When I sowed my Sweet Peas in their upcycled air-pruning plant pots, way back in April this year, I wasn’t sure how well my plants would grow. I’d never experimented with air-pruning plant pots before so this was a whole new experience for me.
Despite being in somewhat smaller pots than would normally be used, the Sweet Pea plants I’d hung on my yard gate have still grown to their full height – the fully grown plants are now 175cm (69″) tall. The Sweet Peas are supported on one of the willow and jute garden screens I’d designed and created for this purpose. This project was part of my idea to expand the growing space in my back yard by vertical gardening.
I have been watching closely as the flowers have been developing on the Sweet Peas. This week I am very happy to report that my first of my Sweet Pea plants has revealed its first beautiful pink blooms 🙂
Looking at the other plants along the yard gate that are now budding, we have some creamy white flowers and some deep crimson flowers, so with the pink flowers too, that’s going to be a lovely range of colours growing together.
The crochet jute and willow garden screen that I have been creating as a support for my Sweet Pea plants is now complete.
This second part of the willow screen I have made just like the first one, using two rows of crochet green jute yarn to bind the willow rods together.
I needed to make this part of the willow screen a bit shorter than the first one because this one is to go on the back of my yard gate. I wasn’t too sure how this part of the garden screen was going to work out when I came to fix the screen in situ. This part of the experiment was going to be interesting … discovering whether my plan would go exactly according to plan!
My wood-crafting son helped me out with the hand-hewn batten I wanted, to hold the willow screen for the gate in place. The batten is made from a short length of sycamore branch that we happened to have lying around. After sawing it to length, we removed the bark and my son deftly axed it into shape so that it could be easily screwed onto the back of the gate. I love the smooth, pale grain of sycamore. Next, I pre-drilled holes in the appropriate places after I’d checked precisely where the batten was going to fit onto the gate and I partly inserted the screws ready to attach it.
To fix this second piece of my willow garden screen in place, I first tacked the lower row of jute crochet to the top of the gate using small fencing staples. I then loosely attached the batten at each end whilst I reorganised some of the willow rods that I found had slipped out of place.
When I was happy with the position of the basic frame, I then began weaving some thinner willow rods across the garden screen. I worked in a random fashion, just as I had done with the first part of the screen. I was aiming for the garden screen to still allow a lot of light through it so that the light would continue to reach the numerous other trees and plants in my yard. Even though the willow weavers are very thin, they do provide a reasonably sturdy structure on which my Sweet Pea plants can grow.
I made sure there was a slightly stouter rod at each end of the willow screen to provide stability. I had wondered about the overall stability of the willow screen in windy conditions, as I mentioned in a previous post on this project, but the first part of my garden screen has been in place for a couple of weeks now and has survived some moderate winds … so far so good!
Now it was time to attach the air-pruning plant pots with their cargoes of Sweet Pea plants onto the willow garden screen. I had experimented with one plant pot a couple of days ago on the first part of the willow screen and my design plan seems to be holding up well, so I set to work attaching the other five plant pots.
As I had anticipated, the handles of my upcycled milk carton air-pruning plant pots came in very useful at this stage. I tied the plant pots firmly in place, making sure they couldn’t slip out of position as this could potentially damage the growing plants.
For the three plant pots near my wall, I used the string loop I’d added to each plant pot for this purpose. I’d initially thought I might just stand the Sweet Pea plant pots on top of the plant buckets into which I’d inserted the willow rods of the garden screen, along behind my yard wall. But some tell-tale slug trails nearby suggested it may be a good idea to tie the pots a little higher – hopefully out of temptation’s way! The recent experience of slugs and Soapwort is still fresh in my mind!
To secure the Sweet Pea plant pots to the back of my gate, I decided to use my new firmly fixed sycamore batten. Again I made use of the handles of the recycled milk carton plant pots when attaching the string.
