I find pansies are such cheerful flowers as they can give us a dash of garden colour in most months of the year. This pot of pensive beauties were part of a project a while back.
I also love the smaller, old fashioned ‘Johnny-jump-up’ violas that retain their wild pansy charm.
With this is mind, this year, pansies have been my first seed sowings of the year. The first ones to go in were the Swiss Giants Mixed – they’re the ones with smiling faces 😉
I sowed these seeds two weeks ago and the seedlings are now pushing through in earnest.
Today, I’ve sown a second set of pansies. These ones are the single colour type with a yellow eye, Clear Crystal Mixed.
I’ve sown my seeds in coir compost again, as I did last year. I’ll do another post to show you this useful addition to my gardening kit, but if you’ve not seen this type of compost before, here is a quick preview of how it starts out –
After some research, I decided that growing some of this pure and natural soap source for myself would be a really good idea as it is ideal for gently hand washing any projects I made in natural wool. Soapwort is so gentle I have read it has even been used to clean the Bayeux Tapestry. At approaching 1000 years old now, obviously they don’t just pop that into the automatic washing machine!
I sowed my Soapwort seeds back in October last year as I’d read that germination would be helped by overwintering them outside. Many seeds are like that – it is called ‘cold stratification’ and helps to trigger the seed into growth. It must have just about been cold enough, despite our relatively mild winter, as one seedling germinated very early in the year. It grew on alone until early April when several more seedlings put in an appearance.
There were about a dozen seedlings eventually, all looking very healthy and they were gradually growing larger. I was feeling pleased with myself at managing to grow another new plant from seed. Then, one morning in late April I went out into the yard to check them, “Aargh! Oh no!” Some were gone altogether. The remains of others were lying forlornly on the top of the compost. I knew instantly. “Slugs!!”
For some reason I had thought that slugs would not have had a taste for Soapwort since it contains saponins – that’s the substance that enables Soapwort to form a lather, just like soap. Evidently I was wrong! I looked around for any shifty-looking slithering culprits foaming at the mouth, but none were to be found!
“Could be worse!” I thought to myself. After all, I still had four and a half seedlings left! I took the precaution of taking the pot of remaining seedlings indoors. This was around the time I had become a convert to air-pruning plant pots, so there was only one thing to do. I set to work making two more air-pruning plant pots, for my remaining Soapwort seedlings. Soapwort can be grown from seed or by division of roots, so I decided to pot up two seedlings into each air-pruning plant pot.
After potting up my remaining Soapwort seedlings into their new air-pruning plant pots I added them to my new plant shelf, alongside my Sweet Pea seedlings in their similar pots. Having discovered that slugs do indeed find Soapwort tasty, my next task was to devise a plan to try and put more distance between the slugs and the little Soapwort plants when I put them back outside in the yard.
My solution has been to crochet a plant hanger in the same green jute yarn I have been using to construct my crochet jute and willow garden screens. I will show you more on my crochet jute plant hanger 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!
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 …. 😉