I’ve been enjoying the use of my greenhouse and yes I am already repairing it / fixing it properly so it doesn’t fall down in a light breeze. The gales we had a couple of weeks ago knocked out 4 panes of glass and luckily the only awkwardly sized one, one from the roof, landed unbroken in the soft black loam (if you believe that…) I have been cultivating underneath it. I had some spare panes so the job wasn’t all that tricky. I realised that I had only put a couple of spring clips in here and there so I basically doubled the amount of clips on the panes, realising that it would provide a certain amount of rigidity in strong winds.
The oriental salad leaves have been doing well under glass and under plastic propagator lids, though sometimes it gets very hot in there during the day (only while I’m at work mind you). The thermometer has recorded highs of 31 and 30 in the last couple of weeks under plastic and glass, and lows of -1. Some of my oriental leaves have been a bit frazzled by the midday heat (in February, fancy that!) and so I have relocated the propagator lids elsewhere. Into the garden beds to be exact, sometimes on their own over some seedlings with a stone on top and elsewhere under hoops with clear plastic (Wilkos ready made tunnel cloche and also my own design using wilko’s clear plastic sheeting and pvc piping). The double insulation is keeping the ground reasonably warm. Well I say reasonably warm, but what I mean is it isn’t frozen but not really warm either. The seedlings aren’t taking off but they aren’t wilting, damping off or being slaughtered by slugs either.
At this time of year you have to be really careful what plants you put out. Oriental leaves have gone under a double layer of plastic in pre-warmed soil. Broad beans should be ok on their own if you are short of cloches but peas I would protect with something like a cloche or fleece. You also have to make sure the soil isn’t sodden through, which is difficult on clay in a british winter. The planting has been limited in scope because of the earliness in the year but those areas I am starting to plant I am surrounding with a 6 inch little trench (we shall call it a gully) for moisture to drain into.
I am also either digging or loosening with a spade compacted clay. Which to use depends on the state of the soil. If it is in a dire state then it is dug. If I can’t easily plunge my fingers into it without making the sort of media useful to potters then it is loosened. I learnt this from Patrick Whitehead’s permaculture videos. It means putting your spade in here and there but without turning the soil over. You simply lever a little so the soil is obviously loosened and then let go. The soil structure remains the same but with a little more looseness.
Of course, I haven’t totally gone over to the dark side (digging). Much of the garden doesn’t need digging, it really has become the mystical ‘dark friable loam’ all gardeners seek and as Charles Dowding keeps telling us, this is down to mulching with compost. I do have reservations about mulching with good compost when you are about to plant. This june/july when my summer veg go in I will be mixing in good compost to the soil at a shallow depth with a trowel. I am determined not to wait for the goodness to percolate. Mixing compost into the top 3 or 4 inches acts quicker to boost plants, I believe, which is one of the reasons I am not a no-digger. One of the other reasons is Mare’s Tail and Couch Grass. I think Charles Dowding is top dog in british organic gardening and I follow his blog avidly, I just feel he is treading a path I am unable to follow.
My celery cuttings have set root! Ta-dah! But before we break out the cigars we have to make sure they don’t bolt this summer. So unless you are the sort of gardening masochist I am, wait until we find out what they are going to do. In my experience cuttings go back to a vegetative state (ie, tasty big veg leaves) but we need to find out for sure. For those of you who are thinking: why isn’t this guy just sowing seeds? Well the answer is, this method costs me nothing. For those of us who like to fill our gardens full of more varieties than heinz, this is an inexpensive way to do it. Well, with those plants we know don’t mind being propagated this way and the jury is still out on celery.
While we are on the subject of vegetative propagation, some of my leeks I have been growing from pips/grass have gone into the ground today (february!). They may bolt. We shall see. If they grow too big between now and May they may well bolt. Sadly some of my baby leeklets have the rust, which of course is part of the problem with vegetative propagation. I have destroyed those ones which poses the interesting possibility of selecting a rust resistant leek….
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