Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Growing away nicely in this year's snow free zone.

What a difference a year makes.  This time last year I was coaxing forgetmenots to flower in desperation after a foot of snow on Easter Sunday, whereas this year I'm spoilt for choice with flowers to cut for my stall!  Tulips abound in every shape, size and colour and everything is bursting into growth and filling out the garden.

pink tulipTulips grow well in containers tooWhite and blush pink Finola tulips

I've even managed to get down to the allotment a few times - but have to remind myself to clear and plant, clear and plant…  Otherwise I find myself clearing, clearing, clearing, and then having to start again where I first began as the weeds have come back.   So far, broad beans, peas and parsnips are in. Everyone I meet at the plot seems to be in a good mood and the whole place is starting to look business-like. Even the abandoned plot next to me has been taken over - another family with children so our little corner is starting to look like the youth chapter of our allotment association.

So many veg and annual flowers still clamouring for attention in my seed box and so little room left in my greenhouse and cold frame.  Have sown some annuals direct, but I don't seem to have the best success rate that way. Generally I do much better by sowing in pots and planting out later. But needs must, so am giving it a try again.

In the garden, I'm starting to plant out stocks and sweet peas sown under cover in March - a gamble as there is still potential for frost during the next month, so hope it stays away and my gamble pays off.  Hmmm. We'll see.

Did my first stall of the year on Saturday.  So nice to be back arranging my own flowers as they are so much less uniform than those available commercially and it gives such a different feel to arrangements.  Feels a bit like coming home when I get my mitts on flowers I've raised myself.

Cotswold legbarr blue shelled egg with forgetmenots, viola and grape hyacinths.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Boot camp for seedlings

Be a strict parent with your seed trays.  No lounging about in a nice warm propagator allowed.  As soon as you see the first signs of germination, get medieval and boot the spindly whizzers out into the light and cool.

Being nice to them only makes them spoilt.  And when they're spoilt, they just flop over, go limp and generally act pathetic. Damping off - pah! Where's your stiff upper leaf?  A life spent in the bracing environment beyond the propagator is character building and helps to stiffen the stem.

Maybe we can't boot babies into the great outdoors just yet, but my snapdragons have bucked up no end since they were forced to leave home and set up camp in the unheated greenhouse.  More natural light, better ventilation and tough love are good for them.

Dahlias are having their first dose of outside conditions today.  They'll be allowed to sleep in the greenhouse but its time their leaves started to stop being so green and sappy.  Come on, show some spine and build your defences against slugs you 'orrible little plants.

Mind you, I still relent at night and tuck them up under a blanket of horticultural fleece so they don't catch fright and a cold.  I'm a softie at heart.  Except for with slugs:  I'm off to go and stomp on them.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Oh no, I'm becoming my dad.

Have spent this week dodging showers, sowing seeds and pressing all my recent salvaged shelves into service in the garage.

To erect the tall shelf unit donated by a friend, I first had to swear and wrestle with the multifarious planks and shards of wood which my dad has squirrelled away over the years into the rafters of my garage. So effectively that quite a stack had to be shifted to furnish me with enough headroom to get the unit in.

Chucking bits of cracked skirting board into a heap to go to the recycling centre and muttering under my breath about when on earth I'd ever have need for such things, I pressed on with my mission.

The next phase was to dismantle dad's pallet construction which served as a workbench in order to make room for the long wooden kitchen unit which I'd scrounged from a building site round the corner. Was delighted to find that the unit fits the space perfectly and provides the long-awaited home for all my flower arranging bits and bobs.

With the clearing bit clamped firmly between my teeth, I set to work on getting rid of the old baby changing unit with the wonky unopenable drawers, which serves no purpose except to collect clutter and to retain inaccessible plant pots in its long unvisited interior.  Deciding it would be better to dismantle it back into its original flat-packed state to get rid of it, I pulled out its protesting guts and then, with a rueful nod, discovered my inner dad, and found myself carefully unscrewing all the wooden knobs (and saving the screws of course), because after all… who knows when you might need them….

As I shoved the changing table unceremoniously through the door, I noticed that in the centre was a cross piece of wood to give the structure support.  The notion seized me that this could serve as a brace for a shelf, and that perhaps the unit could be salvaged after all if I could find some bits of dad's wood to fit it.  Then I realised I could use the drawer fronts to form shelves as they were already the perfect length. Moreover, the bits of skirting board I'd previously chucked out proved  exactly the thing to join two drawer fronts together to make bespoke shelf of the required width.  Mental apologies to father.

Laughing at myself for being unable to just throw out this piece of furniture, my DIY obsessed fingers lighted upon an old wooden bunk bed ladder which I'd taken out of a skip about 5 years ago, with the notion of turning it into a plant stand or auricula theatre.  Half of said ladder has now been reincarnated as a shelf, with the other half planned to follow suit at some point in the not too distant future.

The final result: cat swinging room in my garage and a usable workshop space at last.

Recycled kitchen units.

Spent a pleasant half hour this morning arranging flowers for an order - it was brilliant to have everything in one place, and in a space where it doesn't matter what gets dropped on the floor.

Tuckshop Flowers.
I like having leftovers. Can always find houseroom for them.

Things are getting there, slowly.  And you know what - it is really satisfying. Thanks dad!