Gearing up for the growing season

While I’ve been busy with the rationing challenge, I haven’t had the chance to tell you what else has been going on in our household lately (besides forcing World War Two crumb fudge on DJ and giving us both bellyache). Now that the weather is warming up (fingers crossed and ignoring tales from my mother of snow in Ireland) and the daffodils are out, we have been seriously gearing up for the growing season.

DJ’s tomato and chilli plants, which we planted halfway through March, are going great guns. He has been tending them with all the watchfulness of a mother hen, talking to them every day and blowing on their leaves. I thought he’d taken leave of his senses (no pun intended) until I saw Toby Buckland on Gardener’s World doing the same thing. Apparently it helps tomato plants which have been grown indoors develop stronger stems by mimicking the wind blowing on them.

While DJ was away for a weekend a couple of weeks’ ago, I had the responsibility of remembering to take the tomato plants in and out of the green house each morning and evening while they are being hardened off. I was a bag of nerves thinking I would forget, leave them in the greenhouse all night and kill them all. But sensibly I left myself a big reminder note by the kettle, knowing that I wouldn’t fail to see it and somehow they survived.

Our broad beans, potatoes and onions are also coming up, as are some French marigolds which DJ planted and will eventually be used to attract aphids away from the tomato plants. Even the parsnips which were heeled in over the winter have joined in the spring fun and are trying to sprout again. Over the Easter weekend I planted some rainbow carrots – which include white, orange and purple varieties – in a large planter and DJ planted some early Nantes carrots in another, called ‘Baby Ideal’. He grew them last year and they were particularly delicious. I also got stuck into sowing some flower seeds for our hanging baskets and pots, including nasturtiums, geraniums, asters and petunias. All the seeds have been purchased in previous years or came free with magazines, so I’m hoping they are still ok. The aster seeds supposedly went off last year, so we’ll have to see whether they come up or not. Last year I unwittingly planted some old geranium seeds and none of them germinated.

Unfortunately the mushroom kit has proved disappointing. DJ harvested one good mushroom a few weeks ago, but the rest have all looked more Fungus the Bogeyman than anything you’d actually want to eat. He thinks it got a bit too hot initially, but is going to try throwing it on the compost heap to see if the spores take there. On the bright side, the new fig tree purchased last year is sprouting and we should get nine figs rather than the two we got last year, which is exciting.

On a different note, Billericay recently held its Greening Campaign public meeting at a local church and, among other people there, yours truly had to give a speech, which was a bit daunting. If you recall, the Greening Campaign is a venture that began in Petersfield in Hampshire and is geared to getting local people to make small changes to their behaviour to improve the environment, save energy and cut costs. Committee members were anxious that as many people attended as possible and we weren’t disappointed. Lots of local residents and organisations came and signed up to a series of small green targets, such as turning the tap off when brushing their teeth or pulling curtains at dusk to retain the heat, which was fantastic.

There was also a lot of enthusiasm for our Billericay ‘Green Day’, happening in June, when local residents and societies will get together to have fun and make presentations on how they have been saving energy in their homes and businesses. There will also be organisations on hand to give advice on ways to go green and cut costs. I’m looking forward to it and impressed that so many people in our town are keen to make such a positive contribution. Whatever outsiders might say about Essex folk, we are not afraid of hard graft or short of enthusiasm for new ideas, which is what I love about my county.

Are you a keen gardener? How is your vegetable or flower garden doing now that spring is finally here? What are you growing this year? Leave a message and let me know.

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7 Responses to Gearing up for the growing season

  1. Bekki says:

    Hi Piper, this is my first time leaving a comment… i just wanted to tell you about all the things i\’m growing as its from reading your blog that has given me the motivation to do it! This year i\’ve finally pulled my finger out and built a huge raised bed which is home to red onions, shallots, garlic, carrots, parsnips, leeks, pak choi and little gems. I\’ve used one half of an oil drum for the rest of the little gems and more pak choi (the other half of the oil drum is a bbq.. tres frugle i thought!). I\’ve also recently planted my courgettes and mixed salad leaves. My potatoes have been in for a few weeks but haven\’t started sprouting yet. I\’ve used a couple of my boyfriends old car tyres as a planter.. we\’ll see what happens.. ! My tomatoes are doing really well and so are the 8 different varieties of herbs i\’m growing this year. Hopefully the tomatoes will be hardened off in the next few weeks ready to go into my ramshackle potting shed! My chillis and sweet peppers aren’t doing anything currently so I’m considering talking to them to give them encouragement! Happy growing!! Beks : )

