March Flower Planting…

Here comes the sun and I’m loving it!  I have spent quite a lot of time in the garden recently, things are warming up so I wanted to get ahead on the flower beds and get some seeds in to germinate.  I have a raised beds, no dig system so all I have to do is make sure any roots from last year are removed and pull out any weeds.  Quite a few of the Hardy Annuals self seed so it’s worth leaving any seedlings in and seeing what they start to turn into before removing them.

So, already germinating in the kitchen are Cleome seeds (Violate Queen) that were planted last month, they are for the flower borders and are well on their way, they should help fill the huge gap I had last year towards the end of summer, I have also germinated SchizanthusDr Bager’ and I think some Malope Trifida seeds that have no label.  DidiscusBlue Lace‘ & RudbeckiaCappuccino‘ are in the greenhouse under a fancy new cloche I bought with cardboard underneath.  I bought these as a pack of 3 from Crocus and they are a bit of a nightmare to put together, I had help from Mr C, if having a 2 year old stealing your screws as you need them can be called help.  It’s really early to be attempting to germinate seeds in an unheated greenhouse be we are forecast such a warm week and with the cloche I hope to get some results.

Also in the greenhouse under the cloche I have planted for the cutting beds:

Helianthus/Sunflower)Chianti‘ x 8

…that’s it.  Hummm, I was expecting to write a nice list but that really is it.  I put Calendula Officianlis/French MarigoldIndian Prince’ direct into the ground also under a cloche and I plan to sow Salvia Horminum ‘Blue Clary’ (which usually self seeds but I can’t see any this year), Tithonia Rotundiflora/Mexican SunflowerTorch‘ for a possible gap where I should be putting Scabiosa (I have no seed and it should be germinating now) and Bupleurum for use as foliage, all in pots for transplant outside later.

There isn’t a lot for picking in the garden, only some Hellabores (Argifolius and some rather pretty Orientalis) but I am very excited to see all the Spring bulbs peeking out of the soil and can’t wait for their colourful displays, for the meantime I am happy to look at the Aricula that have survived a winter of neglect in the greenhouse and are now flowering indoors after a feed and a clean up.

Cut Flower Beds, the plans for 2010…

I sat down this morning to plan my cutting beds for 2010, can’t help but realise as I type this that I had planned to change one of the cutting beds (of which I have 4) to a vegetable bed as I grow quite a few of the ‘cutting flowers’ in my main beds and don’t have as much room as I would like for vegetables, oh well, too late now!

I started the same was as I always do, with mini prints of the planned flowers.  I will confess to being a bit bored of my cutting selection, so much so that I made very little effort last year but having done a bit of research over winter, I find that the plants I grow (mainly recommended by Sarah Raven) really are the best for cut flowers and I can’t possibly throw any seed away so I am making a point of planning early and using up my existing seeds.  The mini prints allow me to lay them out on the table and move them about until I have a good combination.  I try to keep taller flowers together, so to they can be supported at the same height, I also try to keep Hardy Annuals at the top of the bed and the Half Hardies at the front so they aren’t overshadowed as they go into the beds later in the year and the sun comes mainly from the front.

So, here they are my lists.

Bed 1

  • Euphorbia Oblongata (HA) x 4
  • Cerinth Major Purpurascens (HA) 2 Rows x 5 each

Bed 2

  • Salvia Viridis – Blue Clary (HA) x 5
  • Bupleurum (HA) x 5
  • Zinnia – Elegans, Sprite Mix (HHA) 2 Rows x 5 each
  • Nicotiana Alata – Lime Green (HHA) 2 Rows x 5 each
  • Salvia Paterns (HHA) x 5
  • Anthirrhinum – Crimson Classic (HHA) x 5

Bed 3

  • Calendula Officialis – Indian Prince (HA) x 4
  • Nigella Damascena – Deep Blue (HA) x 5
  • Nigella Hispanica (HA) x 5
  • Zinnia – Deep Red (HHA) x 5
  • Bupleurum (HA) x 5
  • Zinnia – Giant Dahlia Mix (HHA) x 5
  • Amaranthus Caudatus – Viridis (HHA) 2 Rows x 4 each

