April in the Garden and Greenhouse

What’s hot – and what’s not – in my tiny garden this month.

If you think certain things are missing this year, fear not! I have ongoing and separate posts for tomatoes, potatoes, the allotment, and even loofahs! Yes, this year – along with Monty Don on Gardener’s World – I am attempting to grow loofahs; in my case to use as dish and pan scrubs. I bought my seeds from the internet last year for this very purpose. I’m also growing peas and beans, and new this year, chrysanthemums and dahlias,

Verbena Bonariensis

After germinating and growing just one plant in 2021, I am trying again. With conflicting advice on the internet, I sowed seed onto damp compost and covered it with grit. Suggestions were to put the tray into a polythene bag on a warm windowsill; to cover it with black plastic; to leave it in an unheated greenhouse – which is what I have done. I will not water again until I see seedlings. Fingers crossed.


Sarracenia (Pitcher Plant)

This has FOUR flower stalks! I’ve only had one other flower (November 2019) so I am very excited and will put off splitting it until the flowers are finished. It overwintered in the Tiny Greenhouse but will shortly move outside.


Salads

Continue reading “April in the Garden and Greenhouse”

How Does My Garden Grow this weekend?

From seeds? Slowly, but getting there!

In the post this week . . . a mix of perennial and hardy annuals

Continue reading “How Does My Garden Grow this weekend?”

Mum’s Wreath: 2021

Not as floral as last year’s or the 2019 version; nor as colourful as that from 2018. But you have to do the best with what you can find. I’d expected to collect holly and dried grasses when we walked along the lane on Monday. Sadly, the hedge-cutter has been out and everything is gone, including the small oak saplings we found growing a few weeks ago. The plan was to walk a different route on Tuesday, armed with secateurs, but the weather put paid to that idea.

  1. The second of three very basic wreath shapes made from climbing bean stems in October 2020.
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Fertilisers: A Basic Guide

I’ve only ever used Tomorite and chicken manure pellets, so I thought I’d take a look at which fertilisers work best depending on the vegetables/fruit I have been trying to grow. I found this information on the DT Brown website here. It seems clear enough. Nitrogen (N) produces green leafy growth and foliage; Phosphorus (P) helps root and shoot growth; Potassium (K) is for flower, fruit and general hardiness

An Introduction To N:P:K

During the growing season plants absorb important nutrients and minerals from the soil, these need to be replaced if your plot is to maintain a high level of productivity and yield. Most general-purpose fertilisers have an N:P:K rating which relates to the three primary elements needed for healthy plant growth, the higher the rating the more of that element exists within the fertiliser.

Nitrogen (N)-Supports the growth of the vegetative parts of plants, stems and leaves. It is vital for the production of chlorophyll, which allows plants to carry out photosynthesis. Leafy vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and lettuce have a high nitrogen requirement as does lawn grass. Lack of nitrogen causes poor, stunted growth with spindly stems and yellow or discoloured leaves. Nitrogen washes out of the soil so feeds need to be applied little and often, especially during the growing season.

Phosphorus (P)- Stimulates seed germination and root development, increases stem strength and improves fl ower formation. Root vegetables need plenty of Phosphorous to aid development. Lack of phosphorus causes poor, stunted growth. Plants produce little or no fl owers, have weak root systems or a bright green or purplish cast.

Potassium (K)- Essential for flower and fruit production and improves drought, pest and disease resistance. Often referred to as the “quality element,” because of its importance to many of the features associated with quality, such as size, shape, colour, and taste. Potatoes, fruit and tomatoes all need high levels of Potassium to crop well. Plants low in potassium are stunted in growth and provide lower yields. Excessive levels of potassium can lead to magnesium and calcium deficiencies. Minerals and trace elements are also an important requirement for good plant health. Over time, with each and every harvest, the soil is depleted of these vital ingredients and they also need replacing.

Some Fertilisers and their approximate N-P-K Ratios (full list povided by SAGA here)

  • Chicken manure pellets = 4-2-1 (good for brassicas and salad leaves; and also hellebores)
  • Growmore = 7-7-7 (nitrogen levels too high for tomatoes but OK for potatoes)
  • Tomorite = 4-3-8 (high potash – good for tomatoes and container grown plants)
  • Blood, fish and bone = 3-9-3
  • Seaweed = ratios vary, so check the packaging

Recipe for Homemade Tomato Fertilizer

  1. one gallon, or larger, container such as a bucket.
  2. 1/2 gallon of compost.
  3. 2 cups of rabbit droppings.
  4. 1/2 cup of human & pet hair, cut into small pieces.
  5. 2 cups of dried alfalfa leaves or alfalfa pellets.
  6. 1 cup of dried, crushed egg shells.
  7. 1 cup of used, dried tea or coffee grounds.

