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April - busiest month of the gardeners year ?

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default April - busiest month of the gardeners year ?

Post by Chilli-head on 2nd April 2017, 8:51 am

Well,  it is for me. The list of seed to sow in April is almost as long as the rest of the months put together.

Yesterday I spent most of the day digging.  The allotment is looking much tidier now,  and the last of the onion sets are in.  Also a row of peas, looking very rustic with their pea sticks from the silver birch at the bottom that I "pruned" to let some light on to the Hugelkultur bed.

Speaking of the Hugelkultur,  the broad beans I sowed on there have not fared too well over winter, about 50% survival.  I think I will sow dwarf beans on the side of the bed, and maybe salads or spinach on the shadier side.  The soil does seem to be staying at a nice moisture level at least.


Last edited by Chilli-head on 2nd May 2017, 1:04 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by Ploshkin on 2nd April 2017, 3:34 pm

I think it is going to be a busy sowing month for me to if the stuff already sown doesn't buck up. I'm wondering if it is the seed compost. I find stuff sold as seed compost seems to be rather dense with very fine bits and seems quite 'heavy' when watered. When I was at work I used to get a bag of seed compost each year from a local nursery, they bagged up the stuff they used themselves, and always had excellent germination results. I think it is probably worth a 60 mile round trip once a year to pick up a bag and I think I will do that next year.
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Post by Chilli-head on 2nd April 2017, 3:48 pm

I have two open bags of Levington's seed compost. It was a mistake, but interesting for comparison. One is a John Innes loam based, the other is just labelled as a seed compost, but appears to be pretty much peat Embarassed

I have always thought that the JI seed compost mix seems cold and heavy, the peat seems much more likely to work well staying moist without slumping. I've mixed and matched this year, but I don't think I can see a pattern emerging as to which actually works best.

I feel a twinge of guilt about using peat, it being not the most environmentally conscious product. But I figure that my one little bag of seed compost per year is pretty trivial, and all the rest of the compost I use is either homemade or whatever is the best peat free I can find (which is still usually a bit rubbish).
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Post by Ploshkin on 2nd April 2017, 6:16 pm

Yes, mine is a John Innes one and cold and heavy is exactly how I would describe it. The nursery one was lighter and party and as you say I only used one small bag each year as I only use it for seeds, not beans and peas.
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Post by Dandelion on 11th April 2017, 9:49 pm

Did anyone else decide to try strawberries in hanging baskets in the greenhouse?
I think my strawberries have been affected by the unseasonably warm weather. I shade my greenhouse from May, but over the last two weeks the daytime temperature in the (un-shaded) greenhouse has been reaching very silly figures, and the strawberries are not looking at all happy. I wondered about botrytis, but I'm thinking it's more likely that the plants have got damaged by the heat of the plastic hanging basket. I will see if I can get a few to fruit, and may consider planting them out into the garden for next year, where they might be a bit happier.

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Post by Ploshkin on 12th April 2017, 8:03 am

That's really strange, Dandelion. I've grown strawberries like this for nearly 20 years. In the polytunnel, which is in full sun, the temperature regularly goes over 40° and I had my best ever crop there last year.
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Post by Dandelion on 12th April 2017, 2:49 pm

I'm also considering the compost I used - I mixed homemade compost with some New Horizons compost, so my other feeling is that the homemade compost may have been too strong (as it has chicken droppings in it). It's well over a year old, but I may try transplanting some of the strawberries into something else to see if that helps. It's encouraging to know that the plants should survive over 40 degrees - it got to 59 in there the other day (with the window open)!!

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by freebird on 13th April 2017, 8:47 am

How long have your strawberry plants been in pots, Dandelion? Just wondering whether you may have vine weevil grubs eating away at the roots.
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Post by Ploshkin on 13th April 2017, 10:48 am

I'm seriously fed up with lack of germination. I put beans, peas and sweetcorn in root trainers (not used them before) and after Sutton there for ages not terminating they then got dug up and eaten by mice. I put in more seed a couple of weeks ago and kept them indoors and all that has come up are 3 sweetcorn.
The beans and sweetcorn are last year's seed, the peas are new seed. Does sweetcorn need new,seed every year? I only grew it for the first time last year.
A lot of my squashes and courgettes are no shows too. I was really pleased to find Black Forest courgette seed this year - it is a climbing variety that I always used to grow in the greenhouse but none of those have terminated. I'm going to try yet again with things there is still time for but I'm not going to use the seed compost, I'll use multi purpose and see if it makes any difference.
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Post by Chilli-head on 13th April 2017, 11:03 am

Ploshkin wrote:
The beans and sweetcorn are last year's seed, the peas are new seed.  Does sweetcorn need new,seed every year?  I only grew it for the first time last year.