Bed 4

  • Helianthus Annus – Chianti (HA) 2 Rows x 4 each
  • Ammi Majus (HA) x 4
  • Centaurea Cyanus – Blue Boy (HA) x 4
  • Malope Trifida Vulcan (HA) x 3
  • Cosmos – Purity (HHA) x 3
  • Scabiosa – Black Cat (HA) x 3
  • Cosmos – Dazzler (HHA) x 3

So that’s it, my planned lists for 2010.  There are some self seeded Hardy Annuals already growing which I shall move into place (a good reason for keeping some of the flowers in the same beds) and I started a few in the greenhouse last Autumn, some of which didn’t make the Winter but I’ll update on this another time.  There are also only a handful of plants planned for Bed 1 as it contains my bulbs in between the rows and in the last 2 years I have found that the bulb foliage overshadows any new seedlings trying to grow.

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain…

Well, thank goodness for that, some rain at last and after the builders had roofed our old extension so perfect timing.  What a difference it makes, the garden has sprung into life and turned a rather spritely green which is a nice change from brittle yellow.  Last week I planted out the final seeds for the flower garden, which were the sweet peas.  I have used toilet rolls as I figure they act as a sort of root trainer, I did this last year and felt rather smug with my invention only to find it wasn’t very original and everyone does it.  Anyhow they are in, two per roll pushed about 1 inch down, a mix of Midnight, Painted Lady and the seeds I saved from this years Matucana.

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Also starting in the greenhouse are the flowers Antirrhinum/Snapdragon (Crimson Classic, I think), Centaurea Cyanus/Cornflower (Blue Boy) and Scabiosa (Black Cat) all of which will stay there for the Winter after which I will plant them out, under cloches as early as I dare next Spring so they get a good head start.

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The 3 buckets with Broad Bean (Super Aquadulche) are on their way. I still have to decide whether to put them outside for the Winter or leave them in the greenhouse.  They did OK last year outside in a sheltered spot but they were a big scraggy and wind worn by Spring.

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As mentioned in my last post, here are The Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Red Arrow x 2, Rudolph x 2 & Late Purple x 2) looking rather splendid, oops, some weeding required around the bottom; on which note, here is what happens when you go overboard scattering seed heads

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just a few extra nigella seedlings to remove then!

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Last, and by no means least is a photo of the wonderful book ‘Vegetable Growing Month by Month’ by John Harrison.  John contacted me asking to use one of my photos a while back and in return he sent me a copy of his book and some seeds, I know who got the better deal!  Great book, it’s get every detail you need to grow veg month by month (does what is says on the tin) and I am very pleased he sent 100s and 1000s Tomato seeds as I have been looking for these mini tomatoes to add to my seed collection.  I should also mention John has a super fantastic site Allotment Vegetable Growing which is well worth a visit and has every piece of advice, including recipes you could possible need.

Hope the rain keeps up for a while!

Final Autumn Vegetable Planting…oh and garlic…

The final seeds have gone in over the past few weeks to provide some needed winter eating.  In the pots that had contained the squash I have planted seeds for Pak Choi (Tatsoi – an Autumn planting Pak Choi, about 5 per pot) and Kale (Cavalo Nero and Red Bor, one of each per pot as they need a lot of space) which are sprouting now.  They are  a little later than planned but the originals, which were started in the greenhouse, were munched by caterpillars.  Also in the garden I have seedlings (started in the greenhouse) of Chard (White Silver) now planted out (6 altogether) and finally last week I planted up my apple crates with a mix of salad seeds for the winter:

  • Mizuna
  • Mustard – Green in the Snow
  • Lettuce Cos – Green Oak Leaf
  • Lettuce – Cocarde
  • Lettuce – Marveille De Quatre Saison
  • Lettuce – Red Sails

I think I put in some Winter Purslane as well but to be honest can’t be sure.  I was in a hurry and rather stupidly though I would write down what I had planted where and then didn’t, however I do have 5 apple crates now sprouting a mix of seeds (usually 2 types per crate spaced as instructed on the packet).  This is why I should REMEMBER TO LABEL WHAT I PLANT!!!

