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Category: My Experiences

A gardeners personal gardening life over 70 years

Me and Seed Trays

Me and Seed Trays

Plastic seed trays

Seed sowing reaches its height in the middle of April. It is worth looking at the labour saving devices that were not available to our parents and grandparents.

Seed Tray Review

  • Old wooden seed trays with slats and high sides are still in use. They need care when cleaning before new crops are sown.
  • Plastic seed trays from rigid polypropylene with drainage holes can be used time and again and are easy to store and clean. There is generally a pattern of ridges to improve drainage.
  • I like to use the thin plastic segmented inserts inside a normal seed tray like those in the photograph.
    • They are cheap enough to be disposable but last a couple of seasons with care.
    • They vary in the number of cells, 3×5, 8×5 or 4×6 for example.
    • Each cell can be for individual seeds or used for several fine seeds. It makes pricking out and planting far easier.
    • The cells can also be used for growing on after pricking out. 15 or 24 good plants can be raised in one tray.
    • Do not put plastic inserts in a tray without drainage holes or the compost may get water logged.
  • Seed trays can be used to hold individual pots in one place. Up to 15 square 3″ pots can be put in one tray and they are a bit deeper than a standard tray.

Seed Tray Tips

  • Take care when watering to get all the area damp. Be careful with small cells and those near to the drying sun.
  • Label your seed sowing with the date and type of seed sown.
  • Sterilise your used seed trays in Jeys fluid or similar
  • To water from the bottom fill a larger container and stand the tray in the water until enough has been taken up.
  • Do not leave seedlings too long before pricking out. Long roots soon become stunted.
  • Carefully push out the cell contents from the bottom if using this product.

2021 Experience So Far

  • I vowed to sow fewer seed packets this year as pricking out then fills all the available warm space before the frost goes. Instead I have filled seed trays and 7cm pots with cuttings and bought in seedlings, so my space problem remains.
  • The square 7cm pots fit together in a seed tray for watering and carrying (but I always end up tipping some out by accident).
  • I did provide bottom heat for those seeds I have sown except lettuce. This has helped germination but regrettably not for tomatoes.
  • I stand some seed trays on wicking fabric to benefit from capillary action when watering from the bottom.
  • I have managed to get more seed trays in my greenhouse so all is not bad news despite the weather.
  • There is still time to use the seed trays for annuals and other seeds like wallflowers which await my attention.
Cold Snap and Sundry Snaps

Cold Snap and Sundry Snaps

Winter quarters on garage windowsill. Short of light but a warm sand based seed bed
Early protection in the bagging area.

Tulips do not mind the cold snap we have experienced during April but the greenhouse appreciated the bubble wrap

There is a great variety of tulips on show at the moment
Rhododendrons were decimated by the cold snap – still I hope for better next year – third time lucky after last years frost.
I treated myself to a Knaphill Azalea’Viscosa’ a white thjat will flower after our northern frosts.

A Tykes Greenhouse

A Tykes Greenhouse

Maximising Useful Space

  • During spring the space in your greenhouse is at a premium. We all have our own ways of using the opportunities and here are some of my ideas and Yorkshire experiences.
  • My glasshouse is the standard aluminium roof-span type. I aspire to a dutch type with sloping sides and bigger panes but they restrict tall plants near the glass. I’m too traditional to opt for an octagonal or dome shape and they rely on shelving for more space.
  • My past attempts with mini greenhouses and plastic constructions have been frustrating and are usually abandoned.
  • I have just got around to placing concrete flags under the staging – previously it was bare soil but seldom used for growing. Now I store dry goods that are regularly needed and small gizzmos and fixers. Now I don’t need to resort to the hut or garage every time I need something (time is as valuable as space).
  • The central path has long been flagged for 80% of the length so the growing area is ‘U’ shaped.
  • I use all internal central path for pots and trays on an interim basis. I also have some flags outside the door for moving plants out for short periods and hardening off.
  • I have a permanent wooden stage the length of one side and a temporary, portable aluminium stage that fit across the far end.
  • My aluminium frames have a central channel where a moveable support can be fixed for bubble wrap screening or light string support. I also string from the roof for tomatoes.
  • Wires or washing line is strung across some areas affixed to the frame to support growing plants. Pegs are used for several purposes.

