Saturday, 8 March 2008

The only pretty ring-time

I'm beginning to feel I was perhaps a tiny bit over-optimistic getting started with vegetables so soon in the year. March is coming in like a lion.

Last year I left buying bedding plants a bit late, and there was hardly anything left, so I didn't want to make that mistake again. So a few weeks back, during a rare visit to a garden centre, I bought some little petunias and geraniums and impatiens and things, and was encouraged to plant them out by a bit of mild weather (and the fact that they were rapidly outgrowing the big tray I keep pots with seedlings in). So I planted up a few containers which had had annuals in them.

Disaster. It then became very windy and rainy again, and they're all looking a bit battered. Some of the impatiens (supposed to be a hardy variety) have lost almost all their leaves. Fortunately, I have more I could replace them with, but it's a waste of money and I feel like a failure when things die on me.

The vegetables are cheaper since they're mostly grown from seed, but more effort. Right now I have five courgette seedlings, all of which have their first real leaf, which is apparently the point at which you should plant them out. And this is probably true, since last time I waited until they were much further on, and the wind and rain promptly battered their papery leaves to shreds. It seems that leaves which emerge amid wind and rain are tougher than those which emerge in the shelter of your kitchen. You're supposed to plant out only the strongest seedlings, but all of mine look equally sturdy just now.

On the other hand, all the advice I seem to find says that courgettes shouldn't be planted out until April or May in the UK. By which time they'll have many more than three leaves, and the same thing will probably happen again. Actually, going by my Flickr it looks as though the seedlings were still on the kitchen table on the 24th of April last year.

So I don't really know what to do, other than invent a suspended-animation machine. I did buy some cloches (very expensive cloches, considering they consist solely of a piece of moulded polythene) in the hope that these would ward off the wind and the slugs. But do they provide enough protection for me to plant them out now? Or should I just pot them up and wait?

I could plant them out, see what happens, and then start again with some new seeds at the end of March if they all die, I suppose. But I don't want them to die. Perhaps I am too sentimental to make a proper gardener.

The sugar snap pea seedlings that I planted out last week (under very expensive cloches) seem to be doing absolutely fine, but then they are meant to be a cool-weather crop. I sowed early spinach the same day, but I'm not expecting to see green bits for another week.

I also have tomato seedlings (not grown from seed), but they're definitely getting planted up into bigger pots before I trust them to the great outdoors.

The seven chilli-pepper seedlings on our bedroom windowsill are looking good and showing signs of their first non-seed leaves. These are actually J's babies, but since he tends to get a bit nervous that he'll kill plants, I suspect I'll be doing the potting-up and so forth.

The garden is beginning to look quite spring-like, despite the wind and the rain that raineth every day. I have lots of Tête-à-tête daffodils flowering, some bigger ones flowering in pots and about to flower in the ground, grape hyacinths, polyanthus, and the signs of tulips and dicentra on the way.

1 comment:

scoliyogi said...

Grrr... tell me about it. My hanging baskets are having to live inside right now since the weather took a decidedly wintry turn for the worse!!