Six on Saturday: Damage Limitation

Thank you for all the comments about compost during the week; as with all garden problems, it is reassuring to know that many other bloggers have encountered poor quality compost at times too. Thankfully most of us in our blogging community will recognise that the problem is not of our own making (apart from the injudicious choice of compost), but inexperienced gardeners may not realise the individuality of composts and blame themselves for their failures. This batch of mine was either very variable or suited some seeds and seedlings less well than others – some were stunted but had good root growth, whereas others were sturdier but had very little root; the turning point for me, however, was a sudden failure to germinate, further delaying what had already become a delayed process.

My indecision was transformed to a pressing desire – NEED – for change, and a visit to the garden centre brought home a bag of a different compost (sadly high in peat), into which a fresh batch of a token number of seeds was made. In barely a day, zinnias were sprouting – no problems here, thank goodness, so I set about limiting the existing damage in the greenhouse, potting on wherever I could or re-pricking out in the fresh compost. Although the season will inevitably be delayed by a few weeks, all being well things should catch up in due course, and hopefully there will be evidence of growth and progress in the coming weeks to confirm this.

Meanwhile, I have 44 trays to wash…

There was just time towards the end of the afternoon to plant out my January-sown sweet peas, which have been hardening off outside for a couple of weeks; with two nights of negative temperatures forecast for early next week, I wondered whether to postpone this for another week, but was reassured by Monty Don on Friday night’s Gardeners’ World, who was planting out his own…I can always blame him if the frost gets to mine!

Inside the working greenhouse, just to the right of the sweet pea supports, are pots of dahlias beginning to sprout – this first sign of them waking up after their winter slumbers is nearly as exciting as the first seeds (successfully) germinating!

Other signs of growth include the seemingly sudden clothing of rose bushes in fresh new foliage – this is ‘Olivia Rose Austin’:

At the other end of the seasonal spectrum we have a late showing of blooms on Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ which seems to flower whenever it chooses,  any time from December to now – it is such a pretty pink, and I am happy to see it whenever it graces us with its pinkness:

Similarly finishing off the winter season is the annual cutting back of the three cornus at the end of the shrub border, a task I delay for as long as possible, sorry to lose their colourful stems till later in the year. It never ceases to amaze me how much growth takes place during the year, reminding me how reticent I was to cut them down in the early days.

Sneaking in as a cheeky seventh and spotted on my way back inside after taking the (strictly) six photographs shown above, is Clematis alpina ‘Constance’ which one could almost get away with saying was ‘open’: hurrah!

Thank you to the host of this Six on Saturday meme, Jon the Propagator, for hosting; please consider now visiting his blog to look at other Sixes this Saturday.

This entry was posted in dahlias, Gardening, Gardens, greenhouse, seed sowing, Six on Saturday. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Six on Saturday: Damage Limitation

  1. I am glad I read your compost experience. Eager to plant my seeds and not really wanting to go out unless absolutely necessary( hubby is shielding) to buy seed compost, I planted my first crop of seeds in general compost which in hindsight was not fine enough. Only a few of the seeds germinate. Several weeks later I decided I must make the pilgrimage to a shop in the next town to buy some seed compost which is a lot finer.

    • Cathy says:

      Compost can make such a difference, especially in the early stages. At least peat free composts are improving although often inconsistent. Which? Gardening have been campaigning for better labelling too, including dates. Hope you are able to make a better start with your sowing soon

  2. Roguegarden says:

    I like your sweet pea supports. At first glance, I mistook the sprouting dahlia for chard. I have never noticed the lovely pink of the stems and veins before. What happens if you don’t prune back the cornus? I have some in a rather inaccessible location and am hoping to leave them to their own devices.

    • Cathy says:

      Cutting the cornus back produces a fresh crop of coloured stems by the autumn – mine will grow 4-5 feet in a season – similar to pollarding, really. If you are not interested in the stems then I suppose it is less useful a task, but for me it gives glorious winter colour for 5 or 6 months from when the leaves drop until the new foliage shows, which is about now.

  3. Paddy Tobin says:

    ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ is a huge favourite here – with a granddaughter named Olivia! It is an excellent plant, wonderful amount of flower!

    • Cathy says:

      Mine is a fairly new plant Paddy, probably here for little over a year, so it is still settling in, although I think it was the first rose with a bloom last year.

  4. Noelle M says:

    The compost quality is very lack lustre and as you say if the seedling don’t grow we don’t have plants. I think I may use the balance of one bag as garden mulch..ie chuck it on the garden around larger plants, and start again.

    • Cathy says:

      I am convinced all the seedlings I rehoused are standing that little bit taller today… 😉 LIke you, I think I shall be using most of the compost I have lost confidence in as mulch, and have already emptied all those trays at the base of the hedge in the woodland

  5. Finding good quality peat-free compost is difficult because the labeling either doesn’t or doesn’t say anything interesting. Cathy, as you very well say, is the most important thing to germinate seeds and grow seedlings, but you don’t really know what you are buying. I am very glad that the new compost has worked the first time with the zinnia seeds, I love it. Too bad you lost 44 trays of future plants! I love that the dahlias have sprouted in their pots in the Greenhouse. The rose bushes are dressed in their beautiful new foliage, I love it. The rhododendron “Christmas Cheer” has pink flowers that I love. Pruning the Cornus is a must now, but they sprout very fast and stronger. Save the pruned branches to have their color and to be able to make shapes with them after soaking them for 48 hours and tie them with natural rope and let them dry for a month: I made small P about 30 cm high and a wide and tall spiral , and then I put them in a little vase and they were adorable. The flower of the Clematis alpina “Constance” is magnificent closed, with a color that I love. Happy gardening. Cathy wish you and the golfer a Happy Easter. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita.

    • Cathy says:

      I have used most of the longer cornus prunings in the sweet pea supports, Margarita, but may keep some of the shorter lengths for a while, for decoration

  6. tonytomeo says:

    Christmas Cheer; did you feature it last week too? I made the same observation that it blooms whenever it wants to. Unfortunately, the blooms melted as fast as they opened. It was a cultivar I could have done without. However, many of our clients really wanted it. I can only imagine that it performed better in their respective climates.

  7. Your compost woes seem all to familiar. I tried to go peat free a couple of years ago and it was a disaster, with all the tomatoes getting blossom end rot. I’m using a John Innes formula one at the moment. I’m glad you managed to sneak in your seventh photo – it’s a lovely looking one.

    • Cathy says:

      There are so many things that could affect compost quality, but better labelling would help. It’s certainly made me realise it’s not worth trying to cut corners when buying it – after all, the whole season depends on it

  8. Pádraig says:

    That’s very definitely the busiest working greenhouse I’ve ever seen! Happy days!

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