Archive for the ‘Experimentation’ category
The long Easter weekend: time to catch up on the planting schedule, and get some digging done. In the past couple of weeks, we have:
- Planted more peas.
- Planted green beans and runner beans, to germinate on the windowsill
- Planted some coriander to grow from seed
It does feel as if I should be doing an awful lot more, given the season and the warming of the weather. It doesn’t help that Symbolic Towers has, literally, nothing more than a single windowsill for plant germination, and despite last week’s warm spell the ground still isn’t warm enough for outdoor plants to be moving very quickly.
The potatoes are springing up, though, with lovely dark red foliage. Unfortunately only two of the tubers seem to have grown, so I slyly slipped another into the depths of the container at the start of this week. No sign of it coming up yet; but it means that the earthing-up has become rather uneven, the soil inside the container now having a mountainous slope to it.
The first of the seeds we saved last autumn have been planted. Of a batch of six green beans, only one came up: it has been planted outside, with poles to climb up, and is looking a little lonely. Hopefully the next batch of green beans – put under plastic to germinate this time – will have a greater success rate. At least the bamboo poles give the garden some height, something that has been missing since last year’s batch of beans was finally cut down last November. The second batch of peas has now been planted out too; the first are a tangled mass of interlocking tendrils quickly climbing up each other’s arms.
What will be coming next? Well, there are still more potatoes to plant. Moreover, with the drier weather I’ve been able to restart work on digging up the back bed. I think I mentioned that project back when this blog first started: basically, as the walled bed at the back of the garden was full of broken glass and bindweed roots, we decided to dig it all out completely and sift through all the earth; I didn’t fancy, some time in the future, to plunge my fingers into the ground without thinking and stab them on a pointy shard. It has taken a while, but the end of the digging-up project is starting to come into sight; and when it does, maybe next month, we will have an awful lot more growing space to play with. So much, in fact, I’m not entirely sure what we will do with it all. Maybe it’s time I started looking into perennial vegetables that don’t mind a slightly shady spot.
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.
In the last post, I mentioned that although the rocket is in bloom already, there weren’t any hoverflies about yet. The very next day, I saw the first I’ve seen this year. Orange and black, it had gone before I had chance to grab the camera. It was warm in Sunday’s sunshine, and I could occasionally also hear bumblebees nearby – presumably queens looking for a nesting spot. The only one I saw was a good twenty feet away, not quite close enough to attempt an identification.
I was in the garden, because I’d decided that, with the weather being so warm, it was about time I started getting some seeds in the ground. Don’t want to leave it too late, after all: last year, because of when we started, we didn’t exactly grow the mixture of things we wanted. So Sunday was spent clearing compost out of all the pots which had had last year’s annuals in, and sowing a very few new seeds. In one pot: a mixture of calendulas and lettuce. A bit of an experimental mixture, and I’m not at all sure I have given them enough space to get along. Indoors, on the kitchen window sill: peas, germinating inside to avoid tempting the local wildlife. Peas are damn tasty, after all.
Given the crisp winter weather yesterday, we went out for a walk: down to Spike Island, along the New Cut, then back round in a circle through the back streets of Southville. I noticed, all of the rosemary bushes in the front gardens of Southville are in flower at the moment. Even in January.
The rosemary bush in our garden on the other side of the city is not in flower. I say “bush”: possibly “sprig” is a slightly better word. There are signs, though, that it might be starting to bud, pale green growing tips at the base of each leaf. Something is developing, at least; I don’t know much about rosemary yet.
In other news, we’ve been trying to do a bit more planning on what to grow this year. We had a good harvest last year from the peas we planted, but before the season was over the plants were suffering rather badly from mildew, possibly because we planted slightly too many in each box – after all, when you only have so much space it is tempting.
I have no idea what pea variety we grew last year. Towards the end of the planting season, we popped down to the garden centre, bought whatever type of pea seedlings they had available, and that was that. “Pea” was all it said on the label. For this season, therefore, we have deliberately gone out and bought seed of a disease-resistant variety: P. sativum “Boogie”. Whether they are as tasty or fruitful as last year’s anonymous ones, we will have to wait and see, but the packet of seed peas is ready and waiting in the seed tin.
Since the last “week in the garden” post, we have:
- Harvested the first green beans.
And, because we went away for a long weekend, that was about it. The garden didn’t take too kindly to us going away, either. Or, rather, it didn’t take too kindly to the weather: the combination of dry, hot days without us there for watering, followed by heavy rain, has not had good results. The spring onions have suffered in particular, and the runner beans have also had problems.
Back in the mists of time – well, August – before this blog had properly started, we sowed a few boxes of quick-growing things to give us some more produce into the autumn. As I mentioned then, I tried an experiment. All of the seeds were sowed into previously-used compost; and for each seed, I sowed one box into compost that had been used to grow peas, and one box into compost that hadn’t. It’s three-and-a-half weeks later now, and the results are pretty clear, at least for the radishes.
The pea compost is, I’m fairly sure, the one on the right. Science!