Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Emerging into the light

So, we've now reached the end of March and are officially into British Summer Time. Yes, that'll explain the forecast for torrential rain tomorrow - but to be honest that's what umbrellas were invented for. At least the garden will appreciate it, even if the chickens don't.
The house has been a hive of sowing activity this month. I established a production line of modules in unheated propagators circulating their way around the house. Last year's scheme, which had seed trays sitting on the heated kitchen floor was a good one in principle, but there were a few, let's say, tripping incidents en route to the back door. So this year chilli seeds have been germinated in the airing cupboard before being moved to one of a number of 1st floor rooms to take advantage of either the early morning or afternoon sun. I've even been creating foil wrapped receptacles out of wine boxes in which to sit seed trays of emergent seedlings in order to reflect sunlight all around them and reduce the leaning tendencies of young seedlings towards the light - which I learned recently is termed phototropism.

The shallots are germinated and residing in the unheated greenhouse, where they'll stay until mid-April.
The leek seedlings are up - but will stay in their respective pots until May/June. They've been moved outside the greenhouse now but the trick will be keeping them watered during the warmer months. Basically if I don't fall over it on a daily basis it risks being forgotten in the watering round. As for the next stages, the common advice is not to plant them out until they're 'pencil thick' but I've yet to achieve that. To be honest, some of mine are still only pencil thick when they're harvested, but that's usually due to planting out too late which restricted the length of time they have to re-establish themselves before winter set in. I've introduced a journal of sorts this year in order to plan my timings better. But let's just say I'm not holding my breath...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

No queues at Kew

I took a break from the suburban veg plot last week and took the train to Kew Gardens to meet up with a good friend. The visit served a different purpose for each of us. Since completing my RHS course, I've become a little more interested in ornamental gardens and my only previous trip to Kew Gardens was as an environmental science student in the mid 1990s and I couldn't really recall much of what I saw there. She on the other hand, is a student of design and architecture and wanted to see the Xstrata Treetop Walkway designed by Marks Barfield Architects who also designed the London Eye (which, as an aside, can be seen from the walkway).
The walkway is 18m above the ground (so not for the faint-hearted) and currently accessible only by a staircase. The original lift, intended to ferry wheelchair users and child buggies to the top, hasn't worked reliably since construction was completed and is now out of service until they come up with a replacement for it. Once at the top, you have a panoramic view of Kew Gardens and the city and countryside beyond. You are quite literally walking through the treetops and I'm sure that come late spring and summer, when the leaves have returned to the trees around, the experience will be different again when you'll be able to reach out and touch the foliage.

We also took a walk around the Temperate House, once the largest glass structure in the world and now the largest surviving Victorian glasshouse in the world. It's official, I now have greenhouse envy... My greenhouse will only fit 2 grow-bags on the floor plus a small staging unit for the pots of chillies - a bit on the tiny size compared to this one...