Plot Plot

The viva has come and gone and so has the end of term.  The year has slipped by very quickly and I can’t believe it won’t be long until I’m saying goodbye to my plot.  Not quite yet, however!  We are allowed to keep our plots on over the summer and I am intending to do so.  I’d hate to get this far and not see many of the plants through to maturity – especially the poppies (Papaver somniferum ‘Black Peony’) which are just of the verge of bursting into flower.

I’ve been harvesting plenty from my little plot – lettuces, mainly, but also peas, broad beans and, this weekend, a large posy of sweet peas.

cordon_3 speas4


My other half was kind enough to take some photos for me whilst I worked at my plot on Sunday.  After a busy day, it was nice to relax again working on the plot – grass edges to be trimmed, plants to harvest, and sweet peas to tie up.  The winds hadn’t been very kind to the sweet peas – as cordons they have very little to support themselves and the fast new growth had toppled over on some.  I tied them all up, tidied them and trimmed the tendrils and extra side shoots – leaving some just in case of further snapped stems.  Some of the flower stems had become curled by their adventure ground-wards, but most were long and straight, brilliant for putting in a vase.  There’s a lot of nostalgia for me in the scent of sweet peas – summer gardening with my grandfather, and the flower shows in my home town, always full of hundreds of vases of freshly picked blooms.

Also coming into bloom, now, are the Iberis, Calendula, Nasturtium, pinks  and poppies.

Pisum sativum 'Bijou' Iberis crenata

Calendula officinalis 'Neon' Papaver somniferum 'Black Peony'

Dianthus chinensis-heddwigii 'Black and White Minstrels' Tropaeolum majus 'Princess of India'

Growth Spurts

Plot on arrival back at RBGE

We’ve been away for a week on a study tour in Cumbria, visiting a range of gardens and nurseries.  Whilst we were away people were watering our plots for us but there was some anxiety as to how things would be when we got back.  It turns out we had little to worry about – the warm weather has translated into a good growth spurt for most of our plants and the plots were looking lusher than ever.

Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus 'Midnight' & 'White Supreme'

The sweet peas are coming on well – there are even buds!  I’ve tied them in better – a few had fallen down over the week due to them streaking up their supports.

Poppies (Papaver somniferum 'Black Peony')

The poppies are also coming on at a fast pace – they’ll need to be thinned again this week.  In the bottom left hand corner of the above picture you can also see the Ammi majus –  whilst slow to start they’re finally starting to get into their stride.  These were one of the plants I was most concerned about during the week away as they do not like to be kept dry and we had such beautiful weather, but it looks like they’ve managed to survive.

Lettuces (Latuca sativa 'Reine des Glaces' & 'Really Red Deer Tongue')

The lettuces (Latuca sativa ‘Reine des Glaces’ & ‘Really Red Deer Tongue’), too, need thinning and gapping up a little, but I’m happy with their growth.  ‘Reine de Glaces’, on the right, isn’t a very big lettuce and so doesn’t need huge amounts of space but this is still a bit overcrowded for my liking.

Plot Sign Plot Sign - close up

Before I left I made a sign for my plot with a little QR code on it to link people to this blog (if you’ve made your way here, Hi!)  Unfortunately I forgot my keys on the morning of the trip and didn’t get it up until I came home.  Whoops!

Mangetout (Pisum sativum 'Bijou')

Whilst we were away my peas began to flower (Pisum sativum ‘Bijou’).  They’ve also overgrown their supports by quite a bit so I’ve added a bit more height and string to stop them trying to sprawl across the broad beans.  This is particularly important as some students have mentioned seeing possible signs of chocolate spot.  Prevention is the main aim for chocolate spot as once you’ve got it it’s near impossible to treat – especially organically.  Keeping the broad beans nice and airy and not letting moisture sit on them will help with this as it is damp, overcrowded conditions which are perfect for the spread of the fungus.


