Stirrings

Another weekend of enthusiastic sunshine coaxed some of the daffodils in the back garden into flower, joining the chorus lines out the front.

Daffodils in March

A few flowers around the edge of the biggest clump, between the pear cordons, lay spangled on the ground, the weight of their golden blooms evidently too much for their slender stems. I picked these and brought them into the house, marveling at the length of their stalks, which seem sturdy out of the wind’s onslaught, easily supporting their bright sunny faces in a vase.

We too were drawn out by the sun, which held surprising heat as we worked, particularly beneath glass in the greenhouse where we continued our preparations for the season ahead. Last summer, King of the Hill’s interest was piqued by Monty Don’s greenhouse tomato growing arrangement, broadcast on Gardener’s World, where his cordon plants were closely planted in two rows, supported by a double framework of bamboo poles. With our greenhouse borders dug over, KOTH constructed a similar frame in an L-shape, leaving the remaining space for more conventional spacing of cucumbers, aubergines and peppers.

Double frame erected for tomatoes

Instead of our usual seven or eight tomato plants, these will enable us to grow sixteen plants; we will need to be much more organised at training them so that this close arrangement does not hamper their growth. Hopefully with a quieter year, we should manage this. After lending a hand to steady poles and tie them in, I potted on our first nine tomato plants from our first sowing a couple of weeks ago, and sowed more, including some Marmande to grow outside.

Montage of seeds sown and seedlings emerging

Top centre and bottom right: Nepeta nervosa; top right: Scabiosa drakensbergensis; bottom left: Echinacea pallida

I sowed broad beans and various ornamentals, while KOTH planted peas in two lengths of drainpipe on the floor of the greenhouse, and sowed a selection of salad leaves, carrots and beetroot beneath the protection of the plastic mini polytunnel outside. The potting bench and staging in the greenhouse are beginning to fill with seed trays, along with various windowsills in the house. Already the first seedlings are emerging from previous weekends’ sowings; I still get such a thrill from each new sighting.

Various overwintered seedlings of autumn-sown plants

Clockwise from top left: Allium christophii, sown May 2011; Verbascum chaixii 'Album'; Echinops ritro ssp ruthenicus; Geranium psilostemon

I pricked out the pot of Allium christophii seedlings shown above that I spotted a few weeks’ ago: these were sown in late May last year, and the pot was left hopefully outside the greenhouse, where they repaid my patience (or neglect!) and germinated as the days began to grow lighter and warmer once more. I also potted on the Echinops ritro and Geranium psilostemon which were sown indoors and sprung up late in the autumn. They are currently enjoying a sunny windowsill until they are ready to be hardened off and planted out.

Emerging shoots in the garden in March

Around the garden, new shoots are emerging everywhere, despite a few frosty mornings this week. The hairy green foliage of the red oriental poppy, not pictured, that I moved across the garden last year, has emerged once more in the field border, eliciting a sigh of relief from me.

Things are certainly starting to take off here, despite a few frosty starts this week.

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16 thoughts on “Stirrings

  1. It’s one of John Masefield’s ‘ mad March days’ here – not fit to be out yet but there has certainly been a definite greening and sprigging here in the last few days. I think that seeing seeds germinate is oh so exciting. A most impressive tomato framework ~ KOH deserves a medal 🙂

    • Ah, mad March days indeed (I must confess your reference to John Masefield throws the Box of Delights foremost into my mind, an old favourite of mine). The tomato frame looks pretty good, I hope we can make it work as well for us as MD obviously does at Longmeadows – the more tomatoes we can harvest, the longer our sauces will last us through the winter!

  2. We had quite a frost yesterday morning but everything seems to be able to cope with it. I’m very envious of the tomato growing. I’ve only ever grown bush tomatoes outdoors. I had 2 good crops when I lived in the south east but then when we moved to Wales we had 3 years of blight. It’s so much damper over here that I said I wouldn’t grow them again until we had a greenhouse. I’m still tempted to grow some this year, it’s a risk but maybe we’ll be lucky this year and not have a wet summer!!!!

    • We are fortunate that the house came with a greenhouse; since which I have only grown a couple of extra outdoor tomatoes, tumbling types up until now, which have also succumbed to blight. But having tasted the minimal but wonderful harvest from the Marmande plant we were given and stifled rather in the greenhouse last year, I’m determined to try a few plants in their more comfortable outdoor environment, and hope South Wales has a long dry summer – well we can dream…

  3. You are way in front of me with your sowings but I have held back as we are on holiday next week, then when we return it will be all stations go – shuffling everything round in the greenhouse trying to fit it all in.

  4. It is a time when things are moving forward. I have snowpeas in the garden now, and I am hoping for good yield. Your daffodils are lovely. They do brighten up the perennial beds.

  5. Hi,

    You certainly look like you’ve been busy with the seeds and plants. So far I’ve barely sown anything and have decided that I ought to sow my second lot soon – mine are indoors so I’m concerned about things getting too leggy and not being able to harden them off for a while yet.

    The weather’s set to get mild again now, so I am sure the plants will amaze us over the coming week with just how much they grow!

  6. That tomato-growing frame thing looks very intriguing, and I’ll be interested to see how you get on with it. Doubling the yield would certainly make it worthwhile.
    Re the top-heavy daffodils – this is why I usually go mostly for the short-stemmed varieties, which are less prone to wind damage.

    • Watch this space! 🙂
      Shorter daffodils are a sensible way to avoid flop. Surprisingly, given our exposed position, it was only four daffs from the edge of the one clump that did that, and they weren’t damaged at all. The clump was here when we came, and they generally seem to stand up to the rigours of our weather well – and the new ones I added out the front are still blooming away with not a single flop so far, though they dance a merry dance in the wind, so hopefully we don’t need to restrict ourselves to short varieties despite our position.

  7. I have always watched for the flowering of Narcissus ‘February Gold’ and used it as a judge of the progression from winter to spring. If it manages to flower in February then its a mild year! i just wish I’d thought to keep a record of my observations all these years! Hindsight!

    • I’d like to add some February Gold to the garden. I’m not sure what varieties existed here when we came, though none appear to be cyclamineus. I planted Rijnveld’s Early Sensation in the front garden in the autumn, which have been blooming since early February. I keep seeing lacy patches of blackthorn blossom appearing in the hedges now which are rather lovely.

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