the Riverside in Southville. Naturally, we were rather tempted by their selection of herb plants. Possibly too tempted: intending go there purely to get potatoes, we also came home with a black peppermint, some sweet peas, and two fennel plants. The fennel is instead of the dill we grew last year; I will explain more about that later.

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Progress

The peas planted last weekend were showing the first signs of poking up above the soil five days later, on Friday. By yesterday, the seedlings appeared to be coming on well.

Pea seedlings

Those peas are the ones we sowed for planting out in the garden later; there is no sign of the variety we sowed for pea shoots yet. There is also no sign, apart from a little ground disturbance, of the seeds I sowed outdoors. Of course, the peas, inside on the kitchen windowsill, have something of an advantage. Other things are doing well, though. I said just over a week ago that the first shoots of chives had started to appear. They have been coming on fast: getting on for a couple of inches, they are now big enough to photograph.

Chive shoots

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