Greetings from Lancashire...
After a cool, damp spring we are starting to get some (very welcome) clear, sunny days in Lancashire. This is excellent news for my seedlings, but a lot more work for me as it involves regular checks on my greenhouse as the temperature fluctuates between baking hot in full sun and freezing cold at night! So it’s off with the plastic covers with open windows and vents during the day and tucking up everything with covers and closed windows and vents at night.
I’ve now potted up all my tomato seedlings into 9cm diameter pots with peat free multipurpose compost. They are off my windowsill and in my unheated greenhouse, where they get a lot more light. The seedlings I started off in January for Tomato ‘Burpees’ Super Sauce’ have struggled with low light levels on my windowsill and have gone a bit leggy. But the later Tomatoes; ‘Micro Cherry’ and ‘Artisan Tiger Stripe Mix’ have both developed good sturdy, stems and compact seedlings. This is a lesson to me in future; that January is a bit too early for starting these seeds in my house. Even my ‘best’ windowsill only gets a couple of hours of sun that month and, unfortunately, daylight lamps haven’t made up for it.
My January sown Aubergine ‘Raspberry Ripple’ have fared better and grown into healthy seedlings. After a few weeks of no activity my Squash ‘Baked Potato’ is sprouting in my unheated greenhouse – I’ve got six of these and so will be giving some away as they need plenty of space. This is a good month to watch out for plant swap days at your local allotments or community gardens, where you can share you germination successes with other growers.
Borlotti Bean 'Lingua Di Fuoco 2'
New tender seeds for this month are (new to me) Borlotti Bean ‘Borlotti Lingua Fuoco 2’ and an old favourite Courgette ‘Gold Rush F1’. I’ve put two seeds into large pots (about 12cm in diameter) with peat free multipurpose compost and will keep them in my unheated greenhouse until the frost are over at the end of May. You can harvest the courgettes as soon as they are 10cm long, or wait until they are larger if you prefer. The pink speckled Borlotti beans can grow 2m high and so need support from canes or trellis. You can either eat the whole pod in the summer when they are small and tender or wait until early autumn when the pods are swollen with mature beans and harvest the beans. If you’d like to store the beans you need to let them dry out thoroughly before putting them in an airtight container.
My NEW Book!
This spring my book on ‘Designing, planting and using a Therapeutic Garden’ has been published and contains lots of practical information on how to design gardens to boost the wellbeing of a range of different groups. There are also suggestions for therapeutic gardening activities all year round and a directory of 100 therapeutic plants, including edible ones! If you’d like to find out more, come along to my talk at Harrogate Spring Flower Show on Saturday 22nd April on the Human Gardener Stage.
If you have some spare time you might like to make yourself a ‘cold frame’ to make ‘hardening off’ your tender vegetable plants a little easier. This mini-shelter will help acclimatise your greenhouse or windowsill grown plants to outdoor conditions before you plant them out. Old double-glazing panels and bricks will do the job, or polythene or bubble wrap stapled to a frame placed over a sturdy box. Just remember to open the lid during the day and close it at night to keep out the cold air and any pests.