Quickly Now

Backups - left to right: Brassica juncea 'Dragon's Tongue', Brassica rapa var. chinensis 'Rubi', Latuca sativa 'Really Red Deer Tongue'

Time seems to be going past rather fast this semester – so fast the last two weeks have rather blurred into one!

As a quick note for my own records:

Last weeks completed tasks were: weeding(multiple), edging(twice), watering(multiple), planted out marigolds, pansies.
This week’s completed tasks:  weeding(multiple), edging(twice), watering(multiple), nasturtiums out, thinned poppies.

Backups - bottom to top: Brassica juncea 'Dragon's Tongue', Brassica rapa var. chinensis 'Rubi', Latuca sativa 'Really Red Deer Tongue'

As you can see from the above picture, most of my backups are coming along vigorously. They were placed into the coldframe this Tuesday and are being kept well watered in the hope that I will be able to get them out late next week, before we go away on our Study Tour.  I would like to give them all the chance to settle in and get over transplanting shock well before the viva as well as, obviously, giving them more space to grow into!  I am fairly sure the mustard greens (Brassica juncea ‘Dragon’s Tongue’) will not get to full size before the viva but they grow fast and should have gotten some ways towards it before then.  It’s a bit of a monster, with large, crinkly-edges leaves and dark red veins which looks stunning as a foliage plant in its own right – it would be well at home in a potager or informal mixed vegetable and flower garden.

Aliium cepa 'Sturon'My onions are coming along well – they are not quite as big, yet, as those who planted theirs into modules before putting them outside but they’re not far behind with the benefit of not having used up precious bench space.  I’m keeping an eye on these in particular to see whether the pay-off at the end is worth it in terms of harvesting dates.

Vicia faba 'Aquadulce' flower

As you can see, the broad beans have started to flower.  The row which is flowering is the one which was sown indoors and then transplanted out.  The ones which were direct sown are far behind, this year. This is the one plant which I would say has done much better being transplanted from indoors – most others (e.g. Peas –Pisum sativum ‘Bijou’) have ended up not far off the same size whether raised indoors or outside directly.  Asking around, though, this has not been the case for all of the students on the plot so it may depend on variety and how much sun various plots are getting as, with the large hedges nearby, there’s a marked difference in light levels between the rows.

Left: Latuca sativa 'Really Red Deer Tongue', Right: Latuca sativa 'Reine des Glaces' Tropaeolum majus 'Princess of India'

Lettuces (Latuca sativa  right: ‘Reine des Glaces’ and left: ‘Really Red Deer’s Tongue’) sown two weeks apart – the ‘Reine des Glaces’ are getting to a reasonable size now and growing fairly fast in the overcast, damp weather we’ve been having.

The nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus ‘Princess of India’) which I had in the coldframe made their debut this week – some were fairly mature plants whilst others were minuscule (see red circles above) but, having checked back on the three days later, they seem to be doing just fine.   The spacing is fairly wide as nasturtiums like to sprawl as they grow and I’d rather they had plenty space of their own rather than invading that of the pinks nearby.


Still looking a little straggly, but things are coming along.



Weed bucket

The above is what I’ve mainly been looking at in the last week and a half – buckets of small, muddy weeds. A large part of our plot marks are awarded for maintenance – afterall a large part of working with plants is the day to day task of keeping beds tidy and weed free.  Our beds are on public display at all time, so we have to treat them as such – not only removing weeds but mowing around the plots and neatening the grass edges by either clipping with shears or using half-moon spades.

At this time of year I’ve found twice a week clipping only just keeps on top of the grass. Held back a little by the cold spells in spring, it is now zipping upwards and outwards at an almost visible rate!  At first this constant snipping gets a little frustrating, but once you get used to it as part of general plot duties (check plants, water plants, weed, edging) it becomes almost relaxing… and it’s a good workout for the arms.

