For those who have been following me faithfully I thank you, most gratefully. No longer Leading a Horticulture virgins, it’s time to introduce you to Bodger’s Law of Threes. In my experience, nothing ever happens for a single reason, or once only. Triangular lumps of happenstance have pocked my existence for as long as I can remember. In March I sowed fifteen packets of seed, carefully spread so as to prevent frenetic activity in the potting shed. All of my planning has gone for naught, now I have three trays full of seedlings which require immediate action. The seed leaves have been superseded by the first true leaves and unless they are moved on to more spacious quarters to grow, the plants will become wambly and die.
Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ (dog’s tooth violet)
Referring back to The Law, I find that plants will survive either if the humidity changes, the soil is altered or the temperature is adjusted but not all together. The amendments must be minimal and one at a time. If spindly plants are hoicked straight from a propagator, pricked out and plonked in a cold frame, the whole lot will, to use the technical term, cark it. First, I have been taking the lid off the heated box every day and replacing it at night, to accustom my new green babies to the harsh realities of life. When they can stand the night air of the conservatory unprotected, it’s time for the next assault on their comfort.
Jasmine in the conservatory
Give them a good soaking an hour before surgery, then pot them on into individual containers. Get cellular seed trays or pots ready for action before disturbing the seedlings. Fill them with moist compost and use a dibber or finger to make a hole big enough to receive the root ball. If you crush the new stems with an over eager grip of steel, then the specimen will turn up its toes. Fragile roots are gently teased apart resting the weight on the dibber, whilst supporting each plantlet by the leaf . Lightly firm the compost around the plant; remember that you are settling in a delicate infant, not laying the foundations to the Forth Bridge. Sprinkle them with a fine dose of water and leave them to recover. By this stage I’m skenning* like a basket of whelks. I feel like I’ve got three eyeballs and I too will need time to recuperate.
Euphorbia mellifera (honey spurge)
When the tiny plants are standing up, have squeezed out more leaves and are looking shipshape, they can be moved to the cold frame, preparatory to further repotting or hardening off. I am prepared to concede that this is a lot of faff for a few flowers but for the price of a packet of seeds and a some effort, you could have an explosion of colour, a tsunami of blossom or an inundation of runner beans. This is a technique that you ought to try, indeed you should try everything once except, as they say, incest and country dancing.
*Skenning = cross eyed, Lancashire dialect Wigan region