Distractions – good or bad?

Distractions are not always a negative thing, you can turn them to your advantage.

What do I mean by that? Well, I am sure you have heard of the term “a welcome distraction”, when something happens that takes your mind off something else less pleasant? That’s exactly it.

When does distraction work?

Right now I am writing this post in the middle of the night as a way of trying to distract myself from my painful dislocated rib! If I just lay there in bed all I will do is think about it, the pain feels worse, it becomes harder to switch off. This just results in a vicious circle that seems impossible to get out of. Unless of course, you distract yourself.

This can work in many situations, for example if you feel sleepy mid-afternoon, you can do something else, make a drink, get a few minutes fresh air, go for a walk. Simple thing like this can easily perk you up and help you resist having that unproductive nap.

What else can it do?

The same goes for anxiety. I found my distraction in gardening. I wasn’t searching for any particular distraction, it just sort of crept up on me. I noticed that when in the garden, my mind was clear. The spiral of worry, overthinking, low mood, it just all seemed to stop when I was in the garden.

It doesn’t take away the anxiety altogether, but it does mitigate it and brings me into the moment. Focusing on nurturing my vegetables, fruit and flowers stops me focusing on negative thoughts.

However, I have found that the more time I spend in the garden increases my well-being overall and has helped me to manage the anxiety better, along with other coping techniques and medication.

One thing I try and do is not to over do it in the garden. If I work so much that I become exhausted (or worse, aggravate my rib) there is a danger. That danger is being put off by that negative feeling you had when you overdid it. I always like to stop when at the point of still feeling like I want to do more. This way I retain the enthusiasm to get back out there as soon as I can. Aiming to do about 50% of what you think you could do in any one session is a good place to start.

The answer is….

It is so pleasing that gardening is now being recognised, and being taken seriously, as a therapy in itself. As I have always suspected and I will say again, for every problem in nature there is an answer in nature.

Ah, my rib is starting to feel better already.

Do you have a distraction that is a winner? Share it in the comments below, I would love to hear it!

Garden update Monday 22nd April – Easter Special

What a glorious Easter is has been, weather wise at least. In the garden there has been a lot of progress, projects beginning and others taking shape. We’ve had almost no rain this month and everything is bone dry. But I do so love these warm sunny days. I hope you have all had a lovely long weekend too.

In the greenhouse

Seeds are still being sown, seedlings are being potted on, and some being moved out altogether. Space is now a premium with all shelves and a lot of the floor being covered with trays.

Some of the seedlings in the greenhouse.
Just some of the seedlings in the greenhouse

It may seem odd, being early spring, but I am thinking about winter and what crops I can grow that can be harvested or overwintered. I have sown kale (var. Emerald Ice) and leeks (var. Lyon) and have some tiny lambs lettuce seedlings already growing. I do like cabbage, brussels sprouts and cauliflower, but the yield on my small plot would not make it worth the space they need. Kale on the other hand will just keep growing as I keep picking so will be much more productive for the space it needs. Leeks do not take up much space and can be harvested as needed. I will also grow carrots, in particular a variety called “Autumn King” which can also be harvested as needed and will keep perfectly in the ground all winter.

Planting out

Ok, so I have digressed a little speaking about winter. Back to the now! I decided to take the fleece off the broad beans, which were sowed in January. Concerned that the local cats would see this bed of soft earth as a lovely bathroom, I filled the rest with my little pak choi seedlings. I’ve had to half cover it again as I almost had a casualty when I caught a cat digging in it. One pak choi seedling was dug up, however I replanted and watered it and it seems to have survived the onslaught. The broad beans are in full flower now, I can’t wait for that first harvest of little green pods of loveliness!

Broad beans (var. The Sutton - dwarf variety) in flower
Broad beans (var. The Sutton – dwarf variety) in flower

Potato update

The Vivaldi potatoes that I posted abouthave been planted! These are a second early variety, meaning the second earliest to mature, and should be ready to harvest in as little as 12 weeks from now. Once these have been harvested I will put another crop straight in, possibly french beans. I have some early and maincrop potatoes to plant still, these will go in pots. I didn’t want to put these varieties in the raised bed as they were not as good a quality as the Vivaldi’s. So to compensate I will boost the compost they are in with some extra fertiliser and see how they get on.