Onions (Allium cepa 'Sturon') Lettuce (Latuca sativa 'Reine des Glaces)

My onions (Allium cepa ‘Sturon’) are doing well – once the fleece was removed they shot up and are starting to catch up with those on other plots which were planted into modules before being sown out.  There was some discussion about this amongst the students regarding preplanting versus direct sowing – I felt this was an unnecessary step as it takes up precious polytunnel space and means that the onions may have their roots disturbed when planting out which is something they dislike. I also felt that onions are hardy enough to go outside fairly early – though onion sets sown outside too early may rot in wet, cold weather.   However, planting them indoors first does bring them on and those on other plots are a fair size – it will be interesting to see whether mine and other’s ‘direct sown’ onions will catch up or be a  bit behind by viva day.

The lettuces (Latuca sativa ‘Reine des Glaces’) above, will need thinning out shortly – they’ve come on well with this overcast weather interspersed with sunny days.  The second row hasn’t come up yet (Latuca sativa ‘Really Red Deer’s Tongue’).  The first row of beetroot (Beta vulgaris ‘Albino’) I sowed had still not appeared by Tuesday so I resowed them – the second row, though, is coming up well; I may actually have some beetroot at the finish line.

Planting out the pinks (Dianthus chinensis-hedwigii 'Black and White Minstrels)


This week I planted out my pinks (Dianthus chinensis-hedwigii ‘Black and White Minstrels’).  The risk of frost has mostly passed and whilst the weather hasn’t been very sunny it has been wet and fairly warm.  They had been hardening off in the cold frame for a week and then I moved them into the shadier side of my plot for a week. By this past Friday, many were starting to show roots at the bottom of the pots – definitely time to move on.  I marked out the areas to be planted more clearly with my trowel, loosening the surface for contrast and then laid my plants out, evenly spaced to check how they looked and make sure I had enough.  Once everything seemed in order, in they went, followed by a good water.

It’s important to water in new transplants even if, as this weekend, the forecast is for rain.  Until they new  fine root structures are established they will require very easily available water and, as the ground at The Botanics student plots is rather sandy, rain doesn’t actually keep the soil very moist for long.  The less stress put on newly transplanted plants the better and a damp/overcast weekend will at least benefit them by making sure they’re not scorched or dried out between waterings.

My areas for planting (see theme and design) are marked out with little Cornus twigs which are barely visible but give me an easy way to quickly plant out and seed areas.  The three red arrows in the above picture point to the opium poppies (Papaver somniferum ‘Black Peony’) sown directly a few weeks back.  The seedlings are starting to show their true leaves, now and will need to be thinned in some areas and bulked out in others.  These three areas should contain only around 12-14 plants each at full size – you can see there are far more at the moment but after the disasters with germination rates on some of my other seed I was taking no chances.

I hadn’t really noticed it when I was taking the at the plot but the arched rectangles are fairly visible now – I can definitely see them in the photograph.  A lot of my plan relies on planted blocks – this have left me feeling a little behind in the last few weeks as a lot of the other plots have strong structural areas in their designs which are already looking amazing just now and mine seemed to look weedy and bare by comparison. It shows how important having some winter / spring structure can be to making an area look good!  Although the main aim is to grow plants well its also a learning experience which has encouraged me to think about how various techniques work when in a working garden.

The nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus ‘Princess of India’) are coming on well in the coldframe and some of them should be ready to go out shortly – though a few were resown and are still fairly small.  The Calendula (Calendula officinalis ‘Neon’) should also be ready soon too – they’ve been moved from heated bench to the polytunnel and will progress to the coldframe this week coming. Most of my ‘backup’ plants – Latuca sativa ‘Really Red Deer’s Tongue’, Brassica juncea ‘Dragon’s Tongue’, and Brassica rapa ‘Rubi’ are coming on well – stunningly coloured cotyledons are giving way to true leaves.  The one which is being a little slow is the Atriplex hortensis ‘Red’ but it is a little more slow-growing than the others, so fingers crossed that once it gets going it’ll shoot up.


Last Saturday (28th April) I finally worked up the confidence and got my cordon sweet peas (Pisum sativum ‘Midnight’ and ‘White Supreme’) out – worry about the cold, the size of the plants, and the beasties which like to eat young green things meant I’d left off planting them out until a little later than usual but I feel more confident planting them now than I might have a few weeks past.


