Articles Posted in the Garden category

Getting serious about seeds

October 6, 2009
Posted in Garden

It’s been a month since I launched Project Green, an occasional series of posts on my still-developing gardening skills and things have progressed well. So much so that I have now built a fairly serious “seedling table” out of pieces on wood I had in the garage for another project that never materialised. At first glance the seedling table is … um … fairly large. Even I had my doubts about my ambitions when I first looked at the finished product. But, after just a couple of weeks the table is packed to capacity (at least on the top bird-proofed section) and many of the first seedlings have already been transplanted to the garden, having outgrown their seed trays.

seedtableThe idea for a seedling table was partly from some online reading I did and partly from the fact that the little old table I was using wasn’t really big enough. And that to protect the seedlings from birds I had to rig up an awkward system of netting that just got in the way.

The new seedling table has everything: netting to discourage birds, built-in sprinklers for water and enough room to store a good hundred-odd seedlings. The top shelf of the seedling table stands around one meter high which is a good height to work with without having to bend over the whole time. The bottom shelf is half as high and the table is 1.5m long and 0.8m wide. The two shelves are made from chicken wire pinned to the shelf beams. The chicken wire is not the best decision I made. It has a tendency to stretch under weight and it is surprising how heavy a few seedling trays can become. I will probably replace the chicken wire sometime in the near future, either with significantly stronger wire or perhaps even some wooden slats. But for now I’m going to leave it.

sprinklerThe sprinkler system is piped into the seedling table and uses the common garden sprinkler attachments you find in most hardware stores and nurseries. When I made the table I braced opposite corners of the “shelf beams” with a square block of wood to add rigidity to the table. Only once I’d done that did I realise how handy these would be to mount the sprinkler heads. Drilling a hole into two corner braces I mounted the sprinklers on high-rise poles inserted into the corner braces. With two 90% sprinkler heads the entire table gets a gentle watering in one go.

Successes and failures

The most successful seedlings we’ve grown to date on the new table are sweetcorn and basil. Basil grows just about anywhere and we’ve had to thin it out substantially over the past weekend. The sweetcorn seeds were also highly rewarding. Within days of planting them shoots appeared and they grew so fast that it seemed that if you checked them twice a day you could actually see them growing.

My first lettuce seeds, planted before the protection of the new seedling table, were pretty much wiped out by the birds the moment they appeared. Coriander, watermelon, cucumber and a variety of other lettuce seeds, on the other hand, sprouted quickly on the seedling table and are well on their way to being transplanted to the herb and vegetable gardens.

My attempts at growing lavender from seed are still largely unsuccessful, though I do have one or two promising looking shoots appearing this week. All the reading I’ve done suggests that lavender is an exercise in patience and that they will likely appear when you least expect them. So, I’m holding on and hoping.

The one thing we’ve no shortage of is tomato plants. We don’t actually plant these, they simply appear wherever we use our compost which is obviously laden with seeds. Gradually we’ve been moving a selection of the better of these to their own pots to be grown further.

We also have a selection of chili seeds planted in trays but so far the only chili bushes appearing this season are those that have seeded themselves around the garden.

First signs of life

September 18, 2009
Posted in Garden

The Garden Cress is very happy in its rich compost mixture.

The Garden Cress is very happy in its rich compost mixture.

It was just day four of the project when the first signs of life started poking through the soil in the seedling trays. The garden cress was remarkably quick to sprout and by the end of the first week had more than a handful of leaves to show for my efforts. Which boosted my confidence in my gardening skills no end. This was easy.

Boosted by my new-found confidence I scratched around for a few small pots and splashed out on a few more seed trays and got to planting some more seeds. One of the things I am keen to grow is Lavender. We have a narrow pathway down the one side of our house and after seeing a few good examples of lavender-lined stone pathways decided that something similar would be a good way to decorate an otherwise ugly piece of garden. To do this we need a lot of lavender so rather than buying it from the nursery I decided to try and propagate some from a few existing plant branches (largely unsuccessful so far)  and plant a packet of seeds.

The newest trays are in the foregraound with the lavender occupying the green pots and the back-left trays.

The table. The three trays in the forground are the newest plantings and the lavender is is the green pots and the trays at the back left.

Lavender
The first thing I learned about lavender is that there is not such thing as “just lavender”. There are literally hundreds of different types of lavender, each with their own flowers, leaves and habits. In the end I settled on traditional English Lavender because it seems ot be the most popular so if I have problems with it I’m likely to find help relatively easily. I planted the lavender seeds (which are infuriatingly small and difficult to work with) in a couple of loose pots and two large seed trays.

Potting medium
Up until now I’ve been planting these seeds in trays and pots filled mostly with compost that we’ve produced at the bottom of the garden and a little sand. I’m now worried that this may not have been the best idea but I suppose we’ll find out soon enough. At least the cress is enjoying their new rich home.

As a test I planted a few more trays of seeds over the weekend. These extra three seed trays are planted with watermelon, sweetcorn and cucumber seeds. The test part is that I planted these in trays filled with a mixture of finely sifted compost mixed with a healthy dose of river sand. This guide suggests a seed-starting medium or potting soil. Maybe next time I’ll look at potting soil but for now river sand and compost it is.

Herbs, day 1

September 7, 2009
Posted in Garden

herbseedlings_070909Monday morning and the first day of the new gardening project. I only had six seedling trays to hand so I filled them all with seeds for chillis, sweet basil, coriander, lettuce, dark-leafed basil and garden cress. I’m thinking of building a more permanent structure on this side of the garden for growing seedlings but I want to test out how they fare here before launching on the building. When they do start to come up I’ll need to have something to protect them from birds but that’ll come later in the week. I also need a higher table. The current one is made from old scraps including an old wooden walkway which we replaced some time ago.

Seedlings: Getting started

September 7, 2009
Posted in Garden

This is the start of a series of regular posts tracking my gardening skills. I’m not a professional, I’m not practised, and I’m pretty clueless when it comes to growing plants. Over the past ten years I’ve spent more time behind a computer screen being a geek than I have in the garden. But recently I started enjoying gardening and I’ve decided that the best way to hone my skills is to give gardening a shot while documenting the (no-doubt countless) mistakes I make on this blog. The one thing I’ve learned over the years is that one of the best ways to learn from mistakes is to write them down. That way they are recorded and can be used as a measure of progress.

So, pitting a geek against a garden, let’s get started with Project Green.