Sunday, 28 March 2010

some I sowed earlier...

Root trainers is a proprietry brand module system that encourages good downward root growth.  The sides are grooved and there is a hole at the bottom so you can see how far downward growth has progressed.  Also, when the roots reach the bottom and go through the hole, they are 'air pruned', ie they stop growing in the drier environment, and this encourages secondary roots, making the plant stronger for planting out. The cells open like a book and you ease out the whole package into the planting hole. Look at the lovely root system on my first batch of peas!

I love my peasticks too.  They came from a Surrey coppicer last spring, together with some birch bean poles. Once planted they got a light sprinkling of organic slug pellets.  I don't think any slugs have overwintered (not even found any in the compost bin) but the eggs will be hatching and its too cold just yet to be putting out nemaslug, an effective biological control.
Root trainers are quite expensive, but you can easily re-use them lots of times if you are careful.  In addition, they are made of recycled plastic.  Many people say cardboard toilet roll is a good alternative.  However, you do not know what chemicals were in the pulp or what glue has been used.  In addition, you don't get the air pruning effect as the rolls and compost have to sit with their bottoms in a damp tray.  Lastly, the cardboard is prone to going mouldy.

The right kind of quality sticks, compost and tools really are more exciting than new shoes.

Watch this space...

Finally got to the allotment (work and never-ending winter) to have a think about what to do this year.  I focused on last year's cutting border, taking out Cosmos and Zinnia stems I left for overwintering insects and to deflect winter rain from the soil.  The weathered stems are interesting, you can see the strengthening structures, collenchyma ridges.  They are piled on the communal bonfire, which won't get done for a few weeks so plenty of time for insects to hatch. There are bound to be a lot of seedlings coming up, though, and they aren't such good colours a generation down from F1and so will be weeded out.                                                                     I gave the bed a light weeding (I'm trying to do the no-dig method so as not to disturb the soil fauna, just add mulch and keep the soil covered with crops or green manure), a scattering of Calseafeed (calcified seaweed, organic) and mulch with Croypost (amenity compost and not bad). Now I've covered it with a black textile permeable membrane which a) warms the soil, b) smothers weed seeds prompted into growth by disturbance and c) mitigates driving spring rainfall while allowing some water through.  Last year I did something similar and saw that worms had been busy. I've come up with a scheme for a decorative edible border with dark and purple leaves, orange flowers and some lime green through it and at the front and will sow them in modules. I've grown half of these before but the scheme is new and partly inspired by a combination I saw in Westminster Abbey Gardens in the summer.
Red orache or mountain spinach - Atriplex hortenis var. rubra - up to 120cm - edible (RHS Harvested Seed Distribution Scheme) - edible 18cm lance shaped leaves, and a decorative border annual with purple flower spikes.

Hare's Ear - Bupleurum rotundifolium (sourced as above) - to 60cm lime green clusters of flowers, bright green perfoliate leaves and reddish branching stems, purely decorative and insect friendly
Bronze Fennel - Foeniculum vulgae 'Purpureum' - up to 200cm (free with Gardens Illustrated) - feathery, edible leaves and seeds
Black Tuscan Kale Brassica oleracea 'Cavolo Nero' - to 60cm (Growing Old Heritage & Seed Heirloom Seeds from Pennards Plants) - deeply savoyed strap leaves, choc-full of vitamins and minerals
Pot marigold - Calendula officinalis 'Orange Porcupine' - to 60 cm (Johnsons World Botanics range) - a big pompom variety - petals in salads
Zinnia 'Fireworks Mix' - to 75cm (Suttons Seeds) - for the vase, long-lasting flowers (seeds have some bottom heat in a propagator)
Frisee and escarole mix - Cichorium endivia var. crispum and var. latifolia - to 20 cm (Franchi sementi)

Yellow Pak Choi - Brassica rapa 'Santoh Round Leaved' - to 20cm (The Real Seed Catalogue) - really quick to be ready and possible to sow this early and hopefully it'll avoid flea beetle.

Seed compost, vermiculite, modular seed tray, labels.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Garden and Cosmos

An exhibition combining my two endeavours, plants and yoga.  The fine detail of plants in these paintings is a joy, and also the contrary impenetrability of the more mystical paintings (eg no. 4 in this slide show,
The exhibition shows paintings comissioned by three generations of a dynasty.  The first king wanted to immortalise the wealth and luxuriance of his court; the second had scenes from Hindu scripture stories depicted (eg Ramayana). The last followed his yogi guru and this room has paintings of yogis floating in metallic seas of immortal wonder he was the last in the dynasty.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Cornus stems

After the show was over (below) an exhibitor had left these dogwood stems.  With their brightly coloured stems they have a lot of winter value.  They are often planted in big stands by water where their colour can be reflected, and in parks - and car parks! Amenity planting uses them a lot as they are robust. 

I was delighted to see them come into leaf, especially as early glimmers of spring were soon swamped by cold grey earlier this month.  The baby leaves really are the fresh green of spring.

The varieties are: Cornus alba 'Sibirica' (red stems), and Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea' (chartreuse). These suckering shrubs also provide pleasant greenery, white flowers and small fruits the rest of the year, c 3m x 3m.  Another favourite is Cornus sanguinea 'Winter Beauty' (stems gradated red through orange and yellow), and Cornus sericea 'Kelseyi' (green and red at the top).