Seedlings were very much on my mind this week. I’m typing this on a miserable April morning, with rain lashing the windows and wind rattling the polytunnel. But at least there’s no snow, or frost like down south. Instagram is full of picture of frozen seedlings and chickens playing in the snow this morning, and I’m grateful for my stormy but warmer version of this. Proper rain is actually quite welcome, and our hedges and walls always mitigate the worst of the rain, so I’m quietly confident we’ll emerge ok from this. Should have maybe put some fleece over last night, but too late now.
At the moment, there are turnips, broad beans, onion/garlic, spinach, radishes, calabrese, and lettuces outside – most in this big bed, and another few rows of calabrese and lettuce in the bed next to it. The calabrese suffered a bit of chicken damage before we put up this fence, but I’ve got some in reserve to plant in a week or two if these don’t recover. I went to check on everything last night but haven’t been out this morning yet, but hopefully they’ll all bounce back.
So far, all seedlings adventures have gone well, with the exception of the tomatoes. I sowed them inside and left them by the side of the aga next to the peppers. There’s a big skylight and the peppers (chillis, aubergines etc.) are all doing well there, but the tomatoes just went leggy, so I potted them up and moved them outside to the growhouse. Unfortunately this coincided with a drop in temperature, and I fear most of them won’t make it. I’d planted over 100 seeds, and I think maybe 5 will survive. I’m so annoyed with myself – I usually place them in the growhouse from the beginning, but I thought as everyone online seems to be growing them indoors I’d try the same this year. Our house is so dark, though, and they clearly didn’t like it. Such a shame, and a lesson learnt. I’ve got the current batch in a different part of the kitchen, and they’ll stay there until germination, and then they’ll go outside. They might grow slower but at least they’ll grow (I hope). I’m so disappointed – particularly as I’d bought proper nice seeds this year and didn’t really have many left, What a waste of money and resources! But no point fretting – everything else is going well, and it’s no great loss in the grand scheme of things. Tomatoes are always chancy for us – it’s not really warm enough for them, and they’re fickly beasts. We had one glorious year a few years ago where they grew both inside the then-greenhouse and outside in pots, and I was really hoping for a similar glut this year.
I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my seedlings this year – not just sowing them, and planting them out, but that in between stage – potting them up, and seeing their root systems develop. I’ve been less afraid of damaging them in the process, and I’ve been better at judging when something needs potted up. This is partially due to experience – you develop a sense for this over the years – but also because I’ve been following so many lovely gardeners on instagram, and seeing what they do with their seedlings (and when!) has been a great reminder for me to check mine. It’s really from about the second week of March that we diverge from how things are going down south – the days lengthen, but the temperature doesn’t pick up in the way it might do in Somerset, so with the soil being colder everything is smaller here. But then we’ve not had any frost or snow this week like so many other folks have had. It’s easy to get distracted into looking at pretty pictures online and then thinking that you’re behind, or should be doing things differently, but trust your instinct (and local garden friends) – and always sow more than you need and keep a few plants in reserve, just in case…