When I had all of the Sweet Pea plant pots in place, my final task was to carefully arrange the growing plants, weaving the stems in and out of the willow screen where I am hoping they will continue to grow and flourish. Perhaps before too much longer I will be able to post about my first Sweet Pea flowers – I do hope so!
In recent weeks I have been creating a crochet jute and willow garden screen on which to train my rapidly developing Sweet Pea plants (in their upcycled air-pruning plant pots that I’ve been sharing with you lately). This garden screen project is part of a bigger plan I have to make more use of vertical space in my very small back yard.
In a previous post I was showing you the initial framework for the larger of the two pieces of garden screen I am in the process of constructing. This crochet jute and willow rod garden screen is very much an experiment-in-progress as I ponder and deliberate on how to approach the next stage.
This week I took the chance of a particularly warm and sunny afternoon to begin the task of setting up the completed first section of the willow garden screen. I think the sunshine was beginning to make me impatient to see how the next stage of this project would work out!
My initial plan had been to create a made-to-measure trough from small logs in which to ‘plant’ the base of this section of the garden screen. However, since I have not yet found time to construct the wooden trough, I decided to simply ‘plant’ the upright rods of the willow screen into the plant buckets I already have in situ in that area of my back yard. These buckets are currently taking good care of some willow cuttings that I took earlier in the year.
In its preliminary stage of construction my large section of willow screen was easily gathered up into a bundle … deliberately, so it was possible to manoeuvre it into my back yard! I’d taken care to measure the space I had available to fill and I am pleased to say the jute crochet allowed the willow rods to stretch out just enough to fill it exactly. I carefully pushed the butts of some of the thicker willow rods into place, deep into the plant buckets. And … Hey Presto! … my crochet jute and willow garden screen stood proudly in its new place!
I was pleased to notice that the height at which I’d trimmed off the willow rods made the screen just the height I was hoping to achieve in relation to my neighbour’s fence. It might have been fun to have the tallest fence in the neighbourhood, but perhaps not if I wanted it to remain stable as a plant support 😉
The next job was to begin weaving in the much thinner willow rods across the garden screen to create an open lattice-work around which the Sweet Peas could wind their tendrils. I worked the thin weavers through between the rods, very much in a random fashion, as I had planned. My intention was to still allow as much light as possible to reach my yard, especially for the benefit of my other plants.
When I had finished weaving the thin weavers into the main framework of the willow screen I found the screen was already quite stable. However, I decided to add some strengthening rods at either end of the screen, as my son had suggested, to give even more stability in the windy weather we often experience here on our northern hillside. The hazel strengthening rod is simply tied onto the end of the crochet jute and willow construction with string and also held in place by a fencing staple in the top of the gatepost.
It was very pleasant working outdoors in the Spring sunshine and I must say I was very satisfied with my willow screen handiwork. Now I need to work on the other section of my willow garden screen and that will fit across the back of my yard gate … hopefully!
In the process of making my milk carton plant pots I’d cut off a scoop shape from the top of each carton. I discovered one of these mini plastic scoops made an ideal assistant for filling the plant pots with compost. I filled the pots quite close to the top with compost but left enough space to accommodate sufficient watering.
I generally plant seeds into ready-watered compost, so the next job was to carefully water the compost in the fabric grow-bag. As I was adding the water, I was also watching to see how the water soaked through the compost and out into the fabric grow-bag. When I’d prepared the air-pruning plant pots I hadn’t made drainage holes in the base of the pots as I felt there was plenty of opportunity for evaporation through the sides of these smaller-sized air-pruning pots. I’d left about 2.5cm /1 inch intact around the bottom of the plant pots too, to catch the water if I did happen to water them too enthusiastically!
Now it was time to sow the Sweet Pea seeds. Sweet Pea seeds are quite large, as seeds go, so for this task I used my ‘old pen’ dibber to make the holes in the compost about 1.5cm / half inch deep. I decided to sow two Sweet Peas in each pot. Then after sowing the seeds I used the dibber to cover them over with compost before adding a final drop of water to help the seeds on their way.