First off, I dug a trench with a slight angle towards the canes.


The plants were placed in, tilted toward the canes (one per cane) and their roots spread against the side of the trench carefully.  The pattern for my peas will be white-white-black-white-white-black etc. as I ended up with more than double the number of ‘White Supreme’ than ‘Midnight’ – this is perhaps not that surprising given that ‘White Supreme’ is an excellent cultivar, holding an RHS Award of Garden Merit.  Once the plants were placed, the trench was then carefully back-filled and the plants gently firmed in.


Because I’m not completely cured of my worries, I’ve surrounded them with simple, temporary open-topped cloches.  In a few weeks I hope to take these off and start tying the peas in to the supports.  There were a few ‘spares’ which have been left at the end of the rows just in case – it’ll be interesting to see if they fare much different from those which were cloched as I didn’t have enough bottles to give them covers too.


I also managed to get my mangetout (Pisum sativum ‘Bijou’) out – though the fleece I put on to protect it caused the supports to become a sail and fall over later that night.   They’ve since been rescued and none are worse for wear despite their ordeal.

One other job which has become more prominent as the last few weeks have gone on has been grass clipping – although we all share duties for the general area, the edges of each plot are maintained by each student individually.  I used a half moon on mine a few weeks ago and as of this week am having to cut the edges with edging shears 1-2 times per week.  It’s amazing how fast the grass grows with the least bit of encouragement from the sun!


Swings and Roundabouts


Alongside all of the wonderful little plants growing away quite happily there’s a small selection which haven’t come on so well…

Unfortunately the two main problems I’ve had are with the plants which make up the backbone of my design – sweetpeas (Lathyrus odoratus ‘Midnight’ and ‘White Supreme’) and the purple millet (Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’).

The purple millet has simply failed to germinate – only three seedlings out of the whole batch have come up.  I resowed, hoping it was perhaps a bad batch but three packets later and I have nothing to show for it – the three seedlings that did come up have died off.  Despite being at optimal conditions, on a heated bench at the right temperature in a glasshouse, they failed to thrive – this despite me having managed to get them growing on a windowsill last year.  I’m not sure what the issue is, but I suspect that low water might have been part of it as the benches do dry out the plants quickly, despite me having sown them onto fairly deep pots to allow for moisture without saturating them.  I’ve added another pot with compost in it underneath them now, to reduce the direct heat and to allow for more water to be drawn up if needed – millet doesn’t like too much water so it’s a fine balance to strike between keeping them moist and warm but not having to water all the time.

The sweet peas had a similar problem with early germination but, despite expectations that the ones sown in long-toms wouldn’t germinate, a good few have actually come up.  When put out into the coldframes, though, several seedlings were munched off right at the base, left lying to mock me in the morning.  I did double sow my sweet peas, when I thought the ones in the long-toms might have rotted, but the ones which went into root trainers had about the same germination rate – ‘not great’.  Well, perhaps that’s not being entirely fair – ‘White Supreme’ has germinated well – about 70-80%, it’s ‘Midnight’ that’s lagging behind with only about 20% germination.  This means I have a few more white than I’d anticipated, and just enough plants to cover the cordons I’ve set up.  Although I’d planned to alternate colours, I don’t think that it will majorly impact the style of the design if there’s two white to one black – the aim was mainly to have both colours, not a particular pattern, after all.

Atriplex hortensis 'Rubra'

So, apart from crossing my fingers and hoping, what am I doing about it? Well, I’ve protected my sweetpeas by placing them back in the polytunnel – I’ll use bottle cloches when they go outside until they’ve established.  I’ve considered how I’ll move my cordons, too, if there end up being more casualties (I’m going to remove the end ones rather than respacing them as spacing is important when layering) and I’ve sown a few more seeds on the off-chance they’ll get a growth spurt in the warm weather.  I’m not holding any hopes for the last one but as I vastly over-ordered those seeds I don’t mind trying a few more.