For the last few years I've been growing sweetcorn Lark, which has come in a packet containing two foil sachets of about 20 seeds each. Keeping one sachet unopened for the next year seems to be OK.

Germination is patchy this year. Is it nighttime temperatures or something ? I have finally got 2 cucumbers through out of two sowings of pretty expensive F1 seed, so 40% germination. Not impressed.

I'm hoping to get some time over the long weekend to catch up in the garden and allotment - though most of the weekend will be taken up visiting the Aged P's Rolling Eyes .
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Post by freebird on 13th April 2017, 11:07 am

That's a lot of failure, Ploshkin. Mice stealing the seeds? Have you checked they are still in the compost?

I usually grow half a packet of sweetcorn, sowing the rest the following year. Not usually a problem.

Are you using an electric propagator? Is it actually working? As you say, it's probably worth getting a different compost.
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Post by Ploshkin on 15th April 2017, 8:48 pm

I checked the root trainers, all the ungerminated seed was still there but had gone mushy.  Those had been in the greenhouse.  The ungerminated peppers and courgettes were in the heated propagator.

I've sowed a load more seed, this time in mpc as I'm suspicious that the dense, heavy seed compost is responsible.  I've sown all my brassicas today too - I'm expanding them a bit this year as I'm not bothering with outdoor squashes so have extra space.

Does anyone warm their compost before sowing?  I think I've heard of people doing that.  I do leave a container of water in the greenhouse and polytunnel so that it is a bit warm for watering.
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Post by freebird on 15th April 2017, 11:06 pm

I don't warm my compost - if it's going in the propagator I reckon it's going to warm up pretty quickly anyway. But yes, I do keep a can of water in the greenhouse for seedlings and young plants; likewise a bottle of water by the propagator, so that it is ambient temperature.

Hope you have better luck with this new batch of sowing.
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Post by Chilli-head on 16th April 2017, 9:18 am

I sometimes pre-warm compost for chillies, which do need heat. Or I water with warm tap water immediately after sowing. I don't worry too much about other things though.

Whether it really helps would be tricky to tell.
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Post by FloBear on 16th April 2017, 11:30 am

I'm a 'Which?' subscriber and have read reviews of bought composts that they occasionally do. It is shocking how hugely variable the results can be from different makes. Problem is, they can only report on last year's offerings and companies change the 'recipes' from time to time so it's not necessarily a help. And, of course, they can't report on everything available on the market. The only thing I take from that is that it's probably not my fault if seeds fail!
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Post by Chilli-head on 18th April 2017, 3:57 pm

Yesterday I potted on my chillies, which having been sown into a Levingtons peat based seed compost were seeming to stagnate. Hopefully the New Horizons will give them a bit of a boost.

I also did my least favourite job of the gardening year - digging out the kitchen garden compost heap. This does mean I now have a good collection of bags of sieved "good stuff" with which to make my own tomato compost - it may not be perfect, but I know what went into it !

As an aside, amongst the things that went into it nearly a year ago was a disposable pint glass from last year's Bodgers' ball, which was supposed to be "100% compostable, 100% biodegradable". Still shiny, still clearly legible printing - in fact, except for being covered in compost and a bit crumpled, completely unchanged. I suppose the manufacturers didn't say how long Rolling Eyes
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Post by Ploshkin on 18th April 2017, 4:52 pm

I am on the warpath.  Yesterday morning I found that my 3rd sowing of sweet corn and peas had been dug up and eaten - I wrongly thought they would be ok under fleece.  Not only that but my 3 germinated sweet corn plants, 4" high, had been neatly felled and the seeds dug up and eaten.  I have done seeds in my greenhouse for 19 years without a problem.
I'm afraid the traps went out last night, baited with sweetcorn seed, and I caught one culprit.  There must be more as the bait had gone so something else must have had it after the trap was sprung.  The other one was also sprung but is ultra sensitive so probably went off too soon.
My 4th sowing is indoors.
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Post by Dandelion on 18th April 2017, 9:30 pm

Chilli-head wrote:
As an aside, amongst the things that went into it nearly a year ago was a disposable pint glass from last year's Bodgers' ball, which was supposed to be "100% compostable, 100% biodegradable".  Still shiny, still clearly legible printing - in fact, except for being covered in compost and a bit crumpled, completely unchanged.  I suppose the manufacturers didn't say how long Rolling Eyes

I've been sieving out bits of a Co-op fruit and veg bag from my compost, which was supposed to break down in compost but is still recognisably big shreds of plastic after a good year in the heap. I'm guessing this means that your beer glass might take a while longer...

