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Olly Buckle

Spring garden

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I have been potting on pelargonium cuttings and planting out sweet peas. Spring is here at last and some decent weather, though things could still turn again, I have runner beans in the greenhouse I think I am also going to take a chance on planting out. If the weather stays reasonable they will be nice and early, if it is a bit shit I have some glass and fleece I can give them some protection with, and if it is really shit I have some more plants in the greenhouse, I always plant way more seed than I need, keep the best, and put the rest out the front with a sign saying ‘free plants’.

So, planting out small plants, or potting on. There is usually a lot of information comes with them, how far apart they should be, when to plant seed and when to plant out, that sort of thing, but there are a few things they miss out. The most important to my mind is how you hold the plant, very carefully, it is young and tender, easily damaged, and damage at this stage will stay for some time. For this reason you hold it by the leaves. Leaves are an expendable commodity as far as the plant is concerned, it will shed and grow loads of them in its lifetime, and it kind of expects damage from things like caterpillars and grazing mammals. The stem, on the other hand, it has only one of, and if something happens that stops nutrient coming up from the roots, end of story.

The roots are fairly robust on the whole, and will often benefit from a little disturbance. A lot of those pelargonium cuttings had a solid ball of roots going round the bottom of the pot. Before I plant I gently make sure a few roots hang free from the mass, then the soil from the top of the pot, and whatever else has come loose, go into the planting hole. You would not believe how often someone has said ‘That can go, it has never done anything,’ and when I dig up the offending plant I discover a solid root ball, the same shape as the original pot it came in. The soil that things are potted up in and that in the garden can be very different, and the plant has never managed to bridge the join between the two, making sure there are loose roots and mixing whatever soil comes out of the pot into the hole usually stop this happening, and some of those plants I dug up made a decent recovery when I did that.

My sweet peas I plant in cardboard tubes stood up in an ice-cream box, it comes about half way up the tube and I can fill it with water without submerging the seed in the top half. Planting out in tubes makes them really easy to handle, and the roots grow straight through the cardboard. Traditionally it is the middle of a finished toilet roll that is used, but I find I don’t get enough of them with peas, runner beans, and climbing beans all going in them, so I grab all the tubes from the centre of wrapping paper at Christmas and on birthdays and cut them to length. The sweet peas that go to paying customers go in them, they seem to prefer them, seems daft to me. One last point with sweet peas, don’t forget to pinch out the tip. I know, all that about being careful to cause no damage, but this is an exception. If you leave them to themselves they will grow straight up in a tall, thin, plant with few flowers. Pinch out the tip when there are a few leaves and it will grow side shoots at each leaf axis and look, and smell, wonderful.

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  1. H.Brown's Avatar
    I am so jelous Olly, I would love to have a garden of mine own where I can put up a greenhouse and grow my own veg. There is something therapeutic and calming about the gardening process, I do have a chilli plant that I have tried hibernating over winte r, on my window ledge but I always want more.

    Plus keeping pollen plants is not an option for me as I think it gave me an allegic reaction last years mother's day, so growing my own veg sounds like fun. If I lived near youI would definitely be taking cuttings to puton my window ledge.
  2. Olly Buckle's Avatar
    Have you ever come across 'Geurrilla gardening'? People take over a bit of waste ground like near a rail bridge or a corner on a junction. You have to be prepared to see it ripped up, but on the whole it doesn't happen, people prefer to see it cultivated.
    The other one is simply to look for someone whose garden is a mess of weeds, they will usually jump at the chance if someone offers to clear it and grow stuff, it is not that they want it that way, just they are idle.
  3. H.Brown's Avatar
    I have heard of those, however most gardens around where I live are council and we are limited to what we can do or the gardens are already maintained. I enjoy growing on my window ledges though, the summer before last I grew different herbs and lettuces.
  4. escorial's Avatar
    Growing stuff is the most important job there is..I can recall watching a prison documentary an an inmate who ran an animal sanctuary clubbed his brother in law to death but I've never heard of a Gardner or model train enthusiast going nuts...maybe all Gardner's are perverts but I've yet to see proof of this..
  5. dither's Avatar
    Y'know, years ago, there was a house in our street that had a chain-link fence running the width of the front garden marking the boundary. Every year they'd set sweet peas along it and every summer that fence was a wall of colour. I've never forgotten that. It was pleasure to behold.
    Definitely something for me to consider if/when I pack in work.
  6. Neetu's Avatar
    Quite the gardener, aren't you, Olly?
  7. Olly Buckle's Avatar
    Dither, that sounds great, I mix morning glories in with my sweet peas for a bit of variety. There was a friend of mine who ran a scrap yard in Kennington whose chain link was covered in bindweed, the white flowers were lovely in summer. Sometimes the difference between a garden plant and a weed is only where they are growing.

    Looking back, the thing I forgot to mention is watering in, it not only gives the plant a drink when it most needs it after being disturbed, it also settles the fine grains of earth in around the roots properly.

    Neetu, when I was made redunant from my job as a driver I bought a mower and went around cutting grass. Gradually, over the years, I took on more jobs and ended up a reasonable, if not qualified, gardener by the time I retired. It is a great occupation, outside, in a place that is deliberately made beautiful, helping living things grow. Sometimes I would feel sorry for the people whose garden it was, off in the rat race earning enough money to pay me to enjoy their garden
  8. escorial's Avatar
    Could I become one of your diciples..
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