Tonight was part self-education and part catching up. The pile of seed packets that I needed to sow with the passing of every week wasn’t getting any smaller and within that pile there was nothing familiar.
Last year I self-taught myself about sowing vegetables and became a little bit wiser. This year I am continuing my education and trying to learn about cut flowers for additional credit.
I started confidently, filled the various root trainers, pots and trays with Grochar Seed Compost opened the first packets and boom . . . what the hell. Everything was different. Gone is the familiarity of vegetable seeds, the simplicity of one seed one mini pot then pot on etc. Now I was faced with what looked like dust, kernels and alien spawn. I was not set up for this.
So day 1 of Cut Flowers 101 I realised that I need a few new approaches, I am going to learn a lot and I may have to add vermiculite to what feels like a ever growing science lab in the shed..
If you believe what you read, though several people at the moment urge you not to, now is the time to pot up your dahlia tubers.
This morning, six tubers arrived from Sarah Raven’s online shop (three each of Karma Choc and Cafe au Lait). I then read Sarah Raven’s section on Dahlias in The Bold and Brilliant Garden at the library (never forget that libraries gave us power), watched Sarah Raven’s video on potting tubers while actually potting the tubers up in the bathtub. Finally, I watered the tubers using an old tonic water bottle and a bottle top waterer purchased last year (the bottle top not the tonic water) from . . . you guessed it . . . Sarah Raven’s online shop. Therefore, It is hard to argue with C. that Sarah is not becoming the third person in our marriage.
However, other than the advice I gathered from Sarah, in her many forms, what I takeaway from it is how a passion for growing plants and / or vegetables engenders a passion for not only trying to do things right but also a passion for improvisation and making things work whatever the circumstances. Heath Robinson contraptions which would never appear in a RHS publication become perfectly reasonable approaches to problems faced in the mind of an intrepid gardener. A potting bench is replaced by the bathtub, a long flower bench in a polytunnel is replaced by a plank of wood across two Ikea chairs in front of the window. Gardening has such a power that it makes you get round problems and not give up when the ideal scenario is not in front of you.
The bottle top waterer is a way that suppliers are helping the space deprived modern gardener. The bottle top waterer is becoming an indispensable piece of kit for me as more indoor space is taken up by assorted pots, trays and propagators. If I keep the watering can indoors it is only another thing to trip over. The old plastic bottle with waterer top has become such a go to that if I went to a garden centre and were shown to the watering cans I’d be surprised not to see a range of old plastic bottles taken out of the recycling bin.
Gardening has the power to change not only your mind but how you approach the everyday. I hope Sarah agrees.
According to the Met Office the 1st of March in the UK is the first day of the meteorological spring. Therefore it seems logical to have a spring clean. In preparation of a busy weekend sowing seeds I decided to wash the small growing on pots (I use these growing on trays – I forget the brand name but they are regularly available – as it suits my style and for some reason find it easy to plan successional sowing) without trying to make too much of a mess.
Filled the bath with warm water and a weak solution of detergent
Brushed off any persistent dirt off the pots with a brush I had found under the sink
Let the pots soak in the bath for 30 minutes or one episode of Community on Netflix
Cleaned each individual pot
Drained the bath of the detergent water and then sprayed the pots with shower water to get any residual detergent off
Let the pots dry off
Watched a few more episodes of Community and then remembered I’d better clean up the mess I had made before C. got home
I have always been a bit envious of the other plot owners who have bathtubs on their allotment who seem to grow absolutely everything in them. Last year I feel if we had got a bathtub last year it would of just gathered rainwater. This year I feel we are a bit more confident and so when a free bathtub came available on a neighbouring plot we jumped at the chance. This is Stage 1 in our attempt to make sense of our new addition to our plot.
Things I thought were a good idea:
Removed the drain of the bathtub and drilled holes in the bottom of the bath to improve drainage.
Secured a lining of fleece across the drain to ensure not everything falls out or blocks the new drainage holes.
A layer of gravel and polystyrene chips along the bottom of the bath approx. 2 inches deep to improve drainage (also cuts down on the amount of soil / organic matter required to fill the bathtub).
A layer of fleece on top of the gravel and chips so the soil / organic matter does not mix with the gravel et al. This is often done in planting bulbs in containers so why not here? What could go wrong?
Raised the end without the plug hole so water ‘should’ drain towards the plug hole.
Things that might be a good idea:
Angled the bathtub south-east for the light conditions and in theory with the raised aspect possibly more light for the whole bed.
Raised the bathtub off the ground to increase a gap for drainage and reduce the chances of carrot fly attack (to exclude the low flying flies).
Filled the bathtub with the sandy soil the foxes had kindly excavated in making their network of dens underneath my plot.
Things that are probably not a good idea (aka my attempt to defy physics):
Rested the bathtub on an old dilapidated pallet. I appreciate physics will win here.
The angle of the bathtub with the raised end and only braced by a stick – barely an equal or an opposite force. Physics will be 2 for 2 as one day I will find the bathtub slid into the nearest bed like an ocean liner leaving its dry docks.
Oh well, I am sure we will work it out . . .
Jobs for the future
Add support to the bathtub so there is no horrible surprises.
A bit of landscaping to ‘prettify’ the scene
A little bit extra from people who actually know what they are doing:
Adventures and misadventures in the allotment. The adventure – trying spring plant bulbs for the first time in containers for early colour and learning something new. The misadventure – forgetting to label the containers. Therefore, like a batch of Kinder Eggs there is a surprise in everyone. However, instead of unravelling a potential choking hazard something of real beauty emerges.
Every morning this month I have rushed to see what, if anything, is coming forth and in some cases at last putting a name to a flower or container. Today , a wonderful surprise, the first flowering of the Iris ‘J.S. Dijit’ while the Crocus ‘Prins Claus’ battle to survive the weather.