Wednesday, 13 April 2016
In the greenhouse
As you may know, I have a small greenhouse situated in the front garden of my home. It is an unheated glass house measuring about 6ft square . Marc bought it for me as a Mother's Day present several years ago. Apparently it was a complete bugger to assemble and put up. I wouldn't know about that, because while he was wrestling with it, I was in my next door neighbours garden drinking wine.
I love my greenhouse. It is one of my most favourite places to be. I have spent many pleasurable hours with seeds and soil and pots. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy popping in and our of it during the day to check on the seed trays and look for small changes within. On a cold blustery day, the air is still and warm. The smell of things growing fills my nose and I swear all that lovely oxygen being pumped out is extremely good for me.
At the moment I have an assortment of flowers and veggies growing away. I try to grow everything from seed. Partly because it is cheaper. Partly because it's easier to do it with a greenhouse. But mostly because it is one of the most rewarding pastimes I know. Last year I saved an enormous quantity of flower seeds from my own garden. I also swapped seed with my friend Sophie and my neighbour Sandra. I was sent some by lovely people, and I also knocked on doors and asked whether I could take a seed pod or two.
For example, near my sister in law's house is a gorgeous garden with an array of plants. I admired a yellow poppy in particular, and I asked the lady that lived there whether I could have a couple of poppy heads. She invited me into her garden, and we spent a lovely half hour wandering around talking about different plants. I came away with several poppy seed heads, and some cuttings too. In return I gave her some of my marigold and cosmos seeds.
I find gardeners to be the loveliest of people. They are always generous with their produce. They love talking about plants as much as I do. They swap and share information, in a very democratic way. There's none of this know it all attitude with a gardener. I have learnt so much from talking, watching and listening to gardeners like my Uncle Alan and my father in law. I really value their input and advice, and their sharing of a lifetime's experience in their own gardens. I class myself still very much the beginner, and yet I love to pass on what I have learnt too.
I almost always grow more than I need. And so I pass seedlings and young plants on to other people. It's another reward of the greenhouse, that I can share its' bounty with others. My neighbour, Sarah, will probably be the main recipient this year. I have already given her a tray of sweet peas. I had five of them after all. I don't have the space for them all, and yet I just love sowing those seeds. The joy of seeing those first leaves push their way through the soil just never diminishes. I always sow extra veggies, because they don't always germinate. This year, every courgette and every cucumber and every tomato has. And they seem to be thriving. I shall be passing some of these on to anyone fool enough to take one off of my hands.
Olly likes to sow seeds too. This year he has chosen sweetcorn, sunflowers and rocket. The sweetcorn is more or less ready to pot on. The sunflowers - giant and a late flowering bronze variety - have just pushed their first leaves through the soil. He is very excited about them, because we are going to see how high we can grow them (Jennifer, get your ruler ready!). The rocket started off in the greenhouse, but we have moved it outside today. To make room for all the potting on that I am preparing to do in the next week or so. I think it may be quite a mammoth task. But one that gives me pause to sit quietly, and let my mind wander to this and that as I absorb myself in the process.
This weekend I shall be sowing all the legumes; runner, French, mange tout and peas. These will eventually be planted outside, but they are always started off in the greenhouse. The sweet peas will be moved outside to make room for them, and to prepare them to be planted in the garden. I cannot wait to be picking those first sweetly scented bunches to put by my bedside.
I always try something new, and this year I have sowed aubergine and dahlia seeds. The aubergines have all germinated and I'm really hopeful that I will get a crop of sorts this year. I had a go at the dahlias, because my established tubers in the garden did not thrive last year. I was apprehensive, because I had heard that it could be tricky getting them to germinate. So I am super pleased that they have, and are growing away with the true leaves showing that unmistakable variegated pattern.
I've also decided to do a little experiment. I have bought a selection of seeds for my dedicated butterfly area; cuckoo flower, red campion, ox eye daisy and so on. Some I have sowed in seed trays, to be kept in the greenhouse. Some I have sowed directly into the garden. I'm interested to know whether the greenhouse will yield a greater number of seedlings for me to pot on and pot out, or whether these hardy plants will fare just fine from being sowed direct.
Finally, to prove that not everything goes according to plan, the bottom middle picture shows two seeds trays that should have leek and chilli pepper seedlings romping away. They didn't germinate. I've no idea why. I thought leeks were really hardy. Another life skill that the greenhouse has taught me; to be pragmatic. As my father in law always says when planting seeds "they will go one way or the other."
I guess these went the other.
C'est la vie.