Thursday, 27 December 2012

Sowing Sweet Pea Seeds

Now, I  have seen in two books:  "Plant Propagation  for the Amateur Gardener" by John Wright and "Science and the Garden" edited by David  Ingram among others, that sweet pea seeds should either be chipped with a knife or sanded to make a hole  for water to enter the seed.  This they say will help to overcome seed dormancy.

Well  if you think that I am going to chip over 300 seeds then you are sadly mistaken.   I have been growing sweet peas since I was 16 and I have never chipped or sanded sweet pea seeds.  They are tiny little beggars in any case and I think that I would be chipping and sanding the ends of my fingers rather than the seeds.

Although I cannot remember every years germination rate, in most recent years I have had more or less 100% germination without chipping.

Having run  out of both pots and room  in the greenhouse, I have decided to wait before I sow the rest of the sweet pea seeds.  I  have until March to sow them.

I will choose a warmish day to plant out the shallots, broad beans and garlic that I have started in pots and cover them  with plastic cloches.  This will give me more than enough pots for the sweet peas.

This is the first time that I have run out of space in the greenhouse in December.

I will  have to make  room  for the giant leeks and onions when they need transplanting  into pots.  Also, I  will  need to transplant the big cabbage and cauliflowers.

I am hoping to grow  some big plants next season. 

Problem is that I can't get the digging done.  Will the rain ever stop?  I have still got over half the new allotment to dig over and put plants into.  I will try to get down there tomorrow.  I also need to get the veg from the old allotment.  I need some more carrots, onions, pumpkins (if they haven't gone rotten now) leeks and brussel sprouts.  I will  see if there  is any more kale or broccoli but there wasn't much last time I looked.  I will spend a little more time on these next season.

The kale and broccoli seed were given to me so I didn't bother too  much with them. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Cleaning more plant pots

After searching around in the shed I have found quite a few three inch pots.  There is probably enough for at least one more variety of sweet peas to be sown.  I spent the morning cleaning them out and putting some more staging in the greenhouse.

If I  am going to sow some more seed I  will have  to have the space to line them out in the greenhouse.  The staging is  falling apart and will need some woodwork to put it together again but at the moment I  am just going to cover it with some large compost bags and use the trays  to  support the pots.

I cleaned the pots with the hand  brush and a damp rag.  I thought that I had washed a lot more of the pots at the allotment  but I was cruelly mistaken and had quite a few to do.

They do  look  good when they are  carefully cleaned though; almost as good as new and a lot cheaper.  I have at least three hundred pots and have never bought one.  They have aways come with a plant, mostly tomatoes, planted in them.  I   only throw  them  away when they get very old and  decrepid.

 I have been given quite a few of them as well.  Still  haven't enough though.

As  some of them have been given to me,  there  is a chance that they may have diseases or pests in their residual soil.  Regardless, cleaning them  is always the best  policy and avoids bringing  nasty bugs into the greenhouse.

It is  remarkable  how  much growing  medium is left in the pots when you knock out plants.  I have almost half filled an  old bucket with this residual growing  medium.  The growing medium  is probably still  full  of added nutrients even after a year so it  will be added to  the compost bin.  Its all grist to the mill Tone.

Tomorrow  I  will sow some  more  sweet pea seeds in the morning.  It seems that I will be  going to the cinema to watch the new Hobbit film  in the  afternoon.  This might suggest that I  would  rather be sowing seeds rather than sampling the visual interpretation of Tolkien's magnum opus and you might be right.  It is just the  though of his  little  book being  stretched out into three films.  What do they think they were doing?


Monday, 24 December 2012

Sowing more sweet pea seeds

I sowed the Charlie's Angels and Cirrus sweet peas today.  Not sure about Cirrus because I haven't grown it before.  I like the Charlie's Angels blue which is a little darker than Oban Bay. 

I have  several other sweet pea seeds that I haven't grown before but I am going to give them all a go.  I was thinking of putting all the blues: Bristol, Charlies  Angel, Blue Danube and possibly Karen Louise on  the old allotment and the others on the new allotment.