  2. Flo says:

    If you want to keep seeds from one year to the next, get an old photo album and store the packets one to each picture frame. This helps you to know what you have. A good place to keep seeds if you don\’t use them all is that veg container at the bottom of the fridge – it\’s cool enough to store them but not to give them frost bite. If you keep seeds in drawers or tins or cupboards you do have to make sure that they are not kept too warm or it\’s likely that they won\’t germinate. This photo album in the bottom of the fridge is also a handy trick if you want to buy seeds that are in end of season sales – many vegetable seeds will be fit to use the season after the sell by date.A lot of seeds can be kept for a longer time than the packet says – parsnips are the ones that don\’t keep beyond the date on the packet but then I do vegetables more than flowers. Mind, you can also buy fresh seeds that have just arrived in the shop and if they haven\’t been stored properly in a cool, frost free environment then they may well not germinate anyway. Swings and roundabouts. Trouble is that you don\’t know if seeds are duff till you try to grow them. And red onions from seed can be frustrating – but then red onions are very good at doing badly anyway – honest I do mean that just like wot I have written she says laughing.

  3. Piper says:

    What a good tip about storing seeds in a photo album and/or in the fridge. Will try that although there\’s not much room in our fridge. Bekki – it\’s so lovely to hear from you for the first time. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. That is brilliant! You are really going to enjoy some delicious produce once the summer comes. What a good idea re the car tyres. Let us know how you get on.

  4. Kerri says:

    Sounds like you will have another bumper year of crops Piper. This is the first year we\’ve had a garden and I\’d really like to grow a little something, I previously grew tomatoes when I was in our flat, they did so much better than I expected that everyone commented on them as they walked past – I had so many toms I seriously didn\’t know what to do with them (amzing really as the only care they got was being thrown in a grow bag and pretty much left to get on with it for the summer lol!)On the subject of being green (and I\’m not sure if we\’ve discussed this before) but I\’d be interested to know how many people do things such as turn off the tap when brushing teeth, drawing curtains at dusk, turning down the heating etc etc as an actual effort to be greener, or are motivated by saving money? I must admit that my first motivation for these little things, is the thought that I am savings pennies, as well as the planet. But I\’m not totally financially motivated, I do recycle etc to help reduce waste. On that subject, our Borough has just been approved to have Recycling wheelie bins where houses are issued reward points for money off vouchers etc after a local trial has been successful. Some people are complaining they would rather have £ off the council tax bill. Whilst the bins and the scheme are great (and better than having boxes that ants, wasps etc are attracted to) it seems that there are people missing the point as to the purpose of recycling – is it right, and does it send the right message that we have to be inentivised to recycle?

  5. piper says:

    Thanks Kerri. Interesting isn\’t it? I think positive measures are usually the best way to get people motivated. What do you think? I think most people are fedup with penalised for things. I did write something on a here a little while ago about whether people should be penalised or incentivised into going green & recycling which you might find interesting.!74E2ED49D47DDB89!7643.entry

  6. Bill says:

    Ladies, Piper & Kerri, . . . while I am not allowed any garden or even window boxes 10 floors up, just in case I save money, or gain any other pleasure from it, I do promise ter watch all the goggle box soap, 24/7, if only yer cancel the license fee, & grease me palm extremely well, by the hour, remembering that I charge double time fers bank Hols & Sundays. I am currently penalised not only by the TV license, but also by the road fund license, which has also cost me £100 fers another new exhaust pipe, & will soon be penalised again with the MoT. Me insurance has been hiked another 50%, despite another years no claims bonus. Do they really expect me ter continue paying all these penalties when the home office have no intention whatever of allowing me any form of "independent" legal income?They have also cancelled me entire state pension, as of 19th January, 2015. If I ever did return ter any form of legal employment, they would immediately penalise me not only with income tax, & NI contributions, but also with council tax. They would certainly not yield any tax rebate for the 10 years which I have already been prevented from earning an honest crust.Even me Benefit is penalised, anything which I attempt ter purchase with it is smeared with V.A.T.Even those who are kind enough ter trash their own livers & lungs are penalised by Booze & nicotine tax, & it is a Blue Wonder that they do not tax me fers passive smoking.Oops! Fergive me, please, I almost fergot me fuel & parking tax/tickets.Have yer noticed that there is no longer free air fers tyres on the forecourts today?They even penalise us fers tyre inflation now, although most public conveniences are now free to use, if only yer can find one.A certain nationality of canine mongrel appeared in court just last week, penalised not fers using a lamp post in time honoured fashion, but fers using the wheel of a squad car instead. He pleaded guilty, with mitigating circumstances. Apparently, when a dog has ter go, he has ter go, but sadly there was no time honoured lamp post, or yet a coppers helmet, anywhere to be found.Mitigating circumstances or not, he still yet received the maximum penalty.

  7. Bill says:

    Ladies, please fergive me, but I fergot ter wish yer all a nice \’un.

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