Tuesday 16 March 2021

A time to sow ...

The supermarkets go big with primulas this time of year
A glimmer of sunshine, a slight rise in temperature, a hint of growth - and the urge to sow and plant become irresistible. Perhaps that is the definition of a gardener, one who sows in hope ...

It will not surprise you to learn that Codger has been busy sowing and today's edition has this as its main focus. There is plenty of advice on the web but we have one or two tips of our own

A couple of websites first. I mentioned Charles Dowding last week - you'll find his site here. There are many, many others including Grow Veg which I came across only recently - you can try it here. Here are a few brief propagation pointers of my own ...

Seeds available in multiple outlets - often good value

Buying seeds

You don't need to spend a mint on seeds. Often a packet of seeds contains far more than you can use. The photo shows seeds I bought a few days ago from Lidl (ignoring the expensive packet from elsewhere, bottom right). The five packets from Lidl cost less than £2.00 in total (upon checking the receipt just £1.65 - not bad!)

Many online suppliers do good offers, too.  Mind you, I often weaken when I see something that takes my fancy. The fancy in the picture is Purple Bell Vine, something new to me that I want to try

Codger likes to lighten the sowing mix
This year we are trying Perlite

On Saturday I noticed that Homebase was selling six 50 litre bags for £22. I find I cannot now cope with the big (120 litre) bags (it comes to us all). I was pleased to see that the instructions on the bad advocated lightening the mix with something like vermiculite or perlite. Coarse sand can also work. Improving drainage by such additions gives better germination

Most of the covers here are recycled -
mainly from food containers

Read the instructions

Seed packets always have instructions on the back. The bit I always look for is the germination temperature, usually 15-20℃. A sunny window ledge will easily achieve this. You can create a micro-climate by covering with a plastic bag. I also find bubble-wrap works well. Obviously, Codger is working to a bigger scale in the greenhouse


Recycle trays and pots that you already have. I try not to purchase flimsy trays that won't last. I also use disposable food containers that come from the supermarket (plastic re-use, again). Of course, it is necessary to drill drainage holes

My new addition, somewhat squashed in
being used as a cold frame 
Plastic greenhouses

I sometimes get asked about the cheap greenhouses that are available at retail outfits. Dare I say it but I have had many years experience of these contraptions and have accumulated a bit of advice

Let me first explain that my recent purchase is being deployed more as a cold frame - Codger needs the space as seedlings develop. So, with its assembly fresh in my mind, let me pass on a few pointers. First, a don't - don't buy one with a flimsy see-through cover (see last week's photo). Go for the sort where the cover has meshed reinforcement. With regard to assembly:

1: Don't rush, take your time - it's easy to get in a mix. 

The structure is formed from steel tubing
joined by plastic corner pieces

2: Push the tubing fully home - a tap with a Brummagem screwdriver may be needed. 

3: You need level hardstanding - in my case slabs - this means that the thing stands square. 

4: Secure the beast - otherwise the wind will take it in spectacular fashion! 

5: Finally, persuade the cover into place - don't force it, otherwise the zips will give way. I could say a lot more - I've made many, many mistakes in the past

A final and vital point: do not expect it to last forever but, remember, replacement covers may be available (you can check this on purchase).

A bit of DIY

Extra shelving made from old parts
Do you have the remains of an old plastic greenhouse? Great, you have a kit of parts that can be reused! I needed to increase the amount of shelving in the new one and built a unit from old parts. The metal tubing and plastic joints seem to be made to a standard size - I have combined different makes quite successfully in the past

The tubing is made of thin steel and can be cut to size. The best way of doing this is to use a plumber's cutter - I find a hacksaw less good because the material is very thin and snags. Take a look at the photos and you'll be able to work out how I did the job. (Yes, you've guessed - old Codger grew up with Meccano. You'll find a few more shots as a tailpiece, below.) Incidentally, all the staging (shelving) in my proper glasshouse is constructed from old plastic greenhouse bits

An unexpected donation

We are almost ready to supply plants for this season - very close, in fact. See the next edition for details - out in about ten days time

But I can risk telling you that we should have some nice geraniums. I spent yesterday afternoon potting-on 72 plug plants that were not required by the person who ordered them. They have been kindly passed on to us so that BCM gets the benefit

The variety is is Bull's Eye and there will be a mixture of colours - or so the delivery note says. Just as well that I bought those six bags of potting compost!

Very healthy geranium cuttings - now transplanted and growing away

Something a bit different

You may have worked out that Codger is fascinated by the way plants grow. The unseen microscopic action that is continually taking place in the soil is vital to this process. Fungi play a key part. They can be strangely beautiful, too - as you can see here. The photo is courtesy of Wiki - a Japanese photographer, I believe

If this fascinates you, too - then you are sure to appreciate the work of an Australian photographer, Stephen Axford. You may well have seen his time-lapse photography on television. The BBC have incorporated his work in recent David Attenborough films. You can view a wonderful video of the world of fungi here - and meet Steve Axford at the same time:

(If you are viewing on a mobile phone, you may need to click here)

A time to sow ...

To me, all of this demonstrates the absolute wonder of creation. Illustrated, again, every time a seed germinates. When I checked out the quotation "A time to sow .." I found I had got it wrong in that the Biblical original is "A time to plant ..." ( Ecclesiastes 3:2)

I like to get quotes correct and was digging around the lyrics of "Turn, turn, turn" - remember - Pete Seeger and many other followers? Then, in that strange serendipitous way of the internet, hit upon this. Join me for a quiet moment before you rush on today:

(If you are viewing on a mobile phone, you may need to click here)

If you are still with me, you'll find a few more photos below. Best wishes!

... from the old Garden Codger

Extras: first, if you are interested in plastic greenhouse reuse ...

Pipe cutter used to shorten or clean up reused tubing - gives a nice clean cut - and is quick

Then, if you want to see how a new structure (or old!) goes together:

Slabs give a firm footing. I was squeezing into a tight space. But, this protects from wind

Meanwhile, the tomato seedling are coming on. Photo just taken (noon today). Almost ready to prick out - my next big job

Tomato seedlings sown three weeks ago in my DIY propagator set at 19 degrees Celsius
The bubble-wrap is rolled back - this covers at night - we are still getting low temperatures

Signs of life - the frogs have been busy in the pond doing what frogs do

And, finally, a bit of aubretia brightness


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