I haven’t been spending as much time in the garden as I should, because I’ve been doing odd jobs around the house. One of these jobs was to get rid of our old bed and buy a new one. The new bed was self-assembly so that entailed a whole day of screwing leg A into frame B, and swearing copiously when it all went wrong and had to be dismantled. Mr Beans tried to help but he’s not a huge DIY fan either. However, we got there in the end.
So this weekend I had a lot of gardening jobs to catch up on, including potting up my tomato plants. This is where the old divan came in handy. At the time of writing it’s in two halves, both propped on their side in our front garden, waiting for Thanet District Council to take them and the mattress away. As luck would have it, the tops of the divan halves were *just* the right height for me to use them as a potting table. I could stand comfortably at my full height, without stooping over and doing my back in.
Other jobs done this weekend: planting more seeds – peas, spinach beet and spring onion. I don’t feel very optimistic about the spring onion because the first lot of spring onion I planted back in March hasn’t come up. Well, there are a few whiskery seedlings but not the full container of tiny plants you’d expect by now. I’m not sure if it’s down to the cold weather, or the fact that the seeds may be too old? If the second batch comes up OK, then weather must be the answer.
I have learned a few things this year which I will be taking on board for next year’s gardening activities, and I thought I’d put them in this blog because that way, I’ll be able to find the list! So, here goes:
1. When it comes to planting tomato seeds indoors, don’t do it too early. Early to mid-April will be fine – it’s only people who grow their tomatoes in a greenhouse or conservatory who can get away with doing it earlier.
2. This year, I am really kicking myself for growing the Gardener’s Pearl variety of cherry tomatoes as opposed to Tumbling Tom, as I did last year. Although the Tumbling Tom seeds were humungously expensive, the fruit were DELICIOUS. The Gardener’s Pearls are OK, but bland – better for cooking than eating.
3. Use big containers for courgettes – buckets with a 14 or 15 inch diameter, at least.
4. Two varieties of courgette which seem to be happy with container living and give nice yields are One Ball and Golden Zucchini. I don’t know if the fact that they are both yellow has anything to do with it. Just mulch ’em regularly with home-made compost and water them generously.
5. Boot fairs and charity shops are great places to buy cheap plants if you don’t want to grow everything from seed.
6. Order a bulk lot of compost early on – litre for litre, it works out half the price of the titchy little bags.
7. Planting dried peas in a container (yes, those dried peas you get in supermarkets) gives amazingly good results – a small but steady supply of pea shoots and tiny mange-tout.
8. A top tip from a man I know who lives around the corner and also grows veg: plant nasturtiums near your runner beans. Any blackfly will eat the nasturtiums and leave the beans alone. EDIT: don’t bother with this one – he reckons that the nasturtiums were what encouraged the blackfly in the first place, and has since got rid of them. Result: no more blackfly.
And finally, here is a picture of Lottie standing guard among the elephant garlic:
Last year I tried to grow mange-tout peas in one of our raised beds and it was a complete washout. There really wasn’t enough room to grow the number of plants needed for a decent crop of peas, and the dreaded snails had their fill of the tender leaves before they really had a chance to get established. From half a dozen plants, I must have managed to harvest twelve or so mange-touts.
Then this year, I had a lightbulb moment – thanks to watching Alys Fowler in her BBC TV series The Edible Garden. She suggested growing pea plants for their shoots, rather than for peas. Plant peas close together in a container (six inches of compost is plenty), then put them in a reasonably snail-free environment. When the plants are a few inches high, just cut off the tops, from the tendrils down to below the first set of leaves below them. Eat cold in salads. Yum, yum.