Trees, mountains and rivers
Hello! This week’s newsletter is a bit of a departure from the usual – literally and metaphorically, as I’ve left my little veg patch behind me far to the south, and I am now in rainforest country.
Not, of course, your standard-issue tropical rainforest (I wish!) but the rather more understated, and I believe considerably rarer temperate kind. I’m with my eldest daughter on a bit of a jolly to Snowdonia in North Wales this weekend, as she’s attempting to recreate the feeling of being in an ancient temperate rainforest inside a gallery in Newcastle for her Fine Art degree show this summer, as you do. So lots of pictures and video footage of all things rainforesty are required, and I have volunteered my services as a willing chauffeur, equipment carrier and general purveyor of admiration and encouragement. It has been an amazing trip: if you’ll forgive the departure from veg growing, I will write about it in more detail later in the week.
I have had to leave my babies to fend for themselves while I’m away. There is no very good time to leave your veg garden to its own devices, except possibly in the depths of midwinter; but early spring is, perhaps counterintuitively, about as good as it gets. You haven’t yet hit top gear – that’s for next month – so there are fewer growing plants to worry about. And those you have got going are still small, so their needs are relatively few and they can cope with a day or three of mild neglect as long as the weather is cool and cloudy, as it tends to be at this time of year, so they don’t dry out too quickly.
So I left the seed trays working up to germinating in the bath, in a shallow puddle of water – not so much as to flood them, but not so little as to mean they use it up too quickly. In the greenhouse, I’ve given everything a good soaking and left them to it. And even if everything goes horribly wrong somehow, it’s early enough in the season that you’ve still got time to resow and start again if you really have to.
When the sun is shining and plants are in active and vigorous growth, though - any time from April to September, for me - leaving them is much more problematic, and generally best avoided. If you really do have to go somewhere, I am a big fan of the home-made capillary mat setup: you stand your plants on a tray lined with an old jumper, or a towel, and soak the lot with water. Then trail the other end of the towel down into a bucket filled with water. As the plants get thirsty, they pull water up from the towel, which in turn pulls up more water from the bucket via capillary action. You can keep plants happy like this for a week or more, even if it’s warm.
I have now switched off the grow lights and moved all the tomato seedlings out onto a shelf in the unheated greenhouse. Temperatures are warming up – most nights hover around 8°C (45°F) – and we have more than 12 hours of daylight too, so extra light isn’t really necessary now. I have one pot full of just-sown tomato seeds indoors on the windowsill, plus a few trays of seeds I sowed about a week ago and brought indoors to germinate in the warm: mainly flowers (cosmos, violas and marigolds) but also some lettuces.
The shallots are poking up above ground; but otherwise all is still quiet. We’re at that time of hesitation when the first spring flowers are doing their shy little twirls, little buds are appearing like pale green pearls along every branch, yet nobody’s quite daring, yet, to get out on the dance floor and give it some full-on John Travolta. So it’s a pretty good time to go for a long walk in the woods: who knows what I’ll find when I get back again!
Let me know how you’ve been getting on in your garden! I’d love to hear your updates and what’s been growing (or not growing!) for you.
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It is still the early season for me so only a few vegetables growing inside. But I will be transplanting them outside next weekend and starting new seeds! The season is here! So exciting. I hope you are having a nice time on your trip :)
I definitely will. And I'll keep following along on your blog!