The day has finally come, dear reader, and many of my green children who started their time with me as but mere tiny seeds, must now survive the great outdoors. What perils may await them?
Wind! Rain! Hail! Slugs! Snails! Birds! Too cold! Too hot!
It’s a nightmare and frankly I can see why so many parents to human children (as that is how I shall temporarily be referring to kiddies from now, I am that attached to my plants) really struggle when it comes to sending them out on their own, even to nursery for a few hours a day. It’s a big scary world out there!
However, in a block of a few at a time I am going through the process of ‘hardening off’ each plant. I know, it sounds awfully ‘Carry On Gardening’ doesn’t it? Essentially it means that each plant spends a little time outside every day, with that amount of time getting longer and longer. As my plants have grown up in a greenhouse rather than inside the house they are a little hardy already but need to really get used to all the elements as well as the cold. I waited until the nights started to be consistently above about five or six degrees before starting this process, and so far two courgettes and one pumpkin have graduated to the ground, and I have two more pumpkins and one courgette getting ready to spend their first night outside. The benefit of waiting until these plants are of a healthy size (the half a dozen leaves they have are all bigger than my handspan) is that pumpkins and courgettes develop some rather intimidating prickly fuzz on their stems once they reach this size. Any younger than this and the slugs and snails would destroy them immediately but waiting until this has appeared gives them a fighting chance at surviving. My top tip for hardening off a plant is for the final couple of days of hardening them place them in the position they will eventually be permanently planted. That way you can make sure they’re getting enough sun, and even if you’re particularly good at this kind of thing you can work out which direction they might like to be planted in as well.
Meanwhile, inside the greenhouse some of the plants will likely never make their way outside. The “moneymaker” tomatoes notoriously grow best under glass, so they are all being slowly transplanted into troughs and my order of marigolds arrived today in order to help pre-emptively curb any fly issues. This is a common tip that I learned many years ago from my Grandad, the master of growing tomatoes and cucumbers in his greenhouse. Tomatoes are a funny plant, they always seem to grow in fits and starts, which can be frustrating but stick with them if you’ve got some (or if you’ve been one of the people who has accepted my ‘gift’ of free plants as I had so many!) and by late summer/early autumn you should see a beautiful crop of fruit coming along.
The outside carrots are growing slowly compared to those in tubs in the greenhouse, which I suppose is exactly what is to be expected. I am slightly struggling to keep on top of weeding the area around them though. Carrots are definitely a highly intensive vegetable to grow, at least at this stage, so I wouldn’t recommend them to someone wanting an easy ride of it!
The beans have graduated to outside, and I have (after begging for permission from my parents) co-opted the outside table for them in order to try and protect them from slugs and snails. I don’t want to use a slug killer as I hate the idea of them, we have a dog so many aren’t safe for him, but also I wonder what using that kind of product could do to the general food chain around here. So for now I am using a mixture of used coffee grounds and general vacuum cleaner fluff (glamorous, I know) to try and deter them. After some intense Googling I came across a company called Shell On Earth who sell crushed whelk shells as a slug deterrent. It isn’t cheap so we are yet to invest, but I thought I’d share the info in case you’re in the market too!
Elsewhere inside the greenhouse the radishes are thriving and I’m starting to dot them around the edges of the larger pots with tomatoes or beans in them. The cucumbers are at a much younger stage of growth so I’m working hard to keep them going and see whether we can get them to catch up with the tomatoes to really get a lovely Greek salad by September. Speaking of, I found sachet of ‘herb mix’ during some cleaning up and goodness only knows what herbs I am now growing but I am growing herbs! I will of course keep you updated on what herbs these might be. Please cross your fingers that there is some peppermint and maybe basil in there. Yum yum.
My latest adventures in vegetables also include some spring onions which I’m growing from seed (so far they just look like grass) and some beetroot which I gleefully accepted as a trade for some baby tomato plants. I’m still so desperate to be able to offer up veg to people once they all fruit, I don’t know why, I guess it just would feel like a way to help.
PS. The watermelon are still growing. My dreams for that mostly involve re-enacting scenes from Dirty Dancing.
Stay safe x