Latest posts by Dinah

A protective growing tray for very tiny seeds

Posted: 21/05/2016 at 21:42

I'm very keen on re-use of luxury items that turn up in too much, too permanent packaging. My latest project was to find something that I could give very tiny seeds a good start in, in a very protected environment, with economical use of space, and good cleaning options for re-use. Enter, the Frerro Roche boxes!

I've just finished the first batch of experimental seed. I tried Azaleas first, Nicotinia, Spanish time, Stevia, and American mountain mint. All germinated, and have survived the first few weeks as small plants in their microcosmic environment. They are now ready to spoon out on to the top of pots. They look great!

The method. First, I ate all the chocs  (5 boxes) and put on half a stone in doing so. Next I removed the cardboard sheet from each tray, and made a small hole in each of the chocolate compartments with a small screw-driver. I then cleaned both boxes and chocolate compartments with mild detergent, and rinsed them. Inverting the boxes, so that the lids now formed the bases and the bases the lids (so as to avoid the light blocking labels) I put the trays inside and spooned enough fine compost into each compartment to roughly fill it to the level of the compartment divisions. I put some water in what used to be the lids (but were now the bases) and waited while the compost soaked the water up into each compartment, then I poured the excess away. There was some delay before I got round to putting all the seeds in, as I was very busy (exercising to loose weight) but the trays were sitting ready for use and nothing disturbed them in the mean time - another advantage to having a ready made, airtight microcosm! When I got round to it I sprinkled on the seeds. Those that needed a fine dusting of compost, I covered, while those that liked to germinate in full light were left bare. I put a small, plastic label into each tray, made out of cut up, healthy yoghurt pot strips, positioned so that I could see them along the side, without having to lift the lid. Then I put the lid back on, and left them spread along the window sill, with no disturbance other than looking in eagerly every so often and lifting the lid once or twice for a bit of air circulation. They germinated very quickly. After a few days I added a tiny bit more water to each tray, watering from below and tipping the tray up a bit to drain any excess away.

As I say, I'm going to spoon them out onto the top of small pots now that they all have their first two sets of leaves. I'm going to try ferns next, and maybe some unusual perennial fox-gloves, and I won't need to eat any more chocolates to do it...

Last edited: 21 May 2016 21:47:23

Windy garden

Posted: 04/03/2016 at 19:19

Aym280, Mizuna, yes. Great vegetable, I agree most heartily, it seems to love harsh, cold, miserable conditions.

Windy garden

Posted: 04/03/2016 at 17:13

You may find that your garden will end up more shaded from all the wind shelter measures you put up. We didn't take this into account at first, and planted too many things that need full sun. We have adapted the vegetable plot now, for example, by growing far more Chinese vegetables since many seem to be more shade tolerant, and most crops can be harvested quickly, before the big winds start for the year. We grow perennial herbs that tolerate or prefer shade too for the same reason.

The same seems to have applied to the flowers - if it is sheltered enough, it tends to be shady. I am always searching for that "sunny, sheltered spot" mentioned on so many labels. There are many tough but lovely mountain growing plants that will do well in windy sights of course. Don't assume (as we did at first) that they are necessarily good for a bare heath though. Quite a few grow in, or on the edge of mountain woodlands - but again these are good, shade tolerant plants.

Windy garden

Posted: 03/03/2016 at 18:34

This is going to sound like a bad joke. My windbreak netting blew away in a storm, along with the wooden fixings. Make sure you have it fixed very firmly, and attached to proper fence posts, with a wire mesh of some sort behind it (net to face the prevailing wind).

Hedges are better as wind breaks if you have the space. Clumps of shrubs dotted about but supporting one another seem to make for better wind breaks than hedges if you are in a really windy spot. Hedges can get blown out of shape when they get older, unless you are cutting them back forever, and then they may not be tall enough for the job you need them for very soon. Clumps of shrubs look more natural, tallest and quickest growing at the back, and they don't look so bad if they get a terrible battering - but again you need the space. I'd go with a mixture of strategies if possible. We have found this the best way up here.

Where to start???

Posted: 24/02/2016 at 19:17

Docks are the big, oval leaved plants that grandma's often used to recommend to rub on nettle stings. They look lovely if they are growing wild, but they seed very freely and copiously. Even if it turns out to be an Astilbe, it would be a very good idea to pull all the seeds off because they still seem to be on the plant. You could keep them in a bag, and if they are Astilbe re-plant them. I think they are doc plants though. If so you will have your first big weeding job - they have quite tough and deep roots if they are older plants, and they are unlikely to be alone. They grow in similar places to nettles - hence they were the first juicy plants to be grabbed to rub on straight after a nettle sting. I think they actually help too.

On the very bright side, both plants flourish in deep, nutritious soil. Where nettles and doc grow, lots of other plants will too.

Gu pots and pringle lids.

Posted: 24/02/2016 at 13:36

Wonderful innovations people! I like the jam idea, a nice, low sugar preserve for me please. 

For those not familiar with Gu pots, they are, indeed, a desert in a glass jar, but have no lid - just plastic film. They are fearsomely deadly-sweet though, which is why I think they only suit the metabolism of a teenager.  Children too, but parents can step in when they see a child living on Gu and Pringle. Can't do much to deter a teenager. A box or jar would probably kill me off - strange how bodies loose the ability to deal with these things. "Extreme eating" I think it is called.

For seeds, however, packaging is perfect!

Gu pots and pringle lids.

Posted: 23/02/2016 at 23:54

This is a technique tip only for those who have a resident teenager.

Plastic Pringle box lids fit perfectly onto Gu pots. Snap! Sterilisable, re-usable, airtight seed soaking/stratifying jar. Stands up to boiling water well, does fine in the fridge and microwave too. You can write on the plastic lids with a waterproof pen, or on the side of the jar, to rub off when you've finished. Sorted.

Remember to rinse and aerate them twice a day with cooled boiled water to keep them fresh - the seeds I mean, not the teenagers

Where to start???

Posted: 17/02/2016 at 14:09

I started reading up on gardening by dipping into the "Reader's Digest" New Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers. I found it to be better than the RHS Encyclopedia for me as a beginner, because they spent more time explaining terms and propagation methods. But wow, they are both so useful and exciting. Actually I had a copy of the "very old" Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers, because I am not so new now, but I still use it a great deal. You can get old copies from ebay and Amazon very cheaply indeed, along with lots of special interest publications - if you have a particular specialism in mind already

Mid-winter roses

Posted: 15/02/2016 at 11:41

Yes, it needs pruning very much. I tend to wait till after the winter flowers have finished, because I find the flowers especially welcome at this time of year. I will photo an open one if I can - maybe cut one and bring it in the house. I don't feel that it is winter until a yellow rose appears

Mid-winter roses

Posted: 14/02/2016 at 16:06

Hurray, at last, it's a bit late but I've managed to get some photographs. Most of the buds have gone over, but there are still about five waiting to break, and it's a sunny day so I may get more, and I'll find a fully open one later.





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