Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Steep Learning Curve


At the end of my gardening session last week I was already making plans for this week.  I knew I would utilize one of my old storage containers but there were still unanswered questions,  such as what was I going to plant?  Is the container deep enough?  Would it drain and so on. Fortunately, my thoughtful boyfriend came home with a book one evening called 'The Edible Garden' by Alys Fowler.  It's a no frills book that gets straight to the nitty gritty of gardening.  It teaches you everything from managing seedlings, appropriate planting depths through to making your own compost.  Oh and let me not forget it has some great pickling and jam recipes at the back.

 After devouring the pages of the book like a great novel, I had my plan.  I would plant strawberries, the flower I bought last week, a herb (I hadn't yet decided which), lettuce and I would re-plant the onions I had grown to give them more space.  I would also buy some more seeds so my garden will continuously produce.  For the seeds I had my mind set on courgettes and lettuce for this week.

Buying The Plants

It's amazing how once your mind is set on something you start to notice things that might not ordinarily have caught your eye.  Whilst cycling home one evening I noticed a sign 'Plants for Sale' about 5 minutes from home.  On Saturday morning I returned with my shopping list.  The place is called The Calthorpe Project and deserves a special mention. It's an inner city oasis where kids and adults from different backgrounds can come and garden, play football among other things.  There is this fabulous green house and working garden managed by volunteers that has a whole host of edible plants - everything you could wish for.  I was informed by the volunteers that funding for the place is being cut by the government and they are trying to become self sufficient by hosting events, selling their produce and plants.  Check out their website  and if you're in the area it's certainly worth a visit. 

Ok, back to the plant buying.  I strayed from the plan a bit whilst roaming the gardens at Calthorpe and ended up coming away with kale, strawberries and rocket but stuck to my seed plan of lettuce and courgettes.

The Planting

The Terrace Pre Planting
Step 1 - With a sharp knife, I made drainage holes in the plastic storage container,
Step 2 - Lined it with newspaper (this apparently keeps the soil moist for longer without preventing drainage),
Step 3 - Added only a thin layer of soil then poured water in to check that the holes were sufficient for drainage.
Step 4 - Added another 70 litres of multipurpose compost to fill the container
Step 5 - planted the rocket close to the borders, the strawberries at the back near the wall so they could creep and so on.

The Terrace after planting
Step 6 - Planted my seeds.  I suspect the onion seeds planted last week are too deep because they should already be showing signs of life and they are not. So in order to avoid making the same mistake I simply sprinkled the lettuce seeds on top of the soil in the seed pot and for the larger courgette seeds I buried them 1.5cm in the pot as recommend by Alys Fowler. 

 Progress Report :) 

I have since my last post found out that the smaller variety  of tomatoes potted last week is a 'Gardeners Delight'. Much to my excitement one of them that had already flowered has since produced the start of my first tomato.

Experiments: Before reading the book I decided to experiment with different conditions to see which were most suited to growing.
Condition 1 - Seed pot, indoors with with cling film over the top.  These already seem to have sprouted and it has only been 3 days.
Condition 2 - I wrapped a few seeds in dampened kitchen paper.  These have not yet sprouted but they look like they've expanded and will sprout any day now.

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