April 5th 2016 – Very happy to catch sight of this ladybird nestling amongst the daffodil leaves on a sunny spring day.
April 3rd – Salisfy seeds sown early March are pushing through the earth. The seeds remind me a tiny toothpicks. This particular seed is not quite ready to lose its coat.
It seems ages since my last ramblings on allotment life – 10 months to be exact – but sometimes seeds/words refuse to sprout and grow! I have been busy as a bee on a hot summer day and the plot is now as ready as ever for 2016. The broad beans planted in November are moving further up the poles and the garlic planted in December is slowly growing (Picardy Wight). Winter crocuses brought colour to the earth in February/March.
The plot is too tidy and the overwhelming desire to sow, sow, sow bugs me most days. Last weekend lettuce, radish and salsify seeds were carefully dropped into the newly raked earth, and the plan for the Easter break (forecast rain – naturally!) is to sow more. The second herb patch I planted last year came good. I macerated lavender, calendula, thyme and rose petals in oil producing a few bottles of massage oils, tins of lip balm, salves for gardener’s dry, cracked hands and a vapour rub to ease a chesty cough. The plans are endless for this year but we have to wait and see what is to come.
Today I was greeted by the smell of damp earth and glistening raindrops. The ‘miracle product’ I bought a month ago after slugs feasted on a chamomile plant works!
Before Now Slugs and snails don’t like the taste and slime away and the liquid stimulates growth. The blurb states it is harmless to other animals and the planet but I do need to research into the product to ensure it is definitely not harming other insects/birds etc. (If any blogger is aware of negative effects do let me know)
Yesterday I made my “exterminate the aphids” spray (one head of chopped garlic steeped overnight in one litre of warm water, strained and mixed with a teaspoon of natural dishwashing liquid). It works well on the rose bushes. I have yet to try on herbs and vegetables but today decided to experiment and see if the slugs and snails dislike the taste – I sprayed one of the sorrel plants. Of course it could have the opposite effect and invite the pests to a garlic flavoured dinner.
Parsnip seeds can be difficult to germinate. After two years of reaping one or two parsnips to about 15 seeds sown I found a trick that gives me a good bounty of parsnips. The parsnip journey starts at the beginning of April. I germinate the parsnip seeds on damp kitchen paper in a plastic container, cover with clingflim, and leave in a kitchen cupboard so there is no rush of bright light. I usually give the seeds a spritz of water every three to four days so the paper does not dry out. It takes about two weeks before the radicle appears and once it has grown about the size of my small finger, I take the containers to the allotment. The trick is to cut the paper around the seed into a square or rectangle and place on the soil and carefully cover with a sprinkling of seeding compost mixed with a little sand. It works every year. Every seedling grows. This year I got a lovely surprise, one seed had started to sprout its seed leaf. Not a great picture but you can see the seed leaf unfurling. I am going to follow this particular parsnip over the coming months.
Growing a mixture of vegetables/fruits/herbs and flowers is not only visually appealing, it is necessary to keep the pollinators happy and keep the cycle spinning of inviting the welcome predators to eat the unwelcome predators. Companion planting which was once a way of life only to be overtaken by pesticides has thankfully returned and the municipal planting of the 70’s and 80’s received a well overdue kick up the backside in London when a vast wild flower meadow was planted on the Olympic site in 2012.
This year I have dedicated two small patches to growing a variety of wildflowers. The decline in wild flowers over the last fifty years in Britain is heartbreaking. Fortunately there are organisations such as Plantlife (www.plantlife.org.uk) working hard in bringing back endangered species as well as re-educating the public, and visiting schools.
I am going to try and blog once a month on a herb or wildflower. It’s a good way to understand the history and peculiarities and maybe a few other bloggers will be interested. I start with a peculiar wildflower/herb. Peculiar because it’s common name is Bladder Campion. Plant names attract me, both the common and Latin name. They can conjure up such visual imagery that even if the plant is not suited to the soil on my plot I want to buy it! I will leave it to your imagination to what visual delights Bladder Campion conjures up.
The seeds sow easily. This is how the plant looks at present on the plot.
And this is the plant in full flower.
The bladder part of the name refers to the bladder-like calyx behind the flowers. It’s a common wildflower in England and I don’t think it is on the endangered species list. It grows up to 80cm and flowers during the summer. I decided to sow the seeds in one of the herb patches as the flowers and leaves compliment the flowering herbs. It attracts bees, butterflies and, during the night when the plant emits a clove like scent, the long tongued moths.
In the Mediterranean the young leaves are used in salads (I am waiting for the leaves to grow a little more before I eat but will update you on the taste). As the leaves get older you can saute with garlic, add to an omelette or a stew. In South Africa the Xhosa use the grounded roots (mixed to a froth with water) to influence their dreams.
Pretty impressive – we can eat the leaves, if we wish use the roots for divination (not sure of the side effects) and attract pollinators to our gardens/plots both day and night – well worth growing!