I gave up on New Year’s resolutions long ago: nobody ever keeps them and I’ve saved valuable time by not bothering to make the first month of the year suck more than it already does. What with everyone being broke after Christmas and miserable weather, January’s generally a write-off.
That was before I got an allotment, though. This year I am doing things differently. This year, I have planted seeds already. Every other year I’ve taken donated plants from friends but this year, with massively increased growing space, I’m trying something new.
There is a spreadsheet to keep track of all my seeds and plants, sorted by when stuff needs planting. Where I’m usually playing catch-up in May and June, this year I’m hoping that I can start growing things earlier and for longer. With the exception of tomatoes, I’ve not grown any of these things from seed before: so it’s a steep learning curve. My slapdash approach of sticking stuff in a pot and trying not to let it drown/desiccate has served me well, thus far, but it’s one thing to grow a few things in tubs and a nice raised bed which makes gardening deceptively easy. It’s quite another to keep a constant supply of stuff coming throughout the year, but I’ll see what I can manage.
I started by scrubbing all the plant pots. I should have done that last year so everything was nice and ready but didn’t. I then navigated a maze of seeds which needed to be sown on top of the soil, deep in the soil, under glass, inside plastic bags and ones which would die immediately that I did any of those things to them and ruin everything. That said, I now at least understand what sowing something “under glass” means. Aside from a couple of old, cheap windowsill propagators, I didn’t have any special ‘kit’ and after spending what seemed to be an awful lot on seeds and other garden/allotment things this month I wanted to make do and recycle where I could.
‘Upcycling’, or as I like to call it, ‘McGyvering the garden’
A couple of narrow trays from the garden were scrubbed back to pristine condition so that they could hold the tomato seeds I had sown into pots on a light windowsill. Large clear yoghurt pots (hoarded by me in anticipation of this very use) were popped on top as instant cloches. Bits of plastic from a useless gadget for keeping strawberries off the ground, bought and discarded in one season a few years back, provided support for plastic bags tied over pots of basil, parsley and chives to minimise watering and encourage germination.
Some of the seeds are tiny and delicate and even my children’s watering can is too much for it so I used my bradawl and poked a few small holes through the cap of a small drinks bottle, which I am filling with water from the water butt. That worked extremely well and is something I will definitely keep doing.
The leeks (two kinds: Musselburgh and Prizetaker) need planting in far great numbers in order to ensure a decent supply. Having learned that you can eat the thinnings, and being reminded of the ridiculously overpriced baby veg I don’t buy, I used a new seed tray and sowed half with each variety.
The trays (pound shop specials) seemed a bit thin and flexible, so I reinforced the sides with an innovative combination of garden stakes, bits of the capsules that my hair dyeing gloves come in and a few cotton wool balls down the long sides. That did the trick and then the soil did the rest. Leek seeds need to go outside in a cold greenhouse or cold frame (I know what that is now!) so I McGyvered a waterproof holder to keep water from dripping onto anything I’m storing in the grow house. One large, decent carrier bag and some folding later and I had a perfectly serviceable outdoor tray.
An indoor tray was fashioned from a cardboard box inside a bin bag, which is for the daisies I’m growing. I planted peas in small (clear) drinks bottles. With the first one, I poked holes in the bottom and then cut the bottle in half, securing the halves together with a hinge of silver duct tape, which is magical stuff. I can only imagine what McGyver might have made had he the luxury of duct tape when he was making grenades out of soap and a broken biro. My effort was a bit rubbish, though. I mean it’ll work perfectly well but it’s not very pretty.
I really enjoy planting things, which might explain why I’m enjoying experimenting with different ways of doing it. I had another 3 small drinks bottles and decided to try this. It looks good – much better than the first one – and hopefully the ‘wick’ will be enough to draw the water up to the plant. I’ll keep an eye on them.
I planted everything else in a pretty standard way, as you can see. I have tried hard to keep labelling clear so I don’t get stuff mixed up. Many plants look the same at the early seedling stage, so it’d be easy enough to get them confused.
So, it’s now a case of nothing visible happening for 7 days and then hopefully some things will start germinating. Now, I have to go and update my spreadsheet…