And that was the seed-sowing done. The only remaining task I had was finding a suitable indoor home for my plant pots … time to build a new shelf …
I’m pleased to say that all of the Sweet Peas have now germinated and the seedlings are looking healthy.
The next stage was to create some breathable fabric grow-bags to fit into the air-pruning plant pots … the whole idea is to allow air to reach the plant’s roots. In the video where I originally saw the air-pruning idea, they had made use of recycled woven polypropylene shopping bags. As with the containers, I needed something much smaller. And, as before too, I really wanted to use upcycled materials.
My solution for this part of the project was to use some of my sons’ old and worn jogging pants from my upcycling ragbag. The legs of these old cotton pants were just the thing to fit in my air-pruning plant pots.
I measured and cut off the required length, using one of the prepared milk cartons as a guide. This gave me a fabric tube which I closed at one end by simply tying a piece of cotton string around it. And that was it done! I had one simple and upcycled grow-bag ready to insert into its air-pruning plant pot.
In order to maximise the use of the jogging pant material I had available, I did resort to a little bit of sewing to create some of the tubes, but they all ended up roughly the same shape and size. The fabric grow-bags were then carefully inserted into each of the air-pruning plant pots.
I had made the tubes long enough so that they would amply overlap the top of the plant pots. My thinking here was that this would prevent the grow-bag from sinking down inside of the pot. To assist further with securing the grow-bags in position I made two small holes in the overlapping part of the grow-bag at either side of the milk carton’s handle using my stitch ripper.
I took another piece of string and threaded this as a doubled length through one hole, behind the carton handle and back out through the second hole. I removed the yarn needle and tied the ends of the string together firmly in a knot. I then created a string loop by threading the knot back through the loop at the other side of the handle to finish it off. As well as helping to secure the grow-bag in place, I thought the string loop might be useful when it comes to fixing the plant pot in place in my back yard.
My upcycled air-pruning plant pots are now fitted with their upcycled grow-bags and ready to be filled with compost. I’ll show you more on my air-pruning plant pots project very soon.
I was so inspired by the air-pruning video I shared with you a few days ago that I immediately decided to try out this seemingly magic method of improving plant growth. I already had imminent plans for sowing some Sweet Pea seeds as I am planning on training several Sweet Pea plants to grow up and through the crochet jute and willow garden screen that I have also been working on recently. The willow garden screen project is my experimental version of location-specific vertical gardening.
As my back yard is only very small I needed to develop some air-pruning pots that would be more size-appropriate than the 5 gallon buckets they used in the video. But I also wanted some containers that would reasonably accommodate the Sweet Pea plants. I have grown Sweet Peas in my yard in the past using moderately-sized containers and with a bit of care they successfully reached their full six-foot height.
A further consideration was that I need to be able to attach some of the plant pots to the back of my yard gate, so lightweight containers with ‘attach-ability’ were additional factors to bear in mind. And, as I frequently do, my preference was to use upcycled materials for this project too.
The solution to my air-pruning plant container conundrum is … four-pint milk cartons! These milk cartons satisfy all of my requirements – lightweight, with built-in handles for ‘attach-ability’, moderately-sized and easily re-designed for their new purpose … and upcycled.
Fortunately, I had a number of these milk cartons readily available as I had saved them ‘just-in-case-I-need-some’ – I’ve made milk cartons into standard-type plant pots on previous occasions. But this time my design plan was rather different.
I began by making a large planting hole at the top of each carton by cutting around the original milk carton’s opening. You can see I have cut high above the carton handle to leave the whole handle intact. Around the sides and front of the carton I dipped down a little lower with the scissors to make a reasonably-sized opening to give accessibility.
Next I pondered on the best way to ventilate the sides of the cartons to provide the air-pruning effect. The air-pruning video showed circles cut out of the sides of the 5 gallon drums. I emulated this on the first carton, cutting out relatively large holes all around it.
