Let's start by having a look at the seeds I sowed last week. Sunflowers, poppies, delphiniums, calendula (marigolds) and some others ... they've been sitting comfortably in the propagator all week and I've been glad that they have as we've had a couple of frosty nights. And look! Sunflowers (on the right) and poppies (on the left) are peeping through the soil already. I'm not sure if you can see from this picture quite how many sunflowers seem to have germinated (that'll teach me to sow the whole packet!) but I can see that I'll be giving quite a few away!
Do you know what these are? They're oriental lily bulbs. I love lilies. I love the scent of them which fills the whole room, and even though they're poisonous to cats and I have to take special care that our cats go nowhere near them, they're still my favourite cut flower. I used to grow lots of lilies in the garden but then had a problem one year with lily beetle, an unpleasant bright red European beetle which has gradually found it's way further and further north. The adults eat the leaves and lay eggs which hatch into larvae which poop all over what's left of the leaves and make a right mess. After that year I stopped growing them but these bulbs were a free gift which came with some other plants that I'd ordered and it's been a long enough break to make it worthwhile trying the lilies again.
This sorry specimen is a rosemary plant. I found it in the bargain rack at B&Q this morning when I went to buy some more compost. It's just dried out so I'm hoping that a good soak will revive it, although depending on how long it's been like this, it may be beyond help. You can't cut it back and hope for the best as rosemary doesn't re-grow from old wood, but there is some life down one side which might make it worth the 25p that I paid for it! Another alternative would be to use it as a stock plant and take cuttings, but for some reason I've never had much success with rosemary or lavender cuttings so I'll just leave it in a bucket of water and see what happens.
Finished your brew? Just come outside with me while I show you my strawberries. I only planted them at the weekend and already you can see the new growth coming through. They're all looking very healthy and I'm very pleased with them. There's also no evidence of groundworks by the Cat Excavation Team and I'm very pleased about that too!
The jobs for today are more seed sowing and potting up some plug plants which arrived in the post yesterday. There's something very calming and rhythmical about sowing seeds. It's a bit like knitting in that you have a method which you follow and the familiarity of the movements soothes your mind. Choose your seeds, fill your pot with compost, firm it down, sow the seeds, cover the seeds, water the pot. Start again. It's not always a quick process but it's very satisfying, and continues to be so as you watch your seedlings grow.
I want to plant my cucumber and courgette seeds today as well as empty a few more packets from my seed stash. The seeds are very similar, aren't they? The smaller ones are the cucumber and the larger ones are the courgette. I grow very small cucumbers - deliberately, I might add, I choose a small variety! The variety is called "Zeina" and it produces cucumbers which are just the right size to eat whole. Small daughter loves them to take in her lunch box for school. The courgette is called "Black Forest" and is the first climbing courgette variety. I have to say that I've never yet managed to get it to climb very well as the plant does get very heavy, but the courgettes it produces are lovely and always get eaten (though they're not always seen in the food thanks to some nifty blitzing in the blender!).
Different types of seeds need to be sown in different ways, and large flat seeds like this prefer to be sown on their edge. I always plant two so that there's a better chance of getting at least one plant from the seeds, and if they both germinate then I have a spare to keep or give away.
Next up are the night scented stock (Matthiola bicornis) seeds. Out of all the plants that I grow in my garden, these are in my top favourites that I think everybody should grow, whether you have a country estate, a garden, a balcony or just a pot on the front door step. They're not the most noticeable flower during the day, but come evening time ... wow! They have a wonderfully sweet and powerful scent which is just amazing to breathe in whilst you're sitting in the balmy dusk of a summery evening with your glass of wine in hand. Mmmm. Just thinking about it makes me feel relaxed!
Night scented stock don't like to have their roots moved so ideally you should plant them where you want them to grow. Because of the problems I have with slugs and snails in my garden, I always plant them in cell trays and then move a whole section of them to where they're going to live over the summer when they're big enough to be transplanted and more sturdy in the event of a snail attack.
Another plant which doesn't like being moved is the poppy. You can see how different these seeds are to the cucumber and courgette seeds - sowing these is just literally taking a pinch of seeds and sprinkling it over the surface of the compost. I sow these in large trays that, like the stocks, I can break up into chunks and transplant in large groups of plants later. This is a variety called the Ladybird poppy, although you'd never know from the seeds J.
Time's ticking on. I tend to lose track of time a bit when I'm out in the garden. I don't wear a watch so having the radio on is very helpful. My day is marked out by radio programmes! It's time to do some potting up. I'm going to pot up some of those sunflowers first to give them a chance to really grow. The variety is called "Russian Giant" and I want to see how big they're going to get! My Dad, who is an expert gardener, always shakes his head at me when I plant too many seeds because he knows that I'll never throw any seedlings away. "Just use what you need and get rid of the rest," he tells me - but instead I end up with pots and pots of seedlings because I can never bear to put them on the compost heap. I always feel that if they've put all the effort into germinating then the least I can do is give them an opportunity to grow! You can imagine him shaking his head now ...
There are 24 sunflowers in these pots, and more still growing in the seed tray. You're probably shaking your head now as well! No, I do not need that many sunflowers but I also know that not all of them will grow into big plants and I can give away what I don't need. I like to give plants away. It's a bit like when you lend somebody a particular book because you know they'll really enjoy it; I like to give people plants that I know will suit their garden or their children will enjoy looking after them.
Finally, it's onto the plug plants. They arrived in the post yesterday and need to be potted up quickly so that they don't dry out. They're perennial plants which means that once they're fully grown they'll appear year after year in the borders. I bought them for filling in some of the gaps in the planting that I already have but they'll need to do a bit of growing up first before they can be planted outside. It's much cheaper to buy plants in bulk if you buy plugs, but they do take a bit of effort to grow them on rather than just planting them straight out. Don't they look funny? I'd forgotten I'd ordered such tiny plugs so it made me laugh when I opened the packet and saw all the rows.
They just need to be planted into bigger pots to give them chance to grow on and then they can sit in the greenhouse for a couple of months. The good thing about that is that it gives me a chance to get the borders organised so that I know where they're going to go. I like the anticipation of how they're going to fit with the other plants; I can see very clearly in my mind's eye how I want the garden to look this year and I feel that making the time for a Garden Day is bringing that image ever closer. Ooh, it's an exciting time!
Thanks for coming out with me. I've enjoyed your company today. Same time next week?