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Post by FloBear on 19th April 2017, 8:46 am

I think someone should take the manufacturers / advertisers of these so-called compostable plastics to the ASA and challenge the claim or at least make them state how long. As I understand it, they don't completely break down, just reduce into smaller and smaller shreds.
Ploshkin, that is so disappointing. Don't blame you for going on the warpath.
I was planning a serious campaign this year - against lily beetle as for the last two years they have ravaged my Snakey boo plants. This year, not one! I also have some Wilko lilies that they totally wrecked and so far not one on there either. A lurking ladybird narrowly avoided a squishing but was ID'ed in time.
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Post by freebird on 19th April 2017, 12:36 pm

Ploshkin, I had exactly the same happen with my sweetcorn last year - eaten seed, including seedlings that had already germinated. Whilst I am sorry for your losses, it has served as a timely reminder for me. Think I'll start all my plants off in the calligraphy studio.

I spent the Easter break sieving out compost, too. And moving a further cubic yard into the vacated bin. Hard, heavy work, so I'm glad it's done. Also been cleaning & servicing all my greenhouse self-watering equipment, which is now ready to go. Just as well, as my two Lucinda tomatoes (bought in) are flowering already, and must be potted on. I see cold nights forecast next week, so will just have to wrap them and hope.
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Post by Chilli-head on 19th April 2017, 3:01 pm

freebird wrote:
I spent the Easter break sieving out compost, too. And moving a further cubic yard into the vacated bin. Hard, heavy work, so I'm glad it's done.

I sometimes feel my life is overtaken by sorting and re-using rubbish. Sorting recycling, composting, re-purposing all manner of stuff. So I can see why so many can't be bothered - so much easier to chuck it all out. But I couldn't bring myself to waste organic matter Very Happy

I really need to get a better system for my garden composting. At the lotty, I have the standard two bins side by side, made of old pallets. At home, I have one rather posher link-a-board bin. Which means that to get the good stuff out, I have to dig out all the upper layers to somewhere, take out what I need, then restack the partially rotted stuff from the top back into the bin. I suppose it does mean everything gets a good mixing, but it is hard work. And I need the "somewhere" for the temporary pile, which this year I forgot about and planted broad beans in the way, so making it even harder work. I've been doing this for 15 years, each year telling myself that there must be a better way !
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Post by freebird on 20th April 2017, 8:06 pm

Know what you mean CH, about sorting, reusing, recycling. It is satisfying, but blimey it's hard work sometimes. I find as I get older that I have much less energy, so those sort of jobs take longer to do, and longer to recover from.

I have three cubic yard bins, side by side. The first is now empty and will take this year's waste. The middle one is full, with last year's material semi-rotted. Some very dry layers hadn't done anything, so all was well mixed and watered as it went in. The third bin is nearly ready and will probably be harvested in the autumn. It's a long cycle, and I only move it all once a year.

Having said that, as I harvested my ready-to-use compost, I found it quite wondrous that all that waste material (kitchen waste, garden weeds, shredded prunings, parrot cage cleanings) is now something good enough to grow my greenhouse crops in.
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Post by Dandelion on 20th April 2017, 10:07 pm

freebird wrote:Know what you mean CH, about sorting, reusing, recycling. It is satisfying, but blimey it's hard work sometimes. I find as I get older that I have much less energy, so those sort of jobs take longer to do, and longer to recover from.

Ha ha - I thought it was just me!!

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Post by Chilli-head on 22nd April 2017, 5:28 pm

I planted my tomatoes into their final positions this morning, in compost made with the garden compost I dug out and riddled last weekend. Always nice because I can see them in the greenhouse from the kitchen window, and watch them grow.

I've also sown the caper seed that have been vernalised in the fridge over the last month. Fingers crossed, though I am braced for disappointment ...
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Post by Ploshkin on 22nd April 2017, 7:43 pm

Gosh, Chilli Head, my tomatoes won't be in their final positions for another 3 or 4 weeks yet.
I've got a confession - I sowed my leek seeds in a big bucket following your advice. They took a while to germinate but have been growing well. I haven't taken too much notice of them apart from chucking on a drop of water every few days and a bit of feed. It occurred to me yesterday that the number seemed to be increasing and I had a closer look - I've been nurturing rather a lot of grass. Embarassed I had to spend ages weeding it out from between the leeks. I remembered today that I had mixed compost with soil from the mole tumps to fill the big bucket. The soil must have been full of seed.

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