However, I then wondered if different shaped holes would be more or less effective at air-pruning. To test out my curiosity, I have decided to make different shaped holes in some of the cartons. Two cartons have circles, two have wide vertically-oriented ovals and the remaining two have a series of narrower vertical vents. It will be interesting to see if the different-shaped vents in the containers make any difference to the plant growth.
Watch out soon for Part 2 of my upcycled air-pruning plant pots project in which I will show you how I made the fabric grow-bags to fit inside the pots.
I have made good progess this week with the willow garden screen project that I talked about in a previous post. The first section of this crochet jute and willow rod screen is now complete.
I have used two rows of crochet jute as the main binding to hold the screen together. I’m planning on adding some additional materials when I fix the screen into its required position. These will be woven into the main jute and willow framework. I have some interesting pieces of Scots Pine cuttings and some thinner willow weavings that I will use to add some interest and texture to the screen whilst I’m waiting for my Sweet Pea plants to grow.
I have designed the willow screen so that it has plenty of spaces for light and air to pass through it. One of my sons raised the issue of stability in the stronger winds we are experiencing in recent years. I am hopeful that the flexibility of the willow will be beneficial in this regard but I have also considered adding some hazel rods to assist with stability, particularly perhaps as the Sweet Pea plants grow larger. This crochet and willow garden screen project is very much an experiment-in-progress so I shall be learning from the ongoing experience.
This week I have discovered another new and exciting experiment to add further interest to my jute and willow screen project. It is a new-to-me concept that certainly appears to improve the growth of all kinds of plants from pine trees to sweetcorn! I will be trialling this new idea for my Sweet Peas plants and hope it will help them produce a bumper crop of flowers. You can expect to hear more about this plant magic very soon!
As part of my plan for continuous salad leaves across the Spring and Summer, I sowed another batch of mixed leaves (lettuces and Rocket) last weekend. The “Speedy” Rocket seeds are certainly living up to their name as they’ve germinated within just three days. My tray of salad leaves seed is on a sunny window ledge alongside two trays of potted-up Parsley seedlings and a large pot of newly sown Sage. The Parsley seedlings are now beginning to grow their first proper leaves.
Out in the back yard my ‘wild’ leaves are growing on well too. The Garlic Mustard seedlings that self-sow in the large daffodil pot are also growing their first proper leaves now. There are definitely quite a few more of these plants this year which is good because Garlic Mustard is such a tasty salad leaf. The leaves are best picked when they’re still quite soft as the older leaves become slightly bitter and rather more ‘cabbagey’ in texture.
My other back yard ‘wild’ salad leaf is the Bitter Cress which is now growing steadily – we’ve had a few tasty leaves off some of these plants already. This plant is happy to grow just about anywhere, including this one sprouting out of my doorstep!
I was delighted to see a few more of my Soapwort seeds are now growing into healthy seedlings. These seeds were sown last Autumn as they need to overwinter outside before they will germinate. I’ve had one seedling (the larger one) for several weeks now but I was glad to see last weekend that it has been joined by a few others. My plan is to establish a supply of Soapwort to harvest for use as a natural soap. I will have to see how this works out … and I shall let you know!
Other successes I’ve noticed this week are some of the cuttings I took what seems a long time ago, back in early February. While I was giving my Lavender plants their late Winter prune I saved some of the green leafy shoots. Although it wasn’t the normal time for Lavender cuttings, I thought I’d try some in gritty compost in a (recycled!) poly bag cover on my ‘warm’ kitchen window ledge, just to see if they would root.
I was pleased to discover this week that at least a couple of them had indeed rooted. One plant was already forming a mini flower spike! I’ve now removed the Lavenders from their protective poly bag environment so they can begin to acclimatise to normal conditions before they go out into the back yard in the early Summer. I’ve also pinched out the growing tips to encourage more lateral buds to develop.
