There’s something about Labour weekend that always makes me feel it’s time to get growing. After lots of garden composting and seed raising it is a busy time in the outside garden. Plants that have been hardening off can go outside with a very reduced risk of frosts. We’re not totally out of the frost danger yet but we’ve replaced the frost cloth with bug netting on the raised beds. We’ve even had to use the irrigation system to water this week after a blessed break from the constant rain. Looking at the forecast I’m not getting excited – just quietly optimistic for spring. It’s hard not to get optimistic when you watch the spring growth and listen to the birds dawn chorus.
England on a whirlwindAfter an exciting time in England with family and friends we’re now fully back into the swing of the shop and spring. England is in the middle of autumn and things are being harvested, cleared and dying down. I wasn’t fully appreciative of how much everything grows in early spring but the yard has changed beyond belief and the contrast with the late autumn English gardens is quite marked. The hanging baskets look gorgeous and are a real credit to Heather's enthusiasm for all things green. Heather has harvested the potatoes we planted on the 11th of July to make room for the tomatoes and we’re running out of space to put everything. Zuccini are the plant of the month. We're harvesting these already and the triffids are overtaking the back of the greenhouse. Brett has been tasked with putting some new macracarpa beds into the yard to accomodate the masses of seedlings we've grown … amongst the other 101 things he needs to do.
AutopotAmongst the castles we managed to squeeze in visits to gardens and of course our suppliers Autopot and Garland. Autopot was very inspiring. What they can achieve in their grow room above the warehouse is truly inspiring. This has given Brett and I grand schemes for the shop for the future so we can show what you can achieve with the Autopot range. Jason and Dan were very generous with their time and we are now armed with more knowledge and new products arriving to show both hydroponic growers and the home gardener in the self-watering range. By the end of the morning our brains were packed to capacity and then we were wowed by the grow room upstairs above the offices. I have never seen a quinoa plant before. In fact we had only just learnt to pronounce it correctly, Key-no-a but there Jason has 9 healthy plants in the new 9xl Autopot tray. They had been planted only 6 weeks before and were already shoulder height. They were growing in a soil/perlite mix and as you can see from the photo incredibly healthy. There are about 6 different types of basil growing including my favorite the Thai basil and the scent of these were divine. Jason shared his favourite recipe for roasted tomato soup. Gather tomatoes and basil. Tear the basil in a roasting dish and cover with the tomatoes. Roast until the tomatoes are soft then let it cool. Once cooked push through a sieve or moolie. Reheat and serve with a dash of sour cream or fresh cream fraiche - I think that was it. Sounds good to me! Turning around in the grow room there were a dozen different type of tomatoes. From red and yellow cherry varieties, the black indigo rose and many standard beefsteak looking varieties. All climbing for the ceiling. I've often heard about dropping the stem of the tomato plant as it grows to give easier harvesting and longer life of the plant but this was the first time I have seen it in action. When I have tried this I generally end up breaking the stem. These stems were wound along side the base of the pot and the string was attached to a kind of fishing rod reel that could be lengthened easily. Definitely going to try that! I had a serious case of grow room envy. The setup with the lights and misters for humidity were very impressive but has me thinking that anyone can turn an unused corner into an effective grow space. After spending $5 for a single red pepper this winter, let's see if we can achieve some independence from the supermarket, not just when our garden produces but also in the off season. Watch this space.
GarlandGarland were an incredible eyeopener and showed us exactly where / how the pots are manufactured. From the plastic pebbles that are melted through to the finished Autopot product. Of course, we saw more items that we just must order to complement our range of products – including their largest heated propagator yet and one-meter square trays that are idea for the grow tents.
GardensThe garden that inspired me the most was a working garden at a place called “Hampton Court”. No not the royal Hampton court but a little manor just out of Ludlow. They claim they were the first of that name but as you look at a map of England there are quite a few “Hampton” villages around.
Compost bins redefinedThis garden had the most awesome compost bins that I am definitely copying in my garden at home. They had put together a square of tree branch trimmings from the winter pruning. During the year they then fill these with the layers of autumn leaves, weeding, manures and anything else that goes into compost until a year later they are full. They then leave these for the winter. When they need compost for the garden bed they finally take the branches away spread the lovely rich compost over the bed they created them in. The gardener there confided to me that she was a bit too keen and put two of these in one bed but now that bed is overflowing so she’s going to have to barrow out one of the stacks. What a lovely position to be in - where you have too much compost! Definitely more on the gardens in the posts to come.