I am now happy to say that following a little burst of planting today that all four raised beds have now been fully planted! Some peas, two varieties of lettuce, spinach and pak choi went in the final bed. The peas (var. Kelvedon Wonder) are a dwarf variety that wont need support, but should give some shade to the leafy crops behind them. These should provide me with salad leaves for a couple of months before I need to plant a second crop.

Peas on the left, leafy salad crops on the right
Peas on the left, leafy salad crops on the right

Carrot update

Surprisingly, the carrots that I sowed on 8 April are already up! They poked their little heads up on 18 April, 10 days after sowing. My method involves sieving compost to get the lumps out firstly. The helps to stop your carrots from “forking”. I added a little vermiculite to open up the structure and retain water. You can also add a little sand to help drainage. I filled a pot to within half an inch of the top and placed the grid in the photo on top of the compost.

With my seeds ready in a small container, I used a dibber (moistened with water) to pick up individual seeds and place one seed in every other square. This gives you an even spread of carrots, therefore no need to thin them out. Carrot root fly can smell carrots up to a mile away so the less we touch them, or thin them, the less risk of this pest there is ruining your crop.

Cover the seeds with another layer of compost, one quarter of an inch deep, and keep it moist. I placed my pot in the greenhouse which may have helped the quick germination. Nonetheless I am pleased with the germination rate. There are still a couple of empty spaces but I will give it a little longer before I sow more seed. To deter cats, I have left the grid on the pot for the time being.

Carrot seedlings
Carrot seedlings

Water butts everywhere

There are two slimline water butts in my garden. One by the back door of the house and one by the greenhouse. However, I saw that our garage roof with its corrugated panels, was a great source of water to capture. Therefore I enlisted my partner to help me and put up guttering and install water butt number 3, to the left of my plot. I now have 300 litres of water to call on should we have any dry spells. We also moved a small storage shed from near the house and placed it next to the water butt, so my tools and spare pots are much closer to where they are needed.

New guttering and water butt.
New guttering and water butt

More projects

I have an old pallet that I have wanted to do something with for ages. By chance, I came across some discarded guttering in a refuse pile at the bottom of my brothers garden. This is now a work in progress and will be unveiled shortly! What do you think I will be making with these two items?

We have also decided to start a long thought about project on our garden pond. The pond liner is some sort of fibre glass and has been deteriorating for some time, so will be replaced. I bought some here quite inexpensively and it included the underlay . Behind the pond, looking from the house, is an extremely overgrown rockery. It doesn’t give me any pleasure at all and it somewhat of an eyesore. There is a St. Johns Wort growing out of control which really needs to go as it is invasive. It also does not flower like it used to. Each year in May we used to have two or three weeks of it carpeted in yellow flowers. Now there is the odd flower here and there at random times. So I think its had its day.

We’ve made a start on pulling the growth out. Having tried and failed to use a fork to remove it, we are having to clear it by hand. The rockery only serves to impede the fork.

I intend to enlarge the pond a little and replace the liner, flatten the rockery and rebuild it in a circular fashion. This is what has been cleared so far. A long way to go but it will be worth it.

What projects have you planned, or started this Spring? Tell me!

Garden update Monday 8 April

Sometimes, you just have to make a sacrifice. And you have to think about smart planting.

Now I’m not talking lamb at the altar or anything like that! I noticed in the greenhouse the other day that one of my Pak Choi seedlings had been nibbled. It was clearly a nibble and not just damaged by accident.

Nibbled seedling
Nibbled Pak Choi seedling

Most of the seedlings were untouched. Despite checking each pot I was unable to find the culprit. So I decided to make a sacrifice. I would leave this pot in situ, and move the other seedlings elsewhere to, hopefully, escape the hungry creature.

This morning the sacrificial seedling had been nibbled even more. The creature must be hiding in this pot! I still could not find it, however.