One of my ‘rescued’ plants, a Common Mallow cutting, is also showing signs of new growth, so I am hopeful that this rather sad-looking specimen will gradually develop into a green-leaved plant from its present brown stick-like appearance!
To grow even more things in my very small back yard I am now looking at vertical gardening to expand my growing space. I have seen some interesting versions of planting in vertical space but I’ve decided to go for my own personal twist on this concept.
One of the first problems I needed to solve is that I want to be able to take advantage of some vertical space that at present is completely open, above a small brick wall and a low-level gate. I’m not looking to create a permanent feature as I want to see how using this vertical space will impact on light levels for other plants I have growing in the yard.
I am keen to keep the screen structure quite natural-looking and not overly dense to allow light through as well as incorporating natural materials. At present I am designing two jute and willow screens which combine crochet and some simple willow weaving.
My idea is to attach one screen to extend above the current height of the gate using hand-hewn wooden slats. The other screen will be taller, at approximately 1.8 metres, and will be planted into a narrow slatted wooden trough (also yet to be constructed!) that will extend along behind the low brick wall. The initial idea is not for the willow rods to actually root in the trough though it is possible this may happen if the rods are still green when I set up the screen. (I already have a few pots of willow growing from cuttings I took a couple of months ago.)
… and what will I grow here? I’d pondered on beans or peas but, as this is a roadside and the plants will mainly be growing on the outside of my yard, I’m not keen on that idea. I’ve decided to try for a good showing of sweet peas. I love these flowers, especially the old fashioned scented ones.
So far I have begun to crochet the willow rods together and I really like the way it looks … I will report back as I make further progress 🙂
There’s always something magical I think about seeing tiny seedlings sprouting through the earth in Spring, whether they’re out ‘in the wild’ or if they’re just regular domesticated seedlings I’ve sown myself.
My first sowing for this year was a tray of mixed salad leaves that I started off early in February. I grow most of my ‘eating’ leaves on a sunny east-facing window ledge so they can get plenty of daylight … without the having to compete with my slimy mollusc friends who frequent my back yard! This first sowing of leaves is now just about large enough to begin picking.
I find it very convenient to have fresh salad leaves to hand so I tend to choose the cut-and-come-again varieties. Another thing I do is to make regular sowings to provide an ongoing supply. My second sowings went in early in March and are showing good progress already. Our recent prolonged spell of Spring sunshine has certainly helped them on their way. These leaves are another variety of lettuce and my first sowing of rocket of this year. I like to add rocket and some wild leaves usually too to my salads to give a bit of extra flavour and bite.
As well as salad leaves I also like to grow a few fresh herbs. My mint cutting is still thriving as it sets down its new roots in its new ‘big’ pot – it looked a bit lost when I first planted it out, but it is beginning to spread out now, as mint likes to do. And this weekend I was delighted to see my first parsley seedling hook its tiny pale crook through the compost and open its seed leaves to the light. Now it has been joined by a number of others too.
I sowed the parsley in early March at the same time as the lettuce and rocket, though the parsley has been residing on a different window ledge that has the benefit of sunlight from above and a central heating radiator below. This is my special seed-sprouting and cutting-generating window ledge for those plants that need a greater level of warmth to work their magic.
In my back yard, my self-seeding wild salad leaves are making progress – garlic mustard and bitter cress. Both of these wild plants grow easily I find. The bitter cress arrived of its own accord and is happy to make a home in any of the pots where I allow it to. I originally harvested some local wild seed for my garlic mustard and it has continued to self-seed each year since. I also have two tiny plants of wood sorrel that emerged from some mud cleaned from walking boots! I am hoping they will grow on – perhaps a little rich leaf mould will help them on their way – I shall try.
My next sowing will be some more thyme as that’s another herb I find extremely useful. More time would be good too … I wonder if I can find some seeds in a catalogue for that …. 😉