Friday, 30 January 2015

Recycled Rootrainers

With my last seed order, I ordered what I thought were Root Trainers, reusable long thin plastic containers, hinged in the middle to release their deep rooted contents when the time comes to plant out.  These were to be  a special treat for my sweet pea seeds, which are usually left to find their way, planted 3 seeds to a 10cm plant pot.

But when my root trainers arrived, they weren't quite what I thought they were going to be:  my mistake entirely for not reading the catalogue carefully enough.  They weren't the reusable plastic versions that I'd imagined, but instead were a kind of rough, semi-durable material, formed into cylinders.  They'll still do the job for which they were intended in a most splendid fashion - and the seeds will be delighted at the lack of root disturbance which their new homes will  guarantee as the whole thing can just be planted into the ground where it will gently biodegrade as the seedlings grow and prosper.

Which is all very fine, but these new purchases have set me off on a new collection with which to annoy my family.  (The younger members roll their eyes at my nests of old china teacups and pressed glass vases - blind to their own heaps of childhood jumble which creep from room to room until their progress is checked).  But at least my new collection is guaranteed to be short-lived.  For my new passion is  loo rolls.  Or more specifically  the cardboard tubes from the middle of toilet paper.  These will do exactly the same job for me as my specially purchased cylinders - their only drawback being that the cardboard does tend to get a bit squishy and rather alarmingly 'hairy' as they sit in the greenhouse whilst germinating their resident seeds.  My way to combat this is to use them for later plantings in March which will spend less time in the greenhouse and be moved relatively quickly into the ground.

I'll treat them the same way as my 'posh' planting cylinders - put them in a tray lined with green, felty, capillary matting to keep the open bottoms of the cylinders moist and to allow them to take up the water they need.
Recycled containers for sweet peas

And it will be interesting to see how many loo rolls we get through between now and March….

Friday, 23 January 2015

Annuals for the cutting patch - top picks

Nip on over to the Tuckshop Flowers blog to find out what made me drool on my seed catalogues this year….  and my two favourite annuals for the cutting garden.

grow your own cut flowers, worskhops Birmingham with Tuckshop Flowers

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

I dig no dig

I dream of creeping buttercup and bindweed roots after a session at the allotment.  Even as I sleep, I know they are poking their snaky tendrils out into my newly dug soil, filling my blank canvas with exuberant growth of the wrong sort, the minute my back is turned.

So this year I'm experimenting.  Instead of trying (and failing) to deal with weeds by digging, I'm going to try Charles Dowding's 'no dig' method.  This involves covering areas with biodegradable materials (e.g. cardboard) to prevent light reaching the soil, and then topping them with a mulch of organic matter  thereby providing a rich, friable growing media which is ready for planting. Flower growers I know who've adopted it have reported that it was much more effective than traditional digging in keeping perennial weeds at bay, and in reducing the general weed population.

It all sounds like a very good plan, except that evil weeds like bramble, bindweed and dock will have to be tackled before cardboard can go down as their roots are so indestructible, that, like post-holocaust cockroaches, they'll just keep on keeping on.  But, according to Charles Dowding's website, a couple of inches of organic matter on top of the soil should be enough to see off creeping buttercup (one of my worst enemies at the allotment), and perhaps even the grass.

I've saved lots of the Christmas cardboard delivery boxes, all stomped flat, in my garage for the purpose. The next job is to ferry them down to the allotment, lay them down on the soil, and then weigh them down either with mulch or odd bricks to stop them becoming airborne in the current windy conditions.

The local garden centre is currently selling off last year's compost at a large discount, so I may go and invest in some of that to boost my home-made supply to provide a sufficient quantity of mulch.  Along with visiting horse-lodging establishments to relieve them of some of their manure…  I sense a smelly January coming on!

Have you tried gardening using similar methods?  What  were the results?

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Favourite containers

By now, you all know my fetish for old china teacups, but it's hard to pin down one favourite container for flowers.  In this post, I'm inviting you to post pictures of your own alternatives to the glass vase - so come and join in the fun….

I'm just experimenting with setting up a blog on my Tuckshop Flowers website, so this is where you'll find the post.  Bear with me as I work all the tech-y bits out!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year from a happy flower grower

Another year is here.  What will it bring, I wonder?  Lots of flowers and a new growing space would be top of my wish list (along with a polytunnel and more local business links in 2015).

It's funny how the year passes in a whirl of activity from March til December but as soon as the New Year's Eve celebrations are over and Christmas put away for another 12 months, my fingers and mind itch to get started on the next growing year.  My second seed order was placed last week and my mind is now constantly roaming over what new cutting varieties I'm going to find space for in the coming months.

I am, however, fully intending to remain strong and bolt down my seed packets until March - not a lot of point in making early sowings until the daylight levels are extended with the imminent arrival of spring.  I made an exception for a very late sowing of self-collected sweet pea seeds yesterday, which I've put in my unheated porch as I need red sweet peas for late May wedding flowers in Birmingham.  I will have to murmur words of encouragement to the sproutlings on a regular basis… and hope that a lot of them are indeed red like about 50% of the parent plants.

This will be one of my first bright coloured weddings with hot oranges, yellows and reds.  Nearly all wedding requests to date have been for pastels and blush shades, so it is nice to have something different.  I'm providing the bride with buckets of flowers which friends and family will arrange for the wedding themselves.  A lovely idea to get people involved in the day - and one of the ways I got started on this path myself, so you never know, I might even germinate some more local flower folk!  My first DIY wedding flowers order, so it will be interesting to see how it all works.

Flowers from the Farm is a network of British flower growers working throughout the UK.
Photo courtesy The Great British Florist
It's been lovely to meet so many other local growers in 2014 as part of my role as regional co-ordinator for Flowers from the Farm, a network of British flower growers nationwide.  We had our first West Midlands meeting in January, and have met up every couple of months as a group ever since, but nearby flowery neighbours met via this route are seen regularly.  Being part of something bigger has been good for developing my expertise and my network - I now know who I can call on for more supplies and helping hands, whilst all the time keeping things local!  Judith of Pollen Floral Joy has become a key ally for moral support and is a very handy brain to pick for ideas and collaborative projects like our crowning of Bully, Birmingham's iconic Bullring bull for British Flowers week in June.

Knowing there are other people out there, willing to share growing and business expertise is invaluable and makes single-handed self-employment much less like being a horticultural hermit.  Far from it. Flower growing has thrown me into a generous world full of green-fingered folk and I'm loving every minute of it.

January sees me resolve yet again to get my allotment shipshape - my half plot section is already something like ready, with beds weeded and covered with weed suppressing membrane to hold back the insidious self seeders and their bid for world domination.  The scruffy big plot however, still needs some serious attention and as ever, I vow that this year I will get the path layout right to enable better access across the plot.  I've got a massive heap of woodchippings which I scrounged from tree surgeons working in the neighbourhood, and I plan to press this handy waste product into service, laid down over some cardboard in the alleys which I earmark for paths.  I sense a whole lot of earthmoving coming on.  Let's hope for a drier winter than 2014 if it is all going to get done before planting starts in spring.

What jobs have you prioritised on your plot for this year?

I wish you all a happy, fruitful and floriferous 2015.

Seasonal British flowers.  Homegrown flowers for weddings Birmingham