Maximising Crops my way

  • My favourite flowering crops are auriculas and cyclamen that are ready to go outside before other plants need the space.
  • If I prick out too many plants into pots I need to ration myself as space becomes tight for a couple of weeks
  • I have had good results growing first earlies in potato sacks as long as I protect from hard frost and earth up by topping up the bag. They go outside when I need the space as the frost is virtually done.
  • Once seedlings are planted out I grow tumbler tomatoes in pots on the top of the bench and previously a courgette or two under the bench but they eventually gets in the way.
  • I grow tomatoes using a type of ring culture augmented by a hydroponic trough of nutrient and some wicking see below
  • Chrysanthemum follow tomatoes started off in front of the trough
  • Catch crops of lettuce and other salads get stuck in where I can.
  • Through winter I raise pots of early bulbs particularly hyacinths

Other Greenhouse Observations

  • The foundations are 99% perfect but I would strive for perfection if starting again. I would also build a ramp up to the threshold.
  • The only growth nearby is a plum tree on the north side but there is no overhang and the light is good.
  • I need to shade it with cool-glass paint as the sun gets stronger. A tip is to paint the shading on the inside, it is easier to reach and wash off. Outside the coolglass tends to adhere to mucky glass .
  • I never invested in blinds or shades. I also use scrim, muslin or horticultural fleece as a temporary covering if needed.
  • I use small flags to retain deeper soil where I want it. (see front right)

Tomato Trough before ring pots are put on top

Covid Ravage in My Garden

Covid Ravage in My Garden

Covid Ravage in the Garden

  • With time on my hands and nowhere to go there was plenty of time to mess around in the garden. Messing can be a negative when I fiddle too much and forget the basics. On seedlings I pricked out and cosset the weaklings rather than aiming for strong likely good doers.
  • I  give away many plants and unwanted ceramic pots by leaving them on the garden wall for passers by. Surprisingly, gardening books were not as popular and I still have hundreds which I will no longer read.(that may be a clue why they were unclaimed).
  • I had some  dwarf Hostas in good flower and the whole collection went one evening. I was a bit miffed as I would have liked to give each one to a different gardener. Then when clearing up I found a nice note from the grateful recipient and keen Hosta admirer.

Covid Year Winners

  • Early successes were the cheerful colours of primulas in pots and the garden flower beds. I saved the large pots full of plants through summer and have just started splitting them to reinvigorate the stock. Some varieties are flowering again right now (September). Regrettably there has been an infestation of vine weevil and the compost/soil is contaminated. They do not seem to have eaten into the roots yet so I may have caught it in time but I am vary of the hatching and spread next year.
  • Serendipity struck when I decided last year to plant some patio roses in long tom pots and other terracotta plant pots. They have been the stand out summer flowers and have been in continious bloom right through. Deadheading, feeding and watering have contributed but I rate them top of the 2020 season.

  • An unsung success has been the conifers which have provided cover for numerous birds and a visual range of colour, form and shape. The variety is more noticeable as I have looked more carefully at plants from several years ago when I planted dwarf conifers of many varieties. Some larger plants were turfed out to make space or as they were just wrong for the garden.

  • It is a new gardening year resolution to give the conifers some tlc with fewer competitors and a more natural habitat. I have named the main zone the conifery.  Growth on the larger specimens has been substantial and I will practice pruning and topiary on these outliers in the back garden.

Part of the Conifery

  • Dahlias deserve an honourable mention and I tried hard with geraniums, violas and sweetpeas which provided bunches of cut flowers and now I await the chrysanthemum display.
Penstemon Cuttings

Penstemon Cuttings

Penstemon Arabesque Red

I liked the colour combination of this garden center penstemon and for less than £4 I thought it a bargain. The main reason it seemed a bargain, compared to others available for sale, was the lush growth from the base of the root. I have tried with stem cuttings with some success but usually achieved more failures. On this stock plant I could see I would be able to tease stems from the base by the root.  I have got now 10 potential plants several with small roots already growing.  With luck there are also two stock plants from halving the root ball, .

Reasons Why I Grow Penstemon

  • These semi evergreen plant have a long and colourful flowering season from summer until autumn
  • They are colourful perennials very popular with bees.
  • Penstemon are easy to grow and generally reliable.
  • They are easy to propagate from cuttings and benefit from keeping your garden stock quite young by regular replenishment.
Portmanteau Trees New Species

Portmanteau Trees New Species

Elmonkey

If you notice dogs you may have seen a’ cockapoo’ using one of your trees as a loo or a ‘puggle’ leaving a puddle but what is a ‘labradoodle’ to do?  Every week there seems to be a new hybrid dog that is a cross between two or more breeds so I wonder if can this apply to trees.

If breeders could cross a Eucalyptus with a holly the European commission would be happy with a Eucalolly forest or a walnut would make a waolly or hollnut. My favourites would be a Sycayew or the tall but sickly Poplash

Paperbarked Maple

Back to the dogs for a minute, not to say silverbarkbirch or paperbarked maple both a bit wrouff ( or am I doing something up the wrong tree). How about planting a bulldogwood, a pitbull tree of heaven or a maidenhairweiler.