I’ve also plated a few plants which weren’t originally on my list to replace the purple millet and fill in gaps left if a few do germinate:

  • Brassica juncea ‘Dragon’s Tongue’
  • Brassica Rapa ‘Rubi’
  • Latuca sativa ‘Really Red Deer Tongue’
  • Atriplex Hortensis ‘Rubra’

Brassica juncea ‘Dragon’s Tongue’ is the stunningly dark veined mustard green at the top of the page.  It grows to ~60cm and likes shaded, cool spots in the summer – given my plot has half shade for the day I’m not too worried about starting it this late as it’ll have cool conditions to grow on in.

Brassica Rapa ‘Rubi’ is a pak choi with very deep, almost black, red leaves.  Never grown this before, and might not have tried it had I not seen a display at New Hopetoun Gardens the other day which showed just how dark the leaf is.

Latuca sativa ‘Really Red Deer Tongue’ (pictured below) is a lettuce which I’ve grown before and which, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve substituted for the second row of lettuce in my proscribed area – it’s also deep red, especially on the more mature leaves.

Atriplex Hortensis ‘Rubra’ (pictured above) is a deep purple-red mountain spinach – it can grow to over a metre in height and I’m hoping that it will substitute for the purple millet in that regard – as a tall plant to echo the uprights of the cordons at the back of the bed.  It won’t grow to its full height by viva day, but it may get some ways toward it.

Latuca sativa 'Really Red Deer Tongue'

All of the above were chosen because they grow fairly fast (time is limited, now!), they’re hardy, and they have the right colour profile. They’ll be used to replace the millet and to add to the ends of the cordon area if I have to remove some of the stakes – I’d rather not leave big gaps.  They can also be used to gap up any other spaces that might occur – choosing a range of heights gives me flexibility in their placement.


Little and Large

Mangetout pea (Pisum sativum 'Bijou')

The above gangly specimens are my peas (Pisum sativum ‘Bijou’).  They are more than a bit taller than they should be due to early planting being followed by snow which made me reluctant to get them out.  This is them after they’ve had the tips pinched out – not something that one has to do with edible peas but it does have its benefits in this case – encouraging lateral growth, reducing the spindly stems which might have been damaged when transplanted and, not least, it also provides tasty pea shoots to eat!

Pea shoots

Pea shoots are something I personally rather like – they mostly taste like young fresh peas and are nice thrown into a salad or just browsed straight from the plant.  The outdoor sown ones will not be pinched, so it’ll be interesting to see the difference between the two sets.  The earliest set of the sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus ‘Midnight’ and ‘White Supreme’)  are coming along well.  They’re ready to go out, in fact – just not, as today, when hail is coming down between bursts of bright sunshine and brooding cloud cover.  The ones sown a few weeks later aren’t much behind, now – though germination hasn’t been superb for ‘Midnight’ compared to ‘White Supreme’.

Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus 'Midnight' and 'White Supreme' Broad beans (Vici fabia 'Aquadulce')

The later sown broad beans are also beginning to come through – though as you can see from the photos, so are the weeds.  Weeding time has begun in earnest, as has grass clipping and the maintenance side of things in general.  Sowing is nominally ‘done’, now and it’s mostly waiting for things to grow and giving them the best care whilst they do so that will be the mainstay of my time on the plot from now on.

My second row of beetroot and lettuce also went in this week, as planned.  The first row of lettuce has come up, but the tiny plants had to be carefully weeded so as not to let them be overgrown before they’d even got started.  I decided to change my second row of lettuce to another cultivar – Latuca sativa ‘Really Red Deer Tongue’.  This is one I’ve grown at home with great success – it seems quite bolt resistant and has deep glossy purple-red leaves in an open head.  I decided to change this due to using it as a backup plant on another part of my plot (more on that in another post!) and felt it would be nice to add some continuity between both the design and proscribed sections of my plot and give a nice bold contrast for the almost lime-green, crinkly ‘Reine des Glaces’.