I don’t think I’ll be making this home-made fertiliser recipe any time soon

Sowing and Growing a Winter Harvest (5)

I am re-thinking my plan to use the potato growing bags for salad crops, since the slimy ones decimated the plants I’ve already sown – radish, parsley and most of the mizuna mix. Even after the eggshells went down.

Continue reading “Sowing and Growing a Winter Harvest (5)”

Insulating the Greenhouse (3)

With plenty of seedling growing in the potting shed, and hundreds thousands of salad leaf seeds to sow, I was determined to get the salvaged bubble-wrap pinned to the inside of the greenhouse. I used drawing pins – easy to remove and minimal damage to the wood.

The bubble-wrap originally protected the polycarbonate sheets while in transit.

Bubble wrap can’t be recycled or burned so it would have ended up in landfill. As it is estimated that it takes 500+ years to decompose, that is not something I’m comfortable doing until I have re-used and re-purposed it many, many times.

***

Additional Heating

I’ve been looking at possible ways to warm the greenhouse – and protect my salad leaves – when the temperature hits zero or below. Preferably at low or no cost.

There is power point nearby for electic heaters and I have bad memories of smelly, smoky parafin heaters.

I found information on the internet about using candles to heat nested terracotta pots; the idea being that instead of the heat from the candle rising up, the pots (linked with a steel bolt suspended on nuts and washers) will warm up and – similar to storage heaters – will retain and then release heat.

The cheapest version is a Cornish Heater.

Do they work? Some say they do (for a small space), others say not.

And you should never leave lit candles unattended.

I’ll stick with garden fleece, and maybe tuck them up with a hot-water bottle or two on the coldest nights.

Borders, Boundaries and Shady Dealings

NOT the local Mafia (or, as we’re in Wales, the Taffia), but a look at the problems caused by my neighbour’s overgrown trees.

First, the vew from my study window – for the wider angle looking across the conservatory roof. The brick shed is ours, the greenhouse and field is the neighbour’s. as are the trees.

DSCF3985

Continue reading “Borders, Boundaries and Shady Dealings”

Weekend Workout

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In June 2019, I made a start on a project that is finally almost complete. This began with the removal of a raised bed in the shadiest part of the back garden, via the building of the Tiny Greenhouse and now the final corner. Click here to see what it looked like in 2018.

We were left with this ‘spare’ piece of ground, where the round compost bin had stood for 20 years. But then our beer spare fridge finally gave up the ghost in February (almost gassing us in the process), and we were forced to buy a new washing machine after the bearings went on the old one: so with all Recycling Centres closed until a few weeks ago, this (↓) was the view from our kitchen window – until now. Continue reading “Weekend Workout”

Growing in a Grid (2)

Though I have, technically, been attempting grid gardening for two years, it’s been on a more informal basis; a shove it all in and hope it grows basis.  This has worked, but only up to a point.

There are websites and books out there that have already calculated the optimum number of plants that should grow in one-square-foot.

If you want to sow garlic, one square foot (foot-square?) will support nine. Sowing parsnips? You can sow sixteen in one square.  Chard? You can only sow four seeds or seedlings. Potatoes – just one.

If I translate that to a large-scale raised bed, then a way of measuring the area and using the correct spacing is necessary.  I spotted something on the internet a while ago, but it wasn’t too difficult to draw up my own plan, though it doesn’t cover every variation.

InkedSEEDING SQUARE - SQUARE FOOT GARDENING (2)_LI

This is the template my husband used to make my board out of plywood scraps from the shed.

The square is 12 x 12 inches (well it is called square-foot gardening).  I drew diagonal lines corner-to-corner and measured a one-inch border around the outside, then worked out the distances between each set of holes by trial and error – and a pencil and rule(r).

16 holes (green) are 8 centimetres apart, 9 holes (blue), which include the centre are 10 centimetres apart, 4 holes (red) are 14 centimetres apart.

And here is the finished object.

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It’s not pretty, but it doesn’t have to be.  It will do the job, and I have a spare. I’ll use a small length of cane as a dibber – to mark the space when planting seedlings, or measure the correct depth when sowing a seed.

I just need to make sure I have a list of how many of which vegetable seed per square.

There may be times when I just make it up!