Friday 17 June 2022

Gardening with a dodgy knee #5

After the spring equinox we were into our last week of long dark nights. Around March 20th it was dark about 7:15 pm and suddenly spring arrived when we changed the clocks and twilight happened an hour later. It was 70 deg in my ( slightly) heated greenhouse. Time to switch off the frost stat and prepare the greenhouse for another season.

Fundamentally I had a glasshouse for two reasons: i) to overwinter geraniums and other plants as I have no room in the house and, as yet, no conservatory  

ii) to raise seedlings and successfully grow tomatoes with a reduced fear of the blight. 

The year before my greenhouse arrived I spent every day for ten days moving my French beans in and out of the kitchen to harden them off. As I sowed 90 plus seeds it’s a lot to do. Plus I hardened the geraniums, courgettes and small tomato plants in the same way. It was too much. And I don’t have the window ledges needed to house them overnight. And it was taking up my garden table space so we couldn’t sit on the patio to drink a cuppa without feeling we were starring in ‘The Day of the Triffids’. 

Now I have the space, light, warmth and shelter of the perspex greenhouse. So much easier. I open a window - or the door - to let air through. Introducing fledgling plants to outside temperatures is much easier now with exterior and interior staging. Sigh!

But work had to start in earnest. I removed last year’s pots and washed them with the aid of one of my three water butts. I cleared the greenhouse flooring and made a solution of Jeyes fluid. Then wiped down the walls, the perspex lights, the roof and the corners. I mopped the floor and wiped down the shelving and under the shelves. It was tricky to reach the skylight as I’m only 5 foot 2 inches but I wanted to ensure no spores nor air borne bugs had overwintered in there. Jeyes is specially formulated for greenhouse and tool use. 

I allowed it to dry out for a couple of days and put down fresh tarpaulin and matting. There was a chemical smell in there. Not too unpleasant. I certainly don’t like an over-chemicalised world. But as an annual, once a year only, event I could live with it. And my dodgy knee didn’t complain. 

Then the staging, pots and tools went back in. My bagged compost arrived and I put my potting tray in my potting shed ( aka Nina’s gin palace). Ready for the sowing season to begin. 

I began with leek seeds. Just placed them in seed compost in small nodule trays on the greenhouse staging. And I thoroughly cleaned all pots and saucers ready for tomato plants much further down the line. My spinach seedlings were growing away in their raised beds and last season’s leeks were thickening beautifully in their very enriched deep ( raised) bed.  

I like cosmos and I decided to try growing schizanthus. I created a few seedling trays of each, sprinkling the seeds on the compost without burying too deeply. Then just giving them a light covering. After labelling them and putting them on the staging I recorded my sowing activities on my gardener’s calendar. I like to use it for future reference. It’s also my attempt to track how warm our springs are becoming with climate change. 

That was my flurry of early sowings - veggies and flowers. Sweet peas were still in the greenhouse. I may not bother overwintering them another year. I don’t bother much with broad beans now, either. But I love French beans. However I never sow them until May. There was time for that. 

Tuesday 7 June 2022

Gardening with a Dodgy Knee - early spring edition

For much of March I didn’t get a lot of time to work outside. It was either too wet or we were busy tidying, cleaning, decorating and sorting after having work done in the kitchen. The ongoing project. 

Other days we were in Bath enjoying ourselves with friends or with my brother and his family for my birthday treats. And our Latvian friends were helping fund long trips to rescue Ukrainian war refugees at the Polish border. We contributed, of course. We donated money for petrol ( it’s a long drive through Latvia and Lithuania to Poland and back) and we donated goods such as toiletries, dried foods, baby items and first aid packs. I also donated books for a separate fund raiser. 

Towards the equinox I had, however, managed to edge part of the lawn. The clods of earth were heavy to lift following successive downpours and at some points tugging them did pull on my neck and back. The dodgy knee didn’t seem to react to my digging, though, which was good news. I raked the lawn as it still hadn’t had its first cut of the year and I got up the last of the winter leaves. 

A beautiful new rose called ‘Molineux’ from David Austin Roses sat in the freshly dug flower bed. I had prepared the planting hole well with plenty of organic matter in and around the hole. It was a birthday present from my brother who lives a 10 minute hop, skip and jump from David Austin’s nurseries. It’s my brother who follows the footie at Molineux, though, not me.

As with a lot of flowers and shrubs it’s best to plant the rose at the same depth as it was in its pot, keeping the roots deep. The graft union should be underground and the planting hole should be bigger than the pot, with the roots spread out. I also watered the new rose in even though the soil was damp - it was still only mid-March - and I added plenty of mulch. 

That same weekend ( mid-March) I showed off my lemon tree to my brother and my niece. I hadn’t watered it much over the winter. And, although it was in a slightly heated greenhouse, I’d wrapped it in bubble wrap. Just to protect against a real drop in temperatures. And it was truly exciting to be able to peel away the bubble wrap and reveal 12 developing fruits. Good little lemon tree! 

The year still felt young. Bright yellow-faced pansies and pretty blue and pink ones adorned the patio and the first set of steps up to the lawn. Family members in our guest bedroom could look down on their colours. It did look pretty, but the bindweed hadn’t started wrapping itself around more cherished plants. The sun tried hard to warm us. The garden was awake. But the hard work was yet to come.

More next time.