Latuca sativa 'Really Red Deer Tongue'  Latuca sativa Reine des Glaces

Veg rows

My pinks (Dianthus chinensis-hedwiggii ‘Black and White Minstrels’) are doing well in the polytunnel – the cooler environment and bigger pots are combining to bring them on, but in a nice, compact way. The pansies (Viola x wittrockiana ‘Padparadja’ and ‘Black Moon’) are also coming along well – with some starting to show true leaves.  Both the pansies and the Calendula that have germinated should be pricked out some time later next week and, if all goes well, the pinks shouldn’t be long until they’re ready to go outside.

The nasturtiums (Tropaeolum major ‘Princess of India’) have germinated a little sporadically, so I’m hoping for a bit more germination and growth over the next few weeks so that they can also go outside – the colour has been a little variable, with some being deep green with hints of red and others simply being a dark green-white but both should look good against the colours of the other plants.

Now, if we could just get rid of these pesky hail storms…

Ne’er Cast a Clout

Working in the sun!

There’s little more motivating for gardeners than a warm, breezy spring afternoon with the promise of the weekend on the horizon and so our plots were rather busy this Friday afternoon.  There was a general feeling of industrious enjoyment but also a bit of worry – will this weather last?  Is it warm enough yet? It’s a bit of a gamble – the weather has been so unsettled in the last few years that it’s anyone’s guess as to what the next month will throw at us. However, the plants are starting to get too big to be indoors any more and so into the coldframes and ground they must go – with protection, of course! Taking the old saying ‘ne’er cast a clout til’ May be out’ to include plants, too, many people are keeping their new transplants and direct-sown seed warm with fleece covers.

Of course, there’s a risk with fleece, too – it can keep humidity in and so it’ll need to come off, e.g. the broad beans (Vicia faba ‘Aquadulce’) as soon as they’ve settled in to ensure they don’t end up suffering chocolate spot and off of growing seedlings so they don’t get twisted underneath it or have their tips damaged – something which happened over the winter with another student’s broad beans!


This is my plot with all of the newly planted seeds and the seedlings covered – as you can see my plot gets a good bit of shade by late afternoon – this picture was taken around 4 in the afternoon.

Broad beans (Vicia faba 'Aquadulce') planted! Broad beans (Vicia faba 'Aquadulce') under cover

 Above: my broad beans nestled gently into their new home and covered with fleece to discourage ‘predators’ from munching on the succulent young plants and to reduce the wind a little until their roots have a chance to start taking up water.  These were started at the end of January in 1l long toms and have come on well – though the bottle-cloched ones were planted at the beginning of March and are starting to break the surface already.  The aim is to have a succession of beans (same for all of the vegetables) but if we continue to have good weather the second row may manage to catch up to the first.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of my direct-sown peas (Pisum sativum ‘Bijou’) which were also sown in early May but they’ve also started peeking out of the ground. They’ve had a good germination rate – better than those indoors – and are looking fairly sturdy.  The indoor plants are unfortunately getting a little leggy but have had their tips pinched and  placed in the coldframes to encourage branching out rather than upward growth.  This ‘Bijou’ variety does grow quite large, however.

From top left, clockwise: 'Golden Sweet', 'Bijou', 'Champion of England' Flower 'Bijou'

From left, clockwise: ‘Golden Sweet’ (mangetout), ‘Bijou’ (mangetout),
‘Champion of England’ (maincrop) plus a flower of ‘Bijou’ from my garden last year.

The poppies (Papaver somniferum ‘Black Peony’) and lettuce (Latuca sativa ‘Reine des Glaces’) which I sowed only last week are also already sprouting, too – I have a feeling that I’m going to have to do a lot of thinning with them given the good germination rates.

I pricked out some more of my pinks (Dianthus chinensis-hedwigii ‘Black and White Minstrels’) – I now have all that I need and a few spare besides as a backup.  My nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus ‘Princess of India’) and Calendula (Calendula officinalis ‘Neon’) have spouted and should be big enough to prick out within the next week or two – I’m looking forward to getting both of them out as they’re fairly tough and grow quickly once in the ground – fast impact.