I have found quite a few three inch pots after scrabbling about in the shed trying to put some order into my pots and seed tray box.  While I  don't think that I will have enough pots for all the sweet pea seeds, I will sow until I run out of pots and then leave the other seeds until I plant  out some of the others.  This way I will get a succession of flowers.

The temperature in the greenhouse was a balmy 12 degrees Celsius.  This is quite good for December in UK.  If this continues over the week, I might get some seed germination.  If I do, I will not have any pots to transplant them into.  The garlic and shallots will have to be planted out on the old allotment and that could be a problem particularly as the ground is so water logged. 

The green manure where the onion bed will be this year is growing particularly big and could be dug in now.   I might dig in a little just to see if it is possible or whether the ground is too wet.

This time last year I was hoping for some rain.  This year I am hoping for  some dry weather.

I couldn't get down to the new allotment to continue digging due to the rain but in the drier periods I cut the hedge back and filled another bag with the cuttings.  There is still quite a way to go before it is finished so  I will have a lot of brushwood to add to the tripple digging trenches.

I really need to crack on with the digging because I  have quite a few plants that should  be planted  now.
An apple tree, autumn raspberries, bay trees, rhubarb,  strawberries etc.   

If it stops raining even  for  a little while I  will make  sure  that this  is my priority.  Really, if I  wasn't sieving both the top and the subsoil,  adding manure,  I  would have finished it by now. 

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Planting the Raspberry canes.

As raspberry canes can suffer from replant disease, I decided to take a trench out and replace the soil that I was going to plant the  raspberries in.  They are in the ideal position at the moment so I  didn't want to move the row. 

Probably due to the replant disease, the raspberries in this part of the row were not doing very well and a lot smaller than the others in the other half of the row. 

I took out a trench about 2 feet wide and two spits deep. 

It has been raining for quite a while now and the trench soon filled with water.  I just back filled with soil from another part of the allotment.  This soil was dry enough for the raspberries to be planted into so I set out the twelve plants and tied them to the wire supports.  The roots were dusted with mychorrhizal fungi and more new soil was put into the trench until the raspberry roots were covered. 

I don't  reckon they will need watering at the moment. 

So I have planted the new raspberries and I will look forward to picking them next year.  Raspberries rarely go home. 

Got all the vegetables for Christmas.  These included carrots, parsnips, hamburg parsley, beetroot, kale, broccoli,  brussel sprouts, cabbage, leeks, onions and pumpkin.  We will also have shallots, garlic and potatoes from the store shed and beans and peas from the freezer. 

Not bad for a very poor, wet, dark year. 

I sowed the Jilly and Blue Danube sweet peas into three inch pots.  Needless to say that I am quickly running out of these pots and labels.  I am sure that I can scrabble around for some more somewhere.

I cut back the hedge in the back garden a little more and bagged up the cuttings.  They have been taken down to the new allotment to be put at the bottom of the tripple digging trench.  I still have quite a bit more to take off the hedge but it seems a lot easier if you do it in small stages.  I will take some more off tomorrow.  I will also sow some more sweet peas - as long as I can find some pots to put them into. 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Sowing Sweet Pea Seeds

The  sweet pea seeds came too late to plant in October and really sowing them in  autumn would give quite early flowers.  Planting in March will give later flowers but not really by much.   So how about sowing them in December? 

Having all  the sweet pea seeds handy in the greenhouse  was far  too much of a temptation so I have spent a couple of hours today sowing the Bristol and Eclipse seeds.  I am planting them in 3 inch  pots with New Horizon's peat free growing medium; one seed per pot.  Whether they will survive well  until the spring is debatable but worth a go.  I sowed 25 Bristol and 29 Eclipse seeds which will give me a lot more than I will need.  King's seeds seem to be very generous with the number of seeds in a packet.  They have been put into the plastic greenhouse inside my glass greenhouse to give them  a little more protection and warmth. There is no heat in the greenhouse at the moment but it does seem to stay about ten degrees during the day in the plastic  green house.