All the other seedlings that I moved elsewhere looked fine. So, I come to the conclusion that the nibbler was isolated to this one pot.

Healthy Pak Choi seedling
Healthy Pak Choi seedling

Growing pains and smart planting

There are occasions where you actually grow a crop specifically to draw creatures away from other crops. Nasturtium, for example, is great to grow with beans as they attract blackfly away from your precious food.

Another way to deter pests is to grow plants together than repel each others pests. A good example of this is onions and carrots. When grown together the onions repel or confuse the carrot fly, and the carrots repel or confuse the onion fly.

I firmly believe that for every problem in nature, there is an answer in nature. This way you negate the need for nasty chemicals in your growing space. We can only benefit by not ingesting these hideous things. If you lose a seedling or two, or your nasturtiums take the brunt of a hungry fly, you will be safe in the knowledge that the only thing you have put in your body is the goodness of that treasured plant.

Elsewhere in the garden

All the other seedlings are coming along nicely, including lettuce, spinach, calendula, sunflowers, peas, tomatoes, busy lizzies, nasturtiums. The list seems short but the space is filling up. There will be some potting on and planting out happening soon. Mid April is also the time (in my area) to plant seed potatoes. As a general rule of thumb, they can be planted about one month before the last expected frost date. In East Anglia that is the second week of May.

If you haven’t yet got your seed potatoes, there is still time. Many garden centres and supermarkets try to offload their stock of seed potatoes really cheaply now. You might pick up a bargain!

I will also be sowing some carrots soon, outdoors in pot. I have a method for this which means that you do not have to sow more seeds than you need, and therefore do not have to thin the seedlings out. It seems so wasteful to do this. Admittedly you do get a lot of seeds in a packet but with succession sowing you will have plenty and may have some to save for next year.

Now the weather is warmer it feels like all stations go right now, but oh the eating to come in just a few short months. All that extra sun helps to keep my mood afloat, and allows the body to manufacture its own vitamin D.

Exciting times!

Garden update Monday 25th March

Mad March continues – seeds and seedlings abound!

Well March has certainly thrown some winds at us, but finally calm has settled and although it’s not warm, it’s pleasant enough to get into the garden when time allows.

So, seeds have germinated, and seedlings babies are becoming toddlers. In other words it’s potting on time!

L:R sweet peas, shallots and pak choi
Left to right: sweet peas, shallots and pak choi

The sweet peas are doing brilliantly and have now had the top growth nipped out. This should encourage side shoots and nice bushy plants. The shallots are plodding on nicely and can be planted out soon. I noticed that the pak choi looked a little pale. Thinking that this may be because they are running out of nutrients so I decided to pot them on into their own individual cells or pots.

Pak choi (left) and lettuce (right)
Pak choi (left) and lettuce (right)

I potted some of the pak choi into individual pots. I unrolled the tubes and carefully separated the roots first, throwing the used tubes into the compost, no waste!

I filled pots and a tray with multi purpose compost and a little perlite to keep them free draining, made a hole in the middle of each pot/cell, and gently placed the roots in. Pak choi are a member of the brassica family (cabbage, broccoli etc) and like to be well firmed in. You can plant them a little deeper, and compact the soil around them with your fingertips. Add a little more soil to the top if they seem a bit low, and gently firm again.

What about other seedlings?

Pretty much all seedlings can be transplanted in the same way, and keeping the pak choi company are tiny little lettuces.

Annoyingly, I often get “leggy” tomato seedlings due to not having any south facing windows, so they grow upwards quickly in search of light.

Potting tomatoes on is just as easy however. Prick out the seedlings from the container they are in. You can use a teaspoon or plant label to gently tease them out. Plant them deeper than they were originally, up to the first set of leaves, and roots will grow out of the stem that is under compost. Remember, always handle seedlings by their leaves and not the stems. It feels like I am picking them up by their ears! The leaves can handle being touched. The stems, at this stage, cannot.

Also, the first of the sunflowers have been potted on, yippee!!

Sunflower seedlings potted on
Sunflower seedlings potted on

What else is happening?

