Highs and lows

Good things to start with: the apricot blossom is beautiful…

…and the strawberries are thriving in their pots by the front door.

Now for the not-so-good. I’m waking in the night and worrying about my tomatoes. What on earth is happening to me? What on earth is wrong with them? There was much amusement from my nearest and dearest when I planted 100 seeds, not realising they’d all germinate. Oh boy, did they germinate – and that’s pretty much IT. They’ve barely moved on in several weeks. This is a typical example of how they look.

A miserable little ‘Marmande.’

 It’s not as if I’ve been neglecting them; far from it, these babies have had the lot. I’ve kept them warm, given them plenty of light, watered and fed them, tucked them into private pots – short of reading them bedtime stories, I couldn’t have done much more but they still refuse to grow. Even Roger says they’re bad which makes me want to crawl under my potting bench in shame. I’ve planted a dozen in the polytunnel ground: four each of ‘Moneymaker’, ‘Sungold’ and ‘Super Roma’. A few of them have grown a bit but I can’t say I’m bowled over by their enthusiasm.

A slightly more enthusiastic ‘Super Roma.’

It’s just too embarrassing when people tell me they’re easy to grow and everyone else’s plants look so amazing. Please tell me they’ll be ok. Time to keep calm and carry on, I suppose (and maybe have a good cry when no-one’s looking!).

Last summer before leaving the UK I did a big shop for flower seeds as they are very pricey in France (standard packets of seed cost more than a bottle of wine – ouch! – and potting compost requires a second mortgage). When I came to plant the hardy annuals this week I realised what a BIG mistake I’d made. I shopped in a hurry and was too lazy to put my glasses on and read the small print so I’ve ended up with a whole lot of things I didn’t want. I like a bit of novelty in the garden – I’m growing red sprouts and yellow cucs this year – but here I just wanted run-of-the-mill standard flowers, nothing messed about. Oh dear. Apologies to the Hobbit Appreciation Society but what is it with all these dwarfs? I’ve got more to my name than Snow White. I know there’s a time and place for small and cute in the garden but what’s wrong with big and bold? What use are timid little dwarf nasturtiums when I need bolshy thugs to scramble up my 6ft wigwams and take over half the garden?

Wigwam in the brassica bed – this a job for giants, not dwarfs.

Then there’s the borage, one of my all time favourite flowers: great for bees, good to eat and a beautiful, beautiful blue. Except apparently half the seeds in my packet are white. White borage? Noooooo, it’s just not right! 😦

Rant over. Nothing for it but to shut up, put up and get planting. I’ve sown a row of dill next to the cabbages, I’ve never grown it before but I’m hoping it will be a good companion for the brassicas.

‘Greyhound’ cabbages with a row of dill planted to the right. I can’t believe how dry the soil is already.

Nasturtiums, morning glory and French marigold will join them there next month. I’ve edged the soft fruit bed with flowers that are edible and/or beneficial to the veg garden: calendula, nigella, Californian poppy, borage and phacelia. (I realised at this point I’d got a bit of a blue-and-amber colour scheme going which should please the Shrewsbury Town FC supporters in my life!). I threw in a ‘meadow flowers’ mix which was a cheapo from Aldi and also a wild flower mix from a beekeeping charity called ‘Bees Abroad’  (www.beesabroad.org.uk). If nothing else, the potager should be buzzing with colour and pollinators by July.

I’ve almost filled one section of the veg patch now, just the French beans to go in when we’re frost free and I’m hardening off a tray of lettuce to transplant into the last bed later this week.

Lettuce ‘Salad Bowl Mixed’ ready for transplanting.

We’re cracking on well with the digging, so much easier now it’s dried up a bit. Now I just have to hope for some beautiful toms to plant in there…

P.S. Just got back from a brilliant shopping trip. First of all, our little local supermarket was practically giving away quality compost so we filled the boot. Then in Carrefour, not only did I track down own-brand nasturtiums seeds at 50 cents a packet (as opposed to the €3 everyone else wanted) but they were on half-price offer. Two packets of 4 metre French giants for 50 cents/about 40p – that will do nicely.

What a bargain!

The icing on the cake? Wine was half price, too. Oh happy, happy day!

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4 thoughts on “Highs and lows

  1. Tomatoes: it’s very difficult to over water tomatoes but they don’t like drying out. That Marmande seedling seems a bit yellow, you could try a weak liquid feed. We misjudged the weather and lost a few tomato seedlings to a frost, just as well that we sow in successions to account for just such blunders.

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    • Yes, I have been feeding them as their colour bothers me. I did wonder if the quality of compost had anything to do with it but I’ve repotted some with no effect. I do have some back-up pots in the propagator so all is not lost (I hope!).

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  2. It’s a slow, cold spring and even in the unheated greenhouse our chilli and toms sown in Jan which survived a bad cold snap sat on the livingroom windowsill are slow getting growing. It’s not a doddle for everyone, I find the watering malarkey is faffy as they’re not keen on wet leaves, hate being dry or damp but like being moist!
    Your flowers amongst the veg sound like they’ll look amazing!
    Regards, Penny

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    • Thanks, Penny – you’ve made me feel much better! With any luck the poor little things will pick up a bit in the warmth now, regardless of my fumbling!

      Regards, Lis

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