In order to keep all the same colours together in the rows when the sweet peas are planted out, I have labelled them very carefully.  I hate it when I mix up the varieties.  Writing  out the labels is  a very time consuming task  but it is worth it. 

I washed all my labels earlier  in December and put them all together in a net bag.  I have been collecting old  labels from where ever I find them.  I have about ten from the new allotment.  Carefully washing them to remove the old writing means that I have quite a few this year.  From  the  number I used today, I think  that I will still run  out before the summer.   I will wash and recycle them  but I am not confident that I  will not have to buy some more before the spring is out.

I planted some of my own broad  bean seed  in  November and they have  germinated fairly well.  I have transplanted  them  into 3 inch pots and they seem to be doing  quite well.  I am  hoping that they will grow quite big and be ready for the allotment  competition  in the first week of July.  However, just in case,  I  have sown some more exhibition ones to make sure I have a presentable row. 

I took a load of hardwood cuttings in  the autumn and  they all seem to be coming very well.  They are all fairly simple  to  strike:  Forcythia x intermedia, Ribes sanguineum, Spirea japonica and Spirea prunifolia and they will either be put into my daughter's garden or on the new allotment. 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Using brushwood

It has long been known that adding lots of carbon to the soil will deplete it of nitrogen.  What people forget is that adding lots of nitrogen will deplete the carbon.  Adding air will deplete both.

I have been cutting back the hedge in the back garden, which has become quite overgrown.  This is producing a lot of woody material.  The hedge on the new allotment needed cutting back too.  This has given me a lot of brushwood.

The hedge in the back garden is mostly cherry laurel Prunus laurcerasus  and the hedge on the new allotment is hawthorn  Crataegus monogyna and these plants have deep roots that penetrate well into the soil bringing up nutrients and incorporating them into their structure.

To burn or bin this rich source of nutrient is unnecessary when they can be buried in a trench to rot down over the year.  Burying them deeply means that they do not interfere with the top soil and cultivation can continue without being  interrupted by meeting brushwood while digging or forking over.

So the brushwood is being bagged up and taken down to the allotment to add to the tripple digging trenches.  This will help with the drainage, raise the soil and possibly heat up the soil a little while the brushwood decomposes.  

200 new bamboo canes came yesterday and these will probably be used for the sweet peas.  The scaffold  netting 2m x 50m came today.  I have been given some blue water pipe and these will be used as supports for the scaffold netting. Either this will be put over the brassicas or cover the onions. 

Even though the allotments are run on completely organic principles, there is still a need to protect crops from disease and pests.  The only way open now is to use barriors and the most effective one I have found is using scaffold debris netting.  This will let a lot of light through while preventing all but the tiniest pest from getting to the crops.

Debris netting  is a little unsightly so  I  am endevouring to use them only when the adult pests are laying eggs.  There are some pests such as the cabbage white which seems to be laying eggs for most of the summer and this encourages me to leave the nets on all summer.

I would rather not have to have  the barriors up all summer because I want the allotment to look good as well as produce lots of food. It also means that weeding is that much more difficult.  I like to bury the edges of the netting in the soil to anchor it and prevent the pests from finding a gap to get in.  This means  that every time  I weed I have to rebury the edges again.  A little time consuming.

The best pest protection is the gardener's shadow.  I will go over the brassica  plants carefully removing any pests that I find.

I sowed some cabbage,  cauliflower and broad beans today.  Probably far too early but I have plenty of seed so I thought I would give it a go.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Seed planting

Although the temperatures have been below freezing for about a week, the weather has warmed a little.  I needed to begin the seed sowing for next year.  I already have some Bedfordshire Champion onions on the go and am slowly pricking them out into three inch pots.  This is really an experiment using old seed. 

The onions germinated relatively well and I am going to see if I can grow some big ones.  I got a few large onions last year even with the wet weather.  The darm dismal weather made growing quite difficult. 

As the new seed has been delivered, I decided to begin sowing.  I have sown the Mammoth onions and the pot leeks.  I will be needing some more seed compost soon.  I will be sowing more leeks today. 

I may well so the Sweet Peas today as well but only if I have time.  Really they should be left now until early spring.