Bedding plants
Bedding plants been sown

I have also sown some bedding plant seeds in this 72 cell tray. 12 each of lobelia mixed, lobelia lilac and lobelia monsoon (dark purple/blue), ageratum and petunias. Good old favourites! This is the first time I have grown any of these from seed, so will keep you posted on their progress.

All the fruit bushes now have green shoots, and the rhubarb is doing brilliantly since I repotted it and fed it with some organic chicken manure pellets.

Mad March is marvellous!

What is giving you joy this month?

Garden update Monday 4th March

We’ve certainly had a bit of everything weather wise in the last week! From almost summer-like temperatures to lashing rain and wind! Meteorologically, 1st March was the first day of spring, however if you follow the equinox phases then you will have to wait until 21st March to call it spring. Whatever you call it, we are entering one of the busiest times of years for gardeners.

What’s growing indoors?

Nonetheless, things are growing. Chits are chitting, nature is just getting on with it.

Chitting potaties
Chitting potatoes var. Vivaldi

The first tomatoes to germinate were, once again, Orange Paruche. They made an appearance after just five days! Out of all the tomatoes I have grown these have always been the first and most reliable to germinate.

Tomato seedlings
Tomato seedlings var. Orange Paruche (left) and Gardeners Delight (right)

I invested in a propagator a couple of years ago, hopefully it will last for years and years. Mine is a fair size, similar to an A3 sheet of paper, but you can get small ones very inexpensively on Amazon. Here is mine.

Another very useful item is a light box. This is basically a cardboard box lined with tin foil, which helps to reflect light back onto your seedlings. I also invested in a grow light. This is a light that emits frequencies that plants respond to, which is red and blue wavelengths. They can also be called full spectrum lights. Again, you can source these quite inexpensively, like these.

On a budget?

If you cannot stretch to a propagator or grow light you can still grow successfully without them. A sunny windowsill is perfect. Using your light box to reflect light onto the seedlings by placing it behind them will throw a bit more light back onto them. This will help stop them from leaning towards into the natural light. Turning the seedlings around periodically will also help this.

Another method is to place a piece of plain white paper behind your seedlings to reflect light. I have a project to show you soon, on how to make paper light boxes.

What’s growing outside?

The onions and garlic are still growing well. I can see the stems on the garlic are thickening, to about the size of a pencil. They still have three or four months to grow so I am hopeful for my best crop ever.

In the greenhouse, sweet peas and pak choi are doing very well. The pak choi will be pricked out (put into their own individual pots to grow on) any time now. All of them have thrown down roots to the bottom of the cardboard tubes which is very encouraging.

Pak Choi seedlings
Pak Choi seedlings
Sweet pea seedlings
Sweet pea seedlings

What else am I doing?

This month I will be sowing a huge amount of seeds, both vegetables and flowers. Indoors and in the greenhouse, and also direct. Lots of preparations have been made, with more to do. The cold frame has been taken out of its winter home in the greenhouse and placed on the plot. The fruit bushes have been pruned and mulched. The rhubarb has been repotted into a bigger pot and fed with chicken manure pellets. My instagram feed shows you more of the day to day stuff I am up to. Be sure to follow me for more!

Next…to pot on the tomato seedlings, for the second stage of their development.

What are your plans for mad March?

Peppers and tomatoes – time to sow

It’s time to sow the sweet peppers and tomatoes. Here’s how I do it.

I love, love, love sweet red peppers! And love, love, love cherry tomatoes. I can eat them like sweets. Picking them off the plant, warm from the sun, and popping them in my mouth is just the best!

However, we need plants first. If you have a propagator, now is the time to clean it up, and switch it on to warm up ready for your seeds. If you don’t have a propagator do not worry, you can make a suitable environment very easily.

Sweet peppers

Sweet pepper seeds ready to sow
Sweet pepper seeds var. Dulce de Espana

The seeds are easy to handle, so you can sow exactly how many you need. This variety is Dulce de Espana, a long, red, sweet pepper, similar to the Romano ones you see in the shops.

First of all, prepare a container with some multi purpose compost. Add some perlite if you have it, don’t worry if not. Fluff up the compost a bit to get out any large lumps. I have some small reusable seed trays, but you could use a yogurt pot, for example. Just make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom.

