13 May 2012

Shoots and leaves

Pea shoots

I only just started to sow my seeds at the end of March. Does this make me badly organised? Maybe, but hopefully not.  Remembering that last year the early warm weather was followed by cold, wet and windy weather before we properly got going with the British Summer, I decided to delay so that I didn't have to keep plants hanging around indoors.  Last year I nurtured beans and sweetcorn inside, hardened them off and planted them out in early May; I lost the lot that very night due to gales and lashing rain.

This year I'm determined that my work won't be wasted;  seeds for my Lab Lab (Hyacinth) beans went into modules on Monday, germinated Wednesday and are unfolding their first leaves today. Impressive. It's the same story with the round cucumber, Crystal Lemon, that I'm growing.

The pea family are now out in the mini-greenhouse on the balcony ten days after sowing. I'm only growing a few of each so that I can fit lots of variety in to the available garden space; so purple podded peas and yellow mange-tout are destined for the veg patch and a bush type dwarf pea (and dwarf beans) for the balcony. For would-be growers without gardens, I'm pretty sure that both of those could be grown in containers. (If interested, the dwarf peas, Tom Thumb, came from Jungle Seeds and the dwarf beans, Annabelle, from More Veg.)

Antalya Melon seedling
Galia Melon, Antalya. Suited to outdoor growing in UK
Elsewhere on the windowsills, two types of courgette, red kidney beans, dwarf french beans and butterbush squash are up and running but the trailing courgette and spaghetti squash are still to reveal themselves. Globe artichokes will have to wait until I've cleared a space for them (another long walled border filled with honeysuckle and ivy), chilli and bell pepper seedlings have all been potted on and melons are looking stronger each day.  Amongst all these, do I have a favourite? You bet. This bean has more than a touch of magic about it:

Lazy Housewife bean

This is Lazy Housewife, a heritage bean donated to the veg patch by Matron over at Down on the Allotment. She very kindly sent half a dozen beans last year, all of which were killed in the aforementioned May gales. I was dismayed and not a little disappointed that I'd wasted these precious beans. Amazingly, going through my seed box a few weeks later, I found one last seed in what I thought was the empty packet.  I carefully sowed it and it germinated successfully. I planted it out and managed to kill that one as well (I stuck one leg of the wigwam through the root *hangs head in shame*). So that was that, then.  My second chance was blown... or so I thought until I looked again this year and saw, like Mary Poppins carpetbag, that the packet had offered up one last bean!  This one has to work; as a heritage bean, I really want to have some seed to keep at the end of the year. I'm keeping a very careful eye on it...  it's looking good so far, don't you think?

Edited to add: Although this sounds like quite a lot of work has been going on, this is by no means the full list.  I forgot to mention the sweetcorn, blue popcorn and red/white/blue sweet peas I'm growing and I've yet to go back to the seed box to see what needs to be sown in the next round - better get going then!

11 comments:

  1. I think early sowings this year are a waste of time with the cold weather we've experienced. Everything sown much later has popped up much quicker. Good luck with your Lazy Housewife, what a great name. Let's hope it does well for you and then you should have plenty of beans to sow next year.

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    1. Thanks, Jo! It was the name of this bean that caught my attention when Matron mentioned these on her blog. There's a story that the bean pods can be left for longer on the plant without spoiling - they stay tender over several days in case you can't get out to pick - or you've simply had way too many beans for supper that week!

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  2. You've been busy. My crystal lemon cucumbers have just germinated too as have my squashes. It is always a difficult time, May. The weather can change so quickly but plants need to go out at some point so sometimes you just have to risk it. This year I've found seed slow to germinate with the low light levels. Although my beans, french and borlotti have shot up in a week. Hopefully from now on, as we head towards June the chances of inclement weather will fade. Fingers crossed anyway!

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    1. You're certainly right about the weather, WW. I've kept my seedlings on the balcony this week and had cause to celebrate this decision as the weather turned foul yet again - sunshine in the morning followed by hailstones and torrential rain in the afternoon! It's warmer today so, yes, must bite the bullet and get some planting done this weekend - it will be nice to start seeing the garden looking more productive!

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  3. I think you have been wise planting a bit later this year - I have lost some odds and ends so it looks like I'll be doing a bit of re-sowing as well.

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    1. Sounds like you've had a disheartening experience, Elaine. At least with the vagaries of the UK weather, it's rarely too late to start again! (You, too, could be eating beans in November this year!) x

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  4. You have been most wise Caro :) I am regretting early sowings especially tomatoes which I made at the end of February. Having just seen the weather forecast for yet another wet and chilly week I'm making notes to myself to hold fire next year. Germination is certainly quick at this time of year - I sowed some 'Crystal Apple' on the 8th and they were through on the 12th with the help of some bottom heat. Hope that your bean flourishes.

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    1. Thank you Anna! The first leaves on my bean have doubled in size this past week so it's doing well - my main fear will be when it goes outside into the garden, so many pests waiting to attack, never mind the weather! I sowed my tomatoes and chillies late this year but am hoping for a repeat of last year when I was able to eat freshly picked tomatoes from my balcony on New Year's Day!!

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  5. Please help! It's my first time growing from seed for my new allotment. I grew them early and now am trying to harden them off by putting them outside during the day, and then bringing them back inside at night. I have only done this for 2 days however I am losing so many of them, the leaves seem to go yellow / pale and they do not look healthy! i;m just seeing weeks of love fail :(

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    1. Hello Anonymous, It's not easy to help without knowing more. Were they grown in modules or trays and was good seed compost used? Have individual plants been potted on into larger pots? Perhaps you damaged the tiny root hairs when transplanting the seedling, or maybe they haven't been potted on yet? Maybe the light levels are insufficient for the seedlings or perhaps the plants have been over or under watered? I also don't know what daytime temperatures the plants have been exposed to...

      Assuming that you started them in good seed compost, transplanted them when the roots showed through the modules or tray, potted them on into 3" pots of good compost and kept them moist on a bright windowsill, then I'm inclined to think that you have hardened them off too early under inhospitable conditions. Also, as you started them early, both the seed compost and seeds own food stores may have become depleted; if light levels are low, the plant is unable to make chlorophyll for growing. Depending on the type of seed, they may yet recover if the weather warms up. You don't say what kind of seeds you're growing or what condition your allotment was in when you took it over and how much work you've done to the soil. Testing and improving the soil should be your first job in any new plot. It may be that the previous allotment holder left the soil very depleted nutritionally in which case you should dig in some good rich compost, leaf mould or well-rotted manure. You don't mention what kind of soil you have on your allotment - dry, clay, normal? Very determined plants will occasionally struggle on and survive but your best bet for a successful harvest is to prepare the site before you start. I recommend Joy Larkcom's book 'Grow Your Own Vegetables', an easy to read, extremely informative and inspirational book.
      I wish you well with your seeds, please let me know how you get on - and don't forget that, however disheartening it may be, it's not too late to start again; in fact, you should find that your seeds germinate very quickly at this time of year.

      I hope this answer has been useful - please pop back and let me know who you are - even via email!

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  6. I hope your bean is a success. I wanted to read to see if anyone offered up any beans for you. I don't have this one, so I can't help either.

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Caro x

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