Also sown on Friday: bishop’s weed (Ammi majus ‘Graceland’), candytuft (Iberis crenata), and onions (Allium cepa ‘Sturon’).  The first two were sown in shallow drills, watered in and covered with fleece.  The onions were sown in two rows, over which I made a cloche frame with Cornus and fleece to stop the birds pulling them out of the ground –  something they seem to really enjoy doing.

Once I was done with my plot I wandered around having a peek at what everyone else was up to (click images or hover over them for brief descriptions):

 Herb and flower circle. Anna's plot. Wooden house models.  B's plot. Very neatly kept fleece - I wish I could get mine to stay like this! Craig's plot.

Cornus stems twined to use as pea supports.  Michael's plot. Very neat 5l bottles used as cloches. Sophie's Plot. Marking out an area for cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) and broadcast sown annuals.  Julie's plot.


Direct Sowing

The peas and broad beans from early march are making they way up (one had even pushed itself right out of the ground!) and the weather is starting to get warmer.  Sortof.  Slightly. So at the end of last week I took the opportunity to sow more seeds direct.

It was the hardier of the plants which I decided would be safe to sow – some lettuce (Latuca sativa ‘Reine des Glaces’), beetroot (Beta vulgaris ‘Albino’) and a black ‘opium’ poppy (Papaver somniferum ‘Black Peony’).  If the weather continues to get better these early sowings will shoot away fairly soon.  Although we have to do two rows of each crop in the proscribed section, I’ve as yet planted only one.  I’d like to go back and plant the second in a few weeks – this means that there should be a succession of cropping rather than everything being ready all at once.

The start of the direct sowing means that it was time for my black plastic to come off.  It’s been a wonderful boon – the soil underneath it has been warm and the weeds were fairly non-existent.  Definitely something I’d try at home, now.  In it’s place, the plot has sprouted a large set of fleece covers – to keep the seeds a tad cosier and to keep the birds, mice etc. off of them.  Hopefully.

Indoors, I’m starting to see some activity with my ornamental millet (Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’):

Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty'

It may be tiny, yet, but these grasses always seem to start off fairly slow.  I sowed them in February and most of them are only at the stage of having a tiny radicle (seed root) poking out.  As they are surface sown I can keep an eye on them – unlike my nasturtiums which are being a little tardy but are hiding out under the soil where I can’t prod them.

Another set of seeds which is coming along strongly are my calendula (Calendula officinalis ‘Neon’).  they like a wee bit of warmth to get going but as we have only the greenhouse (HOT!) and the polytunnel (COLD!) I had to think a bit about how to provide them with more amenable conditions.  In the end I opted for putting them in the greenhouse but elevated on another small tray – this means they get the heat but are not sitting directly on a very warm heating mat where they’d rocket up and become straggly.  As they are a dwarf type I want them to stay short and compact.

Unfortunately, I keep forgetting my camera when I pop along to the plot so I’m afraid I’ve not many images for this post.  However, I have finally updated the Theme & Design section to show images of my design so for more colour head that way.


Pricking Out

These Dianthus chinensis-hegwigii ‘Black and White Minstrels’ seedlings were getting big enough to prick out – they had their true leaves now and needed to be hardened off before they started to get leggy.  A quick visual blog – you can hover over the images or click  them for larger versions to see a brief description of the process.

Tray of Dianthus seedlings with pots, ready to be pricked out. As the Botanics reuses pots, cleaning is essential. Broken pots must be discarded.

Pot overfilled. Excess compost struck off to create an even surface. Dibbing a hole for the seedling - not too deep!

Dianthus seedling in the hole, set in water to soak. Dianthus seedlings under fleece in their new home.

For these seedlings the next stop was the poly-tunnel, under a layer of fleece.  Certainly a bit of a shock for the poor things, given they were being coddled in the heated glasshouses, but there’s simply not enough space in there for them any more.