I should explain, perlite is a white gritty substance which can be added to compost to open up the texture. It aids drainage so the seedlings don’t become too wet.

Seed tray ready for pepper seeds
Seed tray with perlite and compost mix

Ready to sow

Flatten the surface of the compost with the bottom of another container, piece of card, whatever flat surface comes to hand. Spray the compost with a water sprayer so it is slightly damp,not wet. A very fine watering can rose is a good alternative.

Place a few seeds on the surface, a couple of centimetres (1/2 to 1 inch) apart. I cover mine with a sprinkling of vermiculite but you can also just use a sprinkling of compost.

Vermiculite is a product that helps to retain water and lets in light. It is very useful at seed sowing time. I spray water on the vermiculite to ensure it all comes into contact with the seeds nicely. Also, vermiculite is extremely light and this will help keep it in place.

Pepper seeds on the surface
Seeds on the surface
Seed covered and labelled
Seed covered and labelled

Now, if you have a propagator, place the seeds in there. They like temperatures of between 20 and 25 degrees to germinate.

If you don’t have a propagator, you can place your container inside a small, clear plastic bag and tie it closed. Place it somewhere warm and light. I used to place mine on top of the fridge in the kitchen. Always warm and light, just like a propagator. Check them daily and once you see the first sprouts, remove the bag or take out of the propagator to grow on somewhere light but slightly cooler.

Pepper seeds in the propagator
Peppers and tomatoes on the right, flowers on the left

What about tomatoes and chillies?

So, I follow exactly the same process for tomatoes as the conditions they need are more or less the same. If you want to grow hot chillies, again the process is the same. All plants like heat once they are established, so if you don’t have a greenhouse, grow your peppers and chillies indoors. Most tomatoes can be grown outdoors, however I found I had better harvests from the tomatoes that grew in the greenhouse.

Do you have any questions or any hot tips on peppers, chillies and tomatoes?

Garden update Monday 18th February

A little late this week, sometime life is just life isn’t it! However, this month is for sowing seeds and pruning.

The weather seems to be settling down a bit now, with more sunshine and less storms. This is great and means more garden time. It is still quite breezy but that is what sheds are for. I love potting away, sheltered from the elements in here.

Inside little violets' shed.
Inside the shed

I have sown the first seeds, including the sweet peas I soaked in the last post. Also, some pak choi (var. green revolution) and shallots (var. zebrune). The propagator in the spare room has been cleaned up and switched on to warm up. The tomato and chilli seeds are going in there imminently.

Sweet peas, pak choi and shallots
Sweet peas, pak choi and shallots

Elsewhere in the garden I checked on the fruit bushes. I have gooseberry, redcurrant, blackcurrant, raspberries, blueberries and kiwi. All of these were new last year and all planted in containers. Many soft fruits do well in containers, including this selection. I bought all my soft fruit here.

Sadly the kiwi didn’t make it for some reason. I suspect it dried out when we were on holiday for two weeks last year, and never recovered. The gooseberry I am crossing my fingers and hoping. It was defoliated twice last summer due to caterpillar infestation. They munched through it in a matter of hours. I pruned a twig or two to see if there was any green wood inside, and there was. So there may be hope yet.

A little light pruning

The redcurrant and blackcurrant needed light pruning only as they are young bushes. I removed any dead or diseased looking wood, and any crossing branches. This helps with airflow around the bushes and reduces the chance of disease.

The blueberries still have some leaves and looked fine, so I will only top up their container with some fresh compost. Blueberries do not like ordinary compost, they like the soil to be ericaceous. This means that it is slightly alkaline. This type of compost is easily available.

Lastly, the raspberries were pruned to the ground. I have an autumn fruiting variety that fruits on the same years growth (primocane). Pruning right back will stimulate new growth. The other type of raspberry, summer fruiting, will produce fruit on last years growth (floricane). This type should be pruned in autumn, taking out only the canes that fruited that year. They will look brown. Any green canes should be left as they will fruit the following year.