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My garlic arrived, as ordered a while ago from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm.  As in this post, I have decided on only planting Albigensian and Solent Wight this year, the bulbs were massive so I planted all the cloves (I sometimes discard/eat the smaller ones in the centre) and they have taken up the best part of two of the raised beds.  This is not ideal but I got annoyed this summer with the garlic being spread over the garden, including in the flower borders so I decided to sacrifice another raised bed in the veg patch.  For the full garlic ‘how to’ post read here.  There is still plenty of time to still order and plant garlic, some can go in as late as Spring but I prefer to give them an Autumn start.

Still growing nicely in the garden are the Alpine Strawberries (Mignonette) which Charlie strips every day.  I am slightly amazed that 5 small plants are providing so many fruit over such a long period, they are a definite favourite and the extra 5 plants I have planned for next year are in place and growing well.  The Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Red Arrow x 2, Rudolph x 2 & Late Purple x 2) planted in the greenhouse in April and then in the bed after the garlic are an amazing size, I had to abandon the Enviromesh as it was rather crushing the leaves so I do a regular caterpillar patrol and the pick them off.  The late purple is rather lagging behind but is still doing well.  Also still in there are my Parsnips (Gladiator) which I will leave until after the first frosts, ideally not too long as last year they ended up rather large!

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Today I planted my final seeds (I think, unless I try and dash in some Spinach or some new herbs), Broad Bean (Super Aquadulche) which can be planted now and left over winter in a sheltered spot for an early crop.  Last year I planted 2 per bucket with John Innes No 2, this year I am going for 3, I had hoped to add a scarlet broad bean but have failed to find one and I saved quite a few beans for planting from the S. Aquadulche so want to make sure I use them.

All I have to do now is try and remember to water them!

Sowing Hardy Annuals…

A Hardy Annual pretty much lives up to it’s name, it can withstand cold weather, as opposed to a Half-Hardy Annual, which MAY survive the cold (some of mine do if I mulch them but more about that another time) and it grows, flowers and sets seed all in one year, unlike a Biennial which grows foliage one year and flowers the next or a Perennial which comes back year after year.

As Autumn has arrived, it’s time to sow hardy annuals (HA) so they can form a small plant before the weather gets too cold.  You can sow them in Spring but they will not flower as early, Autumn sowing gives them a head start and in my experience works well for my cutting patch, you can then sow replacements in Spring in the greenhouse that take over after the Autumn sown plants are past their best.  I used to start mine in small pots in the greenhouse but I mostly sow direct now, it saves a lot of energy and keeps the greenhouse free for other things.  You can just scatter your seeds in your chosen spot but it’s hard to tell what is a weed and what  is a plant as they sprout so it’s better to sow in lines/drills, the seed packets should have the ideal depth and distance for each final plant, you will probably have to thin them out a few times as they grow.  I wont go into too much detail, as to be honest there are so many good tutorials on the internet on how to grow HA and they are much better written then I could ever manage!

I find that I grow a lot of the same plants each year and most of my HA self seed, so I just transplant the seedlings to the desired spot once they are established.  My worst problem is not watering the seedlings enough, or thinning them too keenly too early and having the slugs take out the rest leaving me to begin again next Spring.  I am late planning my cutting beds but I know I will grow the following HA:

hardyannuals

  1. Bupleurum rotundifolium – Griffithii
  2. Salvia Viridis/Sage – Blue Clary
  3. Euphorbia Oblongata
  4. Centaurea Cyanus/Cornflower – Blue Boy
  5. Calendula Officinalis/Marigold – Indian Prince
  6. Nigella Hispanica/Love-in-the-mist
  7. Nigella Damascena – Deep Blue
  8. Helianthus Annus/Sunflower – Red Sun
  9. Cerinth Major Purpurascens/Honeywort
  10. Malope Trifida Vulcan
  11. Ammi Majus/Bishop’s Flower
  12. Scabiosa Atropurpurea

I sow the Helianthus/Sunflower in Spring in the greenhouse but everything else is started in September, I give a few seeds a helping hand by shaking the seed heads in the spot where I want my new plants, cover them lightly with fine soil, water and then leave them too it.  I still rather neglecting the garden, we have new school for Felix and builders working on part of the house so there is enough going on but I am worried about getting behind, I had better stop writing and get digging or I will regret it next Spring!

