What a difference a few days makes. The sun has been shining and the temperatures are rising, and most importantly the ground has warmed up. This makes it so much easier to sow seeds and plant seedlings, and let’s face it it’s simply more pleasant to be outdoors and pottering around the plot.
Sowing and growing
Once the long range weather forecast improved, I decided it was time to sow the rest of the courgette seeds. They’re currently on the sunniest windowsill and have been quietly left to do their thing. I’ve also sown the home-harvested cucamelon seeds I collected last year, although I’m not really hopeful that any of them are viable. It took about two weeks of soaking them to get the germination-inhibiting pulp off so if it happens it happens.
The thing about cucamelons, or mouse melons, is that they’re more hardy than you might think so they can give you a half decent crop when the rest of the cucumbers don’t make it, even if you neglect them. They’re also interesting to look at on the vine and on the plate and have a nice flavour. I’m not sure I could justify the price of a packet of seeds in a budget garden though – I only grew them last year because I was given a couple of free seeds in a swap. If money is no object, they’re fun and easy to grow.
Meanwhile, I’ve sown a few salad seeds outdoors. That’s a little late to be getting started, but you could look at it as one of many potential sequential sowings and we’ll have rocket leaves and other baby leaves ready within three weeks now. There are other salad plug plants developing in the mini greenhouse and on the windowsills as well, for more productive planting through the season, plus there are new pots of herbs starting off outside and in the mini greenhouse, making the most of those free seeds.
When the weekend comes around, I’m also going to sow some carrots, turnips and Perpetual Spinach leaf beet outdoors, and plenty of peas and beans. It’s time to really get on with the garden now, and shake off the lethargy of the extended wintery weather.
Other tasks this week include potting on tomatoes, tomatillos, butternut squashes and marigolds. They’re all getting too big for their boots and have three or four true leaves on them so I don’t want to leave it any longer. Plants left to go pot bound rarely thrive and give you a proper crop, they’re usually stunted and don’t reach their potential.
Other garden jobs
With the improved weather, we’ve seen a lot more weeds springing up, and an unseemly number of slugs and snails have been doing synchronised slime-ing around the plot. Knocking the weeds down now means they won’t have time to get established, which saves hassle later. I’ve put some organic slug pellets down which are also capable of taking out snails, but they aren’t as effective as the toxic ones.
Yesterday I broke out the nematodes that I bought with my Amazon gift vouchers, and watered them in all over the plot. It’s now warm enough outside to give them a fighting chance, so fingers crossed they will naturally heavily reduce the local slug population. I also watered in nematodes that control vine weevils, as these can completely destroy a container garden once they become established.
If I hadn’t had the Amazon voucher, I would have probably blown the budget for the vine weevil treatment. About half of my crops are grown in containers and I can’t afford to lose half of what I’m growing so I would have had to take the hit. Next year I’ll factor it in with my basic budget in case I don’t have vouchers to hand.
I’ve also dug in some chicken manure pellets in areas where I’m going to be planting beans, squashes and brassicas. They don’t smell at all when you put them under the soil or cover them with a generous layer of compost, so they’re a really good organic option for enriching the raised beds and larger pots. I got a massive tub for only £5 in Wilko, and it’s going to last years rather than months. If you’re likely to be sat right next to them in a small garden or outside space, say on a patio, deck or balcony, you might like to avoid using them as a top dressing because they can get a bit stinky.
A trip to the garden centre
We also walked to the local garden centre to pick up a few ornamental plants and spend a garden gift voucher. While we were there, I managed to pick up an Apache chilli seedling, some Moroccan mint for tea and other drinks, and a tiny replacement rosemary plant. The original rosemary plant appeared to have been finished off by frost, but it was probably the vine weevils – let’s hope the newbie doesn’t suffer a similar fate.
Reading up online, it looks like Apache chilli plants can sometimes be overwintered if you take very good care of them. The seedling cost £1.25 from the gift voucher, so if that gives us more than one year of nice chillies then I’ll be very happy indeed. I’ve also taken a small cutting from the Moroccan mint to try to grow an extra seedling from it. Nothing more complicated than a clean cut, removing the two lowest leaves and putting the cut stem into a glass of water – hopefully creating two plants for the price of one if it starts to grow roots.
They also had some offers on seeds, so I’ve bought some baby leaf salad mix and replaced the duff packet of spring onions as I know these will all be used. We came in on budget with the voucher, so no extra cash has been parted with. I’m hoping to avoid any further spending of cash throughout May and June. Wish me luck!
How is your kitchen garden or allotment going this year? If you haven’t grown one before, it definitely isn’t too late to start with most plants so why not give it a go?