May 2010 – Seedlings

My success rate in germinating the seeds that I planted in April was actually quite poor in our new unheated greenhouse and this was very disappointing, especially as we made such a big investment in it – it was a choice between a greenhouse or a wind turbine. In the past I had used a warm window sill, but this was a bit ‘hit and miss’ too. On visiting a friend’s house I was even more exasperated to see all her trays of seedlings, fortunately she shared the secret to her success – a propagator! A propagator is basically a warm pad that the seed trays sit on. For a moment I did consider using an electric blanket, but on second thoughts electricity and water, not a good idea! Then I thought of using the top of our Stanley, which heats to about body temperature. I sowed six varieties of seeds on a seed tray covered them with a damp tea towel and within 2 days, success, the first seedlings appeared and by the end of the week even the pepper seeds had germinated. The success rate was phenomenal, I had more seedlings than flower pots. Now the greenhouse is full of plants. The tomatoes and courgettes are romping away and there are peppers, chillies, basil, butternut squash, sugar-snap peas, pumpkins and the first of the summer flowers, sunflowers and sweet peas.

The veg garden is almost full. Eight of the ten beds are planted with potatoes, onions, peas, carrots, parsnips, broccoli and calabrise. I’m also trying some unusual vegetables from the Eden Project in Cornwall – tomatillos, plum tomatoes and asparagus peas (apparently they are peas that taste like asparagus). The last two beds are resting, waiting for the pumpkins and butternut squash to grow bigger in the greenhouse. I also need to dig in some more compost from last year’s compost bins.

At this time of year there’s loads to do in the garden, next on the list is weeding the new cut flower beds and I also need to plant the long borders either side of the drive, which is long overdue. I haven’t decided what to plant yet as they will have to be drought tolerant to survive in the poor thin soil. I’m considering lavender or maybe Mediterranean herbs like fennel and thyme. The other dilemma I’ve had to solve recently is how to reconcile free range chickens and a vegetable patch. There’s a wild rose hedge around some of the veg garden and this has now thickened nicely, but on one side is a hedge made of ash whips bent into a lattice. In a few months this will be lush with greenery and will discourage the chickens, but at the moment the chickens are squeezing through. White fleece solved the problem, the chickens watched me plant the seeds ready to move in, but as soon as I put the fleece down they backed away and have left the beds undisturbed. My friend says it because the chickens think its snow and having experienced snow in the winter they have imprinted that it’s not nice to walk on, I think she’s right!

Talking of chickens we had what was very nearly a disastrous incident the other day, but the cockerels saved the day or saved the ducks in fact. We were having coffee in the kitchen when suddenly Greg the dominant one of the two cockerels appeared at the back door screaming at the top of his voice not his usual cock-a-doodle-doo more like help, help! We knew immediately there was something wrong and ran outside to see a large dog chasing the ducks in the orchard. The dog soon ran away on seeing us. Once we had recovered from the shock, we fell about laughing, it was like something out of a Disney movie!

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