Look what’s here!

I still can’t quite bring myself to be out on the allotment, though it’s not for lack of jobs that need doing. I’m painfully aware that the autumn-cropping raspberries need a good chopping back (not a difficult job, but a lengthy one) and I should be thinking about getting some goodness into the soil (read: spread some manure). But the key word here is thinking…there’s alot of thinking and not much doing.

So whilst the great outdoors is still chilly – there was hail today – I’m contenting myself to sorting out my seeds for spring planting, and wondering where all these tiny seedlings are going to live for the next few months. Because, dear reader, this year I have the grand total of 50 varieties of vegetables, salads, herbs and flowers that will soon need starting off!

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The new batch of seeds for 2017 are here

There is reason behind this seed madness. My doctor has been telling me to take vitamins but surely to God that is why spinach was invented? And tomatoes, and sweetcorn, and kale, and chillies, and squash, and beans, and you get the picture. So rather than sink my hard-earned cash into the big pharma companies, I’m investing in my diet instead, and that’s where Seeds of Italy and Sarah Raven come in.

New discoveries for 2017 come courtesy of Seeds of Italy, who are offering this particularly fancy-looking pumpkin and my favourite UFO-shaped squash custard white. I’m also having a go at runner beans this year for the first time (notwithstanding the ongoing slug-wars) and a late-to-bolt spinach, Tuscane. Plus there will be the usual mix of kale, courgette, carrots, parsnips, tomatoes and chillies, though no beets this year – grown on our soil they only seem to taste of, well, soil. Ugh.

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Two fun types of squash this year…

On the flower front, I’m bolstering my favourite white cosmos purity with a host of brightly-coloured newbies. There’s a carnival of colour with this zinnia mix, and I’m hoping that the cosmos bright lights mix will go well in a mixed bouquet with the sunflowers claret and valentine. I’ve also plumped for the delicate antique pink of cosmos antiquity and I’ll have another go at rudbeckia (last year the slugs ate the lot).

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…and loads of bright annuals!

The issue now is where to put them all. When we lived in the flat, I used to balance seed-trays on our windowsills with the help of a few trusty paperbacks. This house, though bigger, has very few suitable windows and those we do have are prime hanging-out territory for the cat (I’ve learned that Gertrude and seed trays do not go together). SO I’ll have to make an interim potting shed in the ‘sun room’ and balance the trays on a few trestle tables pinched from Matt’s business. It’s a plan. Only thing now is to actually get the pots and compost together and get planting!

BIG UP: A final note to big up my Mum and Dad who braved the inclement weather on Saturday to plant a climbing rose in my back garden. This lovely plant was a gift from Matt’s Mum when we moved house last summer, but it’s taken several months for me to clear out three massive hydrangeas and prepare the parched soil so that it has a cosy place to live. I am, however, hopeless with a drill so my Dad finally arrived with his power-tools to put the wire supports in place. My Mum then trained the shoots into place. It rained. It wasn’t fun. They are troopers. Big up the parents and parents-in-law!

Sowing the seeds of…hardy annuals actually

Easter heralded a well earned rest and a fair few proper feeds. Brilliant. Chappers popped round with some HUGE eggs from her chickens – so big that the egg box had to be strapped shut with an elastic band. I’d choose these over chocolate eggs any day.

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Chappers and her monster eggs

Grampy’s crysanths have been showing definite signs of life and so off they went to Worcestershire for my mum to take cuttings. This is a far safer option than me trying to do it: firstly, I don’t know what to do, and secondly, these little plants wouldn’t stand a chance with Gertrude the Destroyer around. We now have about 50 cuttings on the go and let’s hope some of them root. Though perhaps not all…that would be ALOT of flowers.

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Grampy’s crystanth cuttings

With the growing season begun I’ve finally started to plan this year’s plot. The challenge for 2016 is making room for all the flowers – not simply the crysanths, but the armfuls of cut flowers that I’m hoping to grow throughout the summer and into autumn. The sunflowers and sweetpeas demand their own section, but the remainder will be strewn amidst the vegetables: I like this pick-and-mix approach.

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Plans for this year’s planting are coming together…

So with the plan freshly drawn, I got down to sowing this year’s hardy annuals. There is greater variety and more colour than last year, but this is all a gesture of hope over experience…Who knows if they will actually grow? We have hot pink cosmos to sit next to the purple shades of zinnia and rudbeckia, softened with white love-in-a-mist and jewelled cornflowers. There are orange nasturtium, blue borage and garish red marigolds, plus the elegant long stems of verbena and ammi to attract the bees and butterflies.

Time to start sowing the hardy annuals

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Marigold seeds look like desiccated worms…

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…whilst nasturtium seeds are like shrivelled brains

The first problem has presented itself: there is no-where for the seed trays to go. We’re already at peak windowsill usage, and I’ve barely even started on this year’s sowing. So they sit on the kitchen table until I come up with a solution. Reader, we need a bigger house.

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It’s the time of year when the kitchen table is full of seed trays

Allotment: Forked over patch by shed, planted out broad beans and A/W lettuce under cloches. Moved spinach/kale/lettuce seedlings to greenhouse.

Sowed: Borage, Rudbeckia Cherry Brandy, Verbena Boneriensis, Zinnia mix, Cosmos Dazzler, Nasturtium Alaska, Cornflower mix, Nigella double white, Calendula mix, Viola