Saturday, 2 February 2008

Under starters orders ! 03.02.08

And they're off !

Welcome back to Reads Retreat - A guide to growing your own veg in Raised Beds.

It's time to get growing again - Yippee !

Most of the groundwork is now in place, nearly all the pre-season buying is done and finally it's time to get my hands dirty.
The first seeds to land in the propagator this year are those pictured on the left which are :
1. Chilli (v.De Cayenne)
2. Basil (v.Dark Opal)
3. Onion (v.Bedfordshire Champion)
4. Tomato (v. Moneymaker)
5. Sweet Pepper (v. Worldbeater)
8. Leek (v.Musselburgh).
All these have been planted in seed trays with propagator lids, and placed in an unheated conservatory, where they should get plenty of light and a fairly consistent temperature. All seeds are planted in growbag compost, which was sieved before use to remove any lumps / foreign particles. The seeds were then covered with approx. 1/2" more sieved compost. Water was added to the drip trays, as opposed to the top surface. This helps the plants establish feeder roots as they germinate, the idea being they grow as stronger seedlings. I planted the 2 pepper varieties in one seed tray, with two Chilli seeds per module ( so that the weaker seedling can be removed ) and one seed per module for the Sweet peppers, which tend to germinate much better than their hotter namesakes. I know that may all seem a bit long winded, but I work to the old addage "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail !". The second seed tray ( 4 x 10 modules) were planted up the same way - doubling up on the onion and leek seeds, with single seed planting of the Basil and Tomato.
The seeds pictured here are from my latest shopping spree - which didn't involve me leaving the house ! Good old ebay for this little lot. It's hard to believe I know, but I paid just 3 quid for this lot, including post and packaging . It's true, you don't get owt for nowt ! But a bit of careful shopping and you can easily bag a bargain or six !
The seeds were all unopened packs, and appear to be last seasons, but the "Plant by" date for all of them is June 2008.
Like most people ( I'm guessing ) seed packs will remain in use for many years, due in part to the number of seeds some packs contain. As long as the seed packs are stored in an airtight container, they will last me many seasons.

My new raised bed has finally received it's new top dressing of Garden Centre General Purpose compost.
2 x 75 Litre bags of Tunstall branded compost were use ( 3 for a tenner in most places ) , providing a good 2 - 3 inch layer across the bed. The bed has now been covered with mulch material / and the empty bags , which will allow the contents to settle and the temperature to warm up a bit. The secondary reason for the mulch layer is to prevent light reaching the soil which in turn should halt the progress of any weeds. This bed will be home to my Runner and French beans in a couple of months time, and I'm hopeful of a good crop this year, followed by spuds next year.

This little pic is to showcase the new growth of my Garlic (v.Fokyhama) bulbs, that were planted at the end of November last year. I covered the open soil with some netting and also planted some Pea Sticks to stop the cats from digging them up. Seems to have worked. Last year I hung compact discs on string from various places around the garden - as they spin in the wind, they cast reflections all over the plot , which seems to keep the moggies away !
Much to my future father in laws disgust, I have found that " Country & Western" CD's seem to work the best !
Oh, he loved that one !

This is the remains of my Parsnip (v.Hollow Crown) crop from last season. Where the top growth had all died back over the last few months, there is now new top growth reminding me of the treasures that await. As I've no real urgency to pull these up, I will leave them be for a good while yet.
At least all the time in the soil their flavour will improve, and may even put on a bit more growth ?
Ive had one last season that was in excess of 24" long, which really surprised me.

In an earlier post, I was telling you all about using cat litter trays as drip trays to save some cash. Well, now we can take that a step further. How many of you fork out cash each year for small pots, peat pots etc ? Over the last couple of weeks I've started saving the cardboard rolls that normally get discarded when the loo roll is finished. I have found that these make great planters for seeds, and can be dug straight into their final position without disturbing the roots. Also, if you water your loo pots at the base, the cardboard acts like a capillary , drawing the moisture up to the seed. As mentioned earlier, this will give you long healthy roots for sturdy plants. Go on, try it - you'll be amazed.

As you all know, as the season progresses, the number of propagators in use will grow and grow, until virtually every flat surface is used up. And they're not cheap either. Or are they?
The ones I'm using are from that well known gardening shop: Asda !
Yup, you get 2 of these complete units for less than 2 quid, and they are sturdy enough to be re-used year after year.
I'm a great believer in shopping around, but I am yet to find a better deal than this. Please let me know though, if you know of a keener price !
I'm always trying to save a few quid ! More money to spend on my better half !

As you can see, its been a busy week. I'm hoping that I will be able to continue these updates to keep you all informed, and maybe pass on a few tips or save you a few quid along the way?

Thats it for now. I hope you continue to enjoy your gardens, and keep popping back here for my updates. As you will have seen, the blog is now a regular in the "Top 50" of the Top 100 gardening websites - that cheers me up. A lot of the competition in this register is from commercial sites, so I must be doing something right. And finally, come on Southend United!!!

Take care all.


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