Thursday, 20 October 2016

going under cover

I was going to start planting the small pots of seed raised knapweed and mallow in the lawn, now there's been some rain to soften the ground.  Unfortunately it kept on raining, not a proper steady downpour that would soak into the soil, which I'm sure is still dry a few inches under the surface, just a series of annoying showers each time I'd got my tools out, enough to make everything damp including my kneeling mat, my knees and my gloves.  I gave up on that plan and decided to start moving the pots of tender things into the greenhouse instead.

Frost isn't forecast within the next week, but when it does turn cold night temperatures could drop suddenly, and it takes a while to stow everything away neatly, while in the meantime the bursts of rain are making the pots randomly wet.  I need to try and make sure when I fill the greenhouse that anything prone to botrytis has as much air moving around it as possible, that plants with fragile branches don't end up next to the narrow path that's all that will be left for access by the time I've finished, and that I can reach all pots needing regular checking and watering while pots that have to be kept dry are put where they won't get accidentally watered.  I've never yet got it entirely right.

So this year the pelargoniums are going up on the staging as last year they got a bit damp and mouldy down on the floor, while the fuchsias are going in the corner furthest from the entrance instead of right by the door where they were last year.  Fuchsia branches have a heart rending habit of ripping off, taking a long strip of bark with them, if you so much as brush into them.  There is not going to be room for everything, I feel this in my bones before I even start, looking at the space and the quantity of pots scattered around the front and back garden.

In order to fit as much in as possible I have been clearing the jumble of oddments from the little shelf above the main staging.  In summer it gets too hot for practically everything, apart from a prickly pear I grew from seed years ago and which lives up on the shelf so that it can't spike me or the cats.  This year I remembered to water and feed it and it made some new growth, sprouting a couple of fresh green new segments.  The old pads are brown and gnarly with age and the attempts of some daredevil snails to graze on them, and I would not say it was a thing of beauty, but I am fond of it.  Once I have chucked out the rubbish from the shelf and condensed the useful things down into one little section above the potting tray I should be able to fit some of the vast collection of Puya up there.  My garden club is holding a plant stall next May, and I hope somebody would like to buy an industrial quantity of Puya plants, because I hate the idea of throwing them away but overwintering them becomes more of a struggle each time they need repotting.

Every geranium root ball is being checked for root aphid as I stack them away, and as a radical step I have thrown away some infected mature plants if I've got clean rooted cuttings of the same variety.  This is partly to save my pitiful last supplies of Provado drench for serious cases, like the dwarf pomegranates which are years old and can't be renewed from cuttings in one season, and partly because I know I'm going to be short of space as it is.  I wish the RHS would hurry up and reply to my email, since I'd have liked to have a root aphid strategy planned out before starting to load the greenhouse.

I borrowed the Systems Administrator's dinky new little four wheel garden truck to move the pots since the SA was out.  It was bought specifically for hauling wood, and the SA was very clear that it should not be left full of other stuff if I used it for anything else.  In fact, the suggestion that if I found it useful I might like to buy one of my own has been made a couple of times.  It did still have some geraniums in it by the time the SA got home, but the SA was magnanimous about them, saying they could stay there until the morning.  It gets dark so early now.

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