Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sowing for 2012

I sowed my first seeds of 2012 today.  Just a few cauliflowers and some Antirrhinum's which I'm hoping to get to grow in a corner bed, I use for attracting insects into the "potager".   I also planted up some pumpkin seeds I had germinated....  I know it's a bit early but hey!!

I found those pumpkin seeds recently and wrote a piece about the germination test I ran on them.  Well, they weren't at all good, and only about 35% germinated, 7 out of 20, so I decided to trash the whole batch and dispatched them to the compost heap.  However, those seven that germinated...

I had a good look and, as they all seemed healthy enough, I carefully potted them up.  If I get some pumpkin plants, it will be a bonus.

Sowing the seeds got me to thinking about this time last year when I had such great hopes for the garden, hopes that, sadly in 2011 were to be dashed.  I'm not going to say that I've bounced back, but, maybe I could say I've limped back and with some kind weather, not too many pests and lots of great luck, I'm hoping to get my garden back into shape this year.


I'll try and keep you all informed of how I get on.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Germination Testing

Like so many gardeners, well, those of us in the northern hemisphere, I have decided to use the cold winter days to review my stash of seeds before the 2012 season truly arrives.  As I'm sure many of you realise, I'm not the most organised and efficient gardener and so, my seed stash is also not particularly well organised or efficient.  I have a large collection of seeds, many of which I have saved myself, in a huge catalogue of containers, ranging from rather dainty tiny plastic pill boxes to simple paper coffee filters, where, the seeds, once dried, have never actually been transferred to a better container.

This is one of the reasons I lose quite so much of my seed to mice!  The labelling of this wealth of material is equally haphazard, some being very neat and tidy: I have in front of me a rather nice glass jar labelled "Pasteque de Laspissotes saved September 2009", so there's not much doubt there, but I equally have an open box of bean seeds with a note in it that simply says "Poletschka Sept 10" .  Even that is ok, except I'm truly certain it should say September 2011, as I remember saving the seed before going away on holiday last year!!!

All this vagary has led me to decide to carry out a germination test to check whether any of these seeds are ok.

I'm using a simple method I've used very successfully before.

germination test I spread about 10 to 20 seeds on a damp paper kitchen towel.  I put them about 5cms (2") apart, so that there is no contamination if one or two start to rot.   Then I place a second paper towel over the top of the seeds and carefully roll the whole thing into a tube.  Once I have the damp tube of seeds I put it into a plastic bag and seal it, before placing it in a warm spot.   I have just the place, as my central heating boiler has the luxury of it's own little room and, although well ventilated, it still keeps at a very pleasant temperature.  I note when the seeds went in and check every day for signs of germination.   I expect most seeds to germinate in about 5 to 10 days, but it varies from variety to variety.   I let them carry on for a couple of days after the first shoots appear and then count the number of seeds that have successfully germinated.  Something over 80% is what I look for, but if it's only 50% I make a note to sow twice as many seeds at each station to compensate.  Remember to keep the paper damp or they won't germinate!

In the past, I have tried to plant on the germinated seeds and have had some success, but it's often a bit early for me to keep them going.

I'll let you know how I get on

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy New Year, everyone

I've decided to take a leaf out of my French neighbours book.  It seems that you can wish "Happy New Year" throughout the month of January, so, I know I'm late, but it's still January!

The onset of 2012 has started me looking at plans for 2012 and the garden.   2011 was a terrible year for me and I am determined to do better in 2012.  So, with that in mind I started today by doing a couple of things.

Firstly, I looked at my planting schedule and decided where everything would be grown.  I'm operating a four year rotation and this is the fourth year, so the basics were already worked out.    When I built the garden a few years ago I made beds of 1.2m (4ft) by 7.5m (23ft).  The 1.2 m width has proved excellent as it gives ample room to reach right into the middle of the bed if needed.  In between the beds I  left paths, but they are just mowed continually, and the size of my mower, determined the 6--mm (2ft) width of the paths.  I also left a double width path right through the middle so that, if needed, I can get my little tractor and trailer through.  This years schedule originally called for 19 beds to be used, but I'm going to cut back.  I'm intending to grow in 15 of the beds.  This is actually the number of beds that are prepared at the moment, so that was also a consideration.

Three of the beds are permanently planted, one with asparagus, one with hazelnut bushes and the third with artichokes in one half and rhubarb in the other.  This leaves just 12 beds to prepare, plant and grow.  However, I'm also thinking of collecting all my strawberries into one permanent bed, so that will cut it down to 11.

Secondly, I started to prepare the beds.  I ran the mower over everything cutting all the weeds down to size and then I started to spread a mulch over each bed.   I started today and covered 1 bed.  The mulch will suppress weeds and encourage worm activity to improve the soil.  This is the same method I used to create the beds, simply covering the area with mulch and leaving it there for a month or two over winter.   Today's mulch is leaves and grass, collected as I cut the garden.

I'm hoping to get access to some goat manure, but since changing my car, I don't have a hitch right now, for my trailer, so the manure will have to wait.

The third and last thing I did today was to start to look at my seeds collection.  As I said previously, last year was a bit of a disaster for me.   I did manage to save some seeds but not many.  I lost all my tomato seeds, which makes me very sad.   It wasn't so much a disaster as a series of unfortunate events.  The drought severely reducing the amount of stock I had to save seeds from and then various losses over winter as the usual culprits, mice, freeloaded whilst I was gadding about in the UK and the USA.   I have to dig a bit to see what I have from 2009 but at the moment, in Tomatoes, I think Ionly have Moneymaker and Marmande

So, if anyone is reading this and has any tomato seeds to spare, please email.   I normally grow about 6 varieties but this year, I'll grow what ever I can get.

Happier news is that I did save quite a few beans, garlic and onions, so not everything is lost.