Reviewing the seeds I’ve sown so far this year reveals the usual pattern of some successes and some failures. But the picture has been skewed by difficulties getting hold of some seeds and plants due to the ongoing lockdown: not just seed companies operating to an understandably lower efficiency than normal, but also the surge in demand from new growers keen to grow their own veg and get around shopping shortages.
Personally I think more people growing veg is brilliant and long may it continue, be that via an allotment plot, the back garden or some pots on the window sill. If it means seed companies quickly selling out of their stock each season perhaps seed saving will take off more. My few attempts at seed saving have been (literally) fruitless, so I’ve been scrabbling about in old tins and swapping seeds with work colleagues in the post.
One can excuse seeds with those mixed origins failing to germinate, and accordingly some did. But I also had seeds freshly bought this year from dealers which failed to germinate in the heated propagators: padron chillies, purple jalapeno chillies, caragnola sweet peppers and even a luffah plant. Not a peep out of any of them, which makes me suspect I got the heat and water balance wrong (it’s easy to rot seeds) and must be more careful next time.
Still, I have some backup plants: Britney sweet peppers (hope they’re not ‘Toxic’) and Tribute cucumber. The spare cucumber is a good fallback as I accidentally snapped the incredibly delicate stem of a thriving grown from seed Straight Eight cuke plant. Then came close to repeating the destruction by nearly decapitating all my mangetout plants when moving the wirework they’re sitting amongst.
That’s just a wire greenhouse shelf left there to keep away birds pecking at seedlings. It’ll need very careful removal once the plants are a bit bigger. And I must watch out for falling figs: the fig tree overlooking the pea bed must have a hundred small figs on it already and, as usual, it’s shedding some of them.
Alongside, the potatoes are growing away in sacks and in the ground. Back in March I bought seed potatoes of two varieties: Charlotte earlies and a first-time grow for me: Shepody maincrops. I chose the latter because they’re one of two varieties managed by McCains. Yes McCains as in oven chips. They’re supposedly great for making chips, as you’d expect, and I’m looking forward to putting that to the test around August.
As the potato leaves grew upwards I kept topping them up with some lovely peat-free compost I got from Marshalls. It was pricey at £8 a bag, but still cheaper than some of the outrageous charges some outlets have been asking for compost. Profiteering during a shortage isn’t a good look. Anyway this is a new favourite: rich and full or organic matter, but needs lots of watering as a result to keep the growing potato haulms in water.
I started sowing back on 1st April and one of the first things to go in the propagators was marigolds, which will attract bees to the veg plants which need pollinating. Don’t marigolds have the most amazing seeds? With their points and feathered flights I can picture Lilliputians playing darts with them. Anyway, I now have four healthy marigold plants ready for potting on.
My sowing calendar is almost complete, apart from wild garlic seeds in the autumn, but the conveyor belt of germinating in the heated props, transplanting into modules to slow down and establish the plants, then moving into bigger pots to do their main growing is still in full swing. The dining table is doubling up as a work from home office and a greenhouse at the moment. To my left as I work on my day job is the purple glow of the fabulous LED grow lights I’ve used for a couple of years now: guaranteed ‘sunlight’ with no weak, spindly seedlings hunting for daylight. It’s one of those ‘why didn’t I get these sooner?’ situations.
This module tray contains all sorts: chillis, courgettes, kale, chamomile, leeks – some of which will have been potted on a day or two from now, making room for the exotic basils and culinary lavender which have just sprouted in the heated props.
Everything’s pretty green at the moment, with no colourful produce appearing yet, although the purple basil is pretty and tasty (had pasta two nights ago and ripped a few leaves off the plant right in front of me – there’s nothing like fresh herbs!). But with tomato, pepper, strawberry and other plants outside now and getting used to it, it shouldn’t be long now.
Meanwhile the main rows are now all sown in the beds:
- Swiss Lights chard
- Maestro and Sugarsnax carrots
- Castandel French beans
- Cylindra and Boltardy beetroot
- Sutton broad beans
- Perpetual spinach beet
- French Breakfast radishes
- Richi Chinese leaves
- Wasabina and Red Frills mustard leaves
- Little Gem and Mazur lettuce
Joining those outside in the coming weeks will be:
Musselburgh leeks, Nero di Toscana kale, Courgettes, cucumbers, wild rocket, White Lady runner beans, coriander and other things I’ve no doubt forgotten about. Also growing are provence white garlic, pink blueberries, lemon balm, figs and various herbs.
With a few days of windy weather now replaced by hot blue skies, plenty of yummy vegetables await in the next update 😊