What else is going on?

The spring bulbs are doing well. The primroses/primulas continue to flower well, tulips and puschkinia are making an appearance while the alliums continue to sprout.

I noticed that my small bee and bug hotel has been occupied all winter. The residents must be tucked up safe an warm in there. It took a little while for it to be noticed, but it got noticed!

Bee and bug hotel
Bee and bug hotel

It is getting near the busy time for us gardeners, what have you been up to so far this month?

Garden update Monday 11th February

So, the weather has been typically changeable and unpredictable and mostly very, very windy! Storm Erik tried to wreak havoc, but it didn’t do more than a little tomfoolery in eastern England. (Like blowing off a chimney cover!)

Nonetheless a few things did manage to happen this week. I decided what tomatoes to grow!

I narrowed it down to these four choices.

Tomato seeds
Tomato seeds

From left to right:

Gardeners delight – an old favourite of many gardeners, reliable large cherry tomatoes with a good flavour.

Yellow delight – this is a new variety to me, yellow, pear shaped fruits. Taste – we will have to wait for the verdict on these but I am looking forward to them.

Gigantomo – I bought these as a bit of fun really, to see if I could grow a whopper! The taste, again, unknown.

Orange Paruche – these are by far my all time favourite tomato. Very sweet cherry tomato, not acidic at all, and early ripening. They also germinate very well.

The heated propagator is warming up slowly, and the seeds will be placed in there until they germinate. Then they can be grown in cooler conditions, like a sunny windowsill.

Fragrant thoughts

I’ve never had a lot of luck with sweet peas. That may be because until last summer I did not have a greenhouse, and I don’t have any south facing windows in my house. Any seedlings that I had would go leggy and weak and were not worthy of planting out.

So, this year I hope to be more successful with a greenhouse. I am also soaking my seeds to help them germinate.

Soaking sweet pea seeds
Soaking sweet pea seeds

The reason for this is that the seed shell is hard, and soaking them for 24 hours or so softens that shell and makes germination easier.

Just 12 hour later they have swelled up nicely.

Swollen sweet pea seeds
Swollen sweet pea seeds

The process is easy, soak a square or two of kitchen towel in water and place in some kind of tub. I used a small plastic food saver tub. Place some seeds on the paper (try to stop them from touching), cover, and leave somewhere warm for 24 hours. If your tub doesn’t have a lid, cover the seeds with another damp piece of kitchen towel, or place the whole thing in a small plastic bag.

You can then sow the seeds. I am going to try some in toilet roll tubes, and some in root trainers. Sweet peas like to put down deep roots and toilet roll tubes are great if you don’t have deep pots or root trainers. I am trying both as a little experiment. I will use ordinary multi purpose compost mixed with a little perlite to open up the compost structure. Seeds generally don’t like to site in wet soil so the perlite will help with drainage. Toilet roll tubes are also degradeable, and you can plant them straight in the ground without disturbing the young roots.

Is there another way?

There are other ways to help sweet peas germinate. One is to “nick” one end with a sharp knife. The other is to file one end of the seed until you just break the shell. I am not convinced I have a steady enough hand or the patience for these methods, why make like any more difficult?

Is spring on the way?

Who knows, the tabloid press would have us believe another “Beast from the East” is coming next week.

But for now, there are a few little signs in the garden.

Crocus in the lawn
Crocus in the lawn

Some pretty little naturalised crocus opened up to say hello. This is amazing considering how windy it has been.

What have you done this week? Remember any progress no matter how small, is still progress.

Garden update Monday 4th February

Here on the border of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire we avoided the worst of the weather last week. This was to the delight of some and disappointment of others.

It did, however, allow me some bonus time in the garden. I was very happy about this as I was expecting to get very little done due to the impending weather crisis. I needed inspiration this week. Spending a couple of hours in the winter sun does give me a real lift.

A little disappointment

Firstly, I had to plant some spring bulbs. I had forgotten about a bag of mixed bulbs. I discarded some of the bulbs. sadly. They had gone mouldy. This was my fault as I left them in a padded envelope with no ventilation.