Trees portmanteaued or  crossed with board games would be chessnuts, planeludo or snakebarks and ladders. Mahonijong are related to chinese checkers and monopoly would be a self pollenator. Who let the dogs in there are terrible draughts in here (enough already go have some Chow ed).

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle Belgica


Aromatic Honeysuckle

  • These aromatic plants are sometimes called “woodbine.”
  • The flower, seed, and leaves are used for medicine particularly Chinese medicine for which they are grown as a crop.
  • Honeysuckles are from a family of over 150  Lonicera species including,  L. periclymenum (common honeysuckle or woodbine),  L.nitada, invasive  L.japonica &   L.sempervirens.

My Honeysuckle Experiences

  • My memory goes back over 60 years to a great aunt who grew a superbly scented climbing plant in her small backyard in a through terrace house. It must have made an impression alongside french cricket where it had to competed for space in the yard.
  • Later in life I have taken numerous cuttings and bought some named Lonicera to add height in the garden
  • Now I neglect them and leave them to their own devices. They survive but don’t really thrive. I should give them some TLC and grow them nearer to paths where I can relish the scent.

Gardeners Pruning tips

More info on Honeysuckle

My Pulmonaria Experiences and Preferences

My Pulmonaria Experiences and Preferences

Pulmonaria Blue Ensign

The extensive borage family includes the blue flowering Pulmanaria Blue Ensign shown above with an early flowering Iris reticulata.

My Pulmonaria Experience

  1. If I was looking for more Pulmonaria I would go for the pink/red ‘shrimps on the barbie’ and the white Sissinghurst.
  2. These common named  ‘lungworts’ are perennials that die back to below ground level each  autumn making them hard to keep track of due to the rhizomas roots.
  3. The white mottled leaves were not as vibrant this spring and would have preferred more  shade and damper conditions.
  4. I find some members of the 10,000+ boraginaceae family can be a bit thuggish and I plant them with some trepidation. (Just consider Comfrey if left unchecked)
Mixed May Month

Mixed May Month

I love Iris as much as Iris love sunshine so we are both happy with this May’s weather. The Thuja occidentalis conifer offers a cool photographic backdrop after coming through a frosty patch of weather in early spring

Lupins are not just for Christmas in fact they are not even for Christmas. They are definitely one of our families favorite hardy perennials for use in a mixed border.

How I regret not remembering the name of this bulb that I planted several years ago. Now it is maturing nicely with many flowering stems and is becoming a distinctive feature plant.

A hardy stand by Ceanothus that I propagate from cuttings. The only draw back for me is that other growth habits, including prostrate  and tree forms cannot be propagated from this one plant. (Clone is as colnes does). Ceanothus is also called or known asbuckbrush, California lilac or soap bush,

Azaleas in this gloomy corner have survived for several years and I keep promising myself that I will add some other varieties when can I find a place to plant them.

My wife would see the back of this Mahonia to make the space I crave for Azaleas (they both like slightly acidic soil). The sharp leaves ‘needle’ her but I like the all year round interest the plant provides.

The slabs of paving provide a path through a short Japanese section of the garden which utilises bark chippings rather than a gravel mulch.

Rabbits breed harmlessly in this part of the ornamental garden. A new acquisition last Christmas was the door as an entrance to the gnomes homes (221b Baker Street elementary my dear watsonnia – is that freudian or the name of my bulb in the third photo)

Lush Time in the Garden

Lush Time in the Garden

Where has all the rain gone? In winter there were floods aplenty so I was predicting water rationing by summer. Now it is mid May and the ground is parched and rock hard.

I was struggling to plant my dahlias when I heard my neighbor having even more trouble getting his spade in deep enough. I said I was worried about my next water bill and low and behold there it was on the doormat by lunch time.

Lush is as Lush Does

  1. To me green is the lush colour for all seasons. Other colours supplement or provide great highlights but the framework is green.
  2. Evergreens are therefore a mainstay of my garden particularly the 50 plus evergreen conifers that look lush through the year.
  3. It seems sad to eulogise dying foliage but this year the daffodils and blubells have clung on to the strappy leaves and provided some ground cover until I can get some annuals ready.
  4. The water table and morning dew has been enough to keep the grass green and I am resisting the temptation to cut too close.
  5. Two water barrels are not enough to allow me to water lavishly and 2 outdoor taps are a temptation. I and the garden will survive the rest of the year even though I predict summer floods.