August Flowers…and sorry!

I bet you were wondering where I have been?  Well, the summer holidays have slightly taken their toll, Mummy duty has been full on (I am writing this sitting in the living room as Mr C can’t be left alone with F, who is terrorising him at every opportunity).  Also, The Linen Cat has been having a sale which has meant a lot of packing and posting and some hasty panic sewing of new stock to fill the gaps.

Owl lavender bags about to be posted

Owl lavender bags about to be posted

This along with a complete lack of rain and not enough watering from me has resulted in slightly neglected garden, and blog, I feel suitably guilty and need to get everything back up to speed.

Right, the cutting garden is still producing:

  • Helianthus Annus/Sunflower – Red Sun
  • Amaranthus Caudatus – Viridis’
  • Centura Cyanus/CornflowerBlue Boy
  • Salvia ViridisBlue Clary
  • CosmosDazzler
  • Salvia Patens
  • Nicotiana AlataLime Green
  • CosmosPurity
  • Bupleurum

I have to admit that at this time of writing some of the above are getting very scratty and a number have produced seed heads but I am still picking large amounts of Cosmos and Sunflowers (warning!  bad photo alert!):

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The boarders are still pitiful, very dry and with little colour, I will correct this for next year with plenty of late summer plants to fill the gaps, for this year I want to concentrate on making sure the cutting garden is planted up in September with new Hardy Annuals that will survive winter and give early flowers next year.  This is made a lot easier by the fact that most of my Hardy Annuals self seed, I prefer to plant in the same spots so I just give a shake of the dry plants as I lift them, give the soil a rake and water to allow the seeds to settle in then move the seedlings into position once they have sprouted.

I have also saved quite a lot of seed this year.  The dry weather and my total neglect of the garden has left me with quite a few dry seedheads so I figured I may as well pack them up.

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Above, you can see Sweet pea ‘Matucana’, Nigella Hispanica and Damascena both of which produce beautiful seed heads which I also use in cut flower arrangements.  I now need to draw up plans for next year’s cutting beds (I will post these, along with photos of the planned plants and instructions on planting Hardy Annuals and Biennials) and get planting so the seedlings have time to settle in before the weather turns cold.

The Rewards…

I had missed the fact is was a bank holiday weekend until someone mentioned it on Thursday at the Pre-school door so what a bonus weekend!  It was the perfect opportunity on Saturday for an impromptu meal outdoors at our new table with fresh salad from the garden.  

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We bought our garden furniture a few weeks ago as ordered by my husband from The Garden Furniture Centre.  I really recommend it, it was reasonably priced and was delivered and put together by a lovely Polish lad.  Picture the scene…my husband is working from home so he can be there for delivery should I be on Pre-school run.  Nice polite Polish lad turns up in van, 6′ 5″ husband wonders out wearing fluffy ‘comfy pants’ (ie old joggers that are about 2 inches too short) to deal with delivery.  Polite Polish lad walks into garden carrying HUGE box with massive table on his back, my husband pottering behind eating a one of the kids ‘Fab’ ice lollys.  I then do lots of manic “for God’s sake help the poor man” gestures as husband looks at me confused.  Long story short the furniture was delivered, unpacked and all the rubbish taken away in recored time by the nicest most polite delivery man,  I was impressed,  I rushed out with big tip which he seemed genuinely delighted to be given.  We have waited a few years for decent garden furniture and it makes a big difference to how we use the garden, having a table that seats us all and guests.

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Yesterday we sat outside and ate the first salad leaves from the garden, along with a bean salad (containing our own broad beans) and potato salad with lovely spring onions ‘North Holland Blood Red’ which have been growing since last Autumn (I sow these every few weeks wherever a space appears).  The salad leaves are grown in apple crates and are cut and come again so that I can keep trimming the big leaves off and have a continuing supply.  Below are Lettuce Cos ‘Green Oak Leaf‘, Lettuce ‘Reine de Glace‘, Mustard ‘Red Frills‘ and Mibuna.  To add a pretty touch I grow Viola Tricolour ‘Heartsease’ in a pot to add to salads or freeze in ice cubes for summer drinks.  Once I have lifted the 3 apple crates growing garlic I will also sow salad in these.

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