Fortunately, I salvaged most of the bulbs, and I have a few more pots which will hopefully bring some glorious spring colour.

There are Puschkinia (Russian snowdrops), Daffodils (Tete a Tete), Ipheion (mixed), and Fritillaria (Uva-Vulpa) in various combinations.

Pots with spring bulbs
Pots with spring bulbs

Then, off to the local garden centre I went, as I felt an urge for instant gratification. The garden seemed drab. I needed colour, and I needed it now. As I had a voucher for £4 off a £20 spend, what more justification did I need?

So, voucher in hand, I added these beautiful primroses to my basket. In addition followed some daffodils, irises, tulips and snowdrops in the green. This means that they have already started to grow.

Primroses
Primroses

Admittedly, I felt a little naughty for buying them. However should the worst happen and my own bulbs fail to grow, I will have some colour in the garden this spring.

One thing I do like is to have choices and back up plans. Putting all your eggs in one basket runs the risk of disappointment.

Getting on with it

I have a lot of seeds. These are just the vegetable seeds. I need to trim this down a bit!

Many seeds
Many seeds

I simply don’t have the physical space to grow everything here, so I will narrow this down to maybe one third. There are a few duplicates in there and some I may will never grow. These are often freebies bundled with other things that I did want to keep. There are a handful of vegetables that I
really dislike. For example squash, celery and aubergine will never feature on my plot.

Once I have decided what to grow, the seeds need to be sorted into sowing months. I sort my seeds by the first month given to sow. The beauty of nature is that if you forget, have a failed batch or simply don’t have time or space, another later sowing will catch up.

Fortunately, many seeds can be sown over a period of months. This is great for things like peas and carrots where you want to stagger your harvests. There are only so many peas you can eat at once. And they don’t usually feature for breakfast!

Don’t panic!

There is still plenty of time to buy seeds and decide what to sow. Many garden centres are having a clear out and you can pick up packets of seed for 50p or less. Often they will have a year or more left to sow them. I would advise to buy only the freshest seeds for parsnips however. They are notoriously bad for germination and old seeds are almost certainly going to fail.

Nonetheless, I find it exciting to make plans for the year ahead and think about the delicious results to come.

What are your seed plans?

Seedy thoughts

Preparing for the growing year means you have to make a few decisions. I have to make a fair amount of decisions! I spread out all the seeds I have onto the kitchen table, and I was more than mildly surprised.

Vegetable seed collection
Many seeds

There are more seeds than I can grow by far. My evening will now consist of agonising over which ones to grow and which ones will remain in the box. Maybe. I do think plans have to be flexible, as you never know.

For example I bought some sweet pepper seeds, from a reputable source. All but one failed to germinate. The one plant that grew produced a single solitary pepper! This was my first attempt at sweet peppers and I had no other seeds to try. Feeling despondent, I did not bother buying any more pepper seeds that season. The following year I invested in some more, hoping it was simply a bad batch. I was right, the new seeds germinated much better and I grew five healthy plants.

There are many reasons why seeds don’t germinate, and it isn’t always anything to do with you. Some seasons are just better than others. Some seeds have to be fresher than others. Sometimes the conditions are just not quite right.

Now, I prefer to have a selection of varieties so I have a back up plan. Or if I change my mind. Or if I simply cannot resist the feeling you get when you see the little green shoots pop their heads up above the soil for the first time.

Little packages of loveliness

Some seeds are small, uninteresting and nothing to get excited about. Other seeds are fiddly and a pain in the rear to handle. Others, are just delightful to look at!

Runner bean seeds
Runner bean seeds

These are just common old runner beans (or pole beans). I don’t know the variety, but they have the standard bright red flower and long beans. I have saved the seeds every year and these must be the fourth generation of seeds I have saved to grow the next year. They are just gorgeous!

It still amazes me that something so small contains everything to grow a brand new plant, flowers, and the edible results . It’s also a very frugal way of gardening and brings great satisfaction knowing that you raised the plant, and will continue with its “offspring” year after year.

So, I will try and reduce the number of seeds that I plan to grow. I will let you know what I decide on. Watch this space!