As I pulled up the bathroom blind this morning it was a relief to see all the trees still standing in the wake of Storm Doris. Overall the damage hasn't been too bad. Some roof felt is flapping on the Systems Administrator's summerhouse, but it was due to be re-roofed with corrugated sheets anyway since the SA got fed up with mending it after gales. Some felt has gone on my pot shed as well, which was more of a blow since the pot shed was not scheduled for a new roof this summer. The battens we installed to stop the felt ballooning up and ripping in a gale had snapped in one corner, so they must have rotted. An acrylic pane popped out of the greenhouse roof but did not break and can be slid in again. And that was about it. I feared worse.
I spent the morning processing hedge trimmings between firewood and smaller bits for shredding. Truthfully I'd rather have been doing something that felt more like gardening, but I thought I'd better show my appreciation of the hours the Systems Administrator has put into cutting the hedge rather than appearing to ignore the meadow entirely. Work got off to a slow start since pieces of willow from the far bottom corner of the back garden had got mixed up with everything else in the muddle of branches round the bonfire heap. Willow doesn't go through our rather elderly shredder properly and wraps itself around the insides in long strips instead of emerging as chunky chips of wood ready to be used as mulch around the compost bins. It is possible to tell the difference between willow branches and the rest, hawthorn, hazel, dogwood and field maple when they are all out of leaf, but it is not the easiest thing to do in a hurry. The buds and habit of growth and texture of the bark are all different, but the buds are difficult to see clearly when you are as short sighted and middle aged as I am and wearing distance glasses instead of varifocals.
By lunchtime I'd got half a dozen big bags of chippings and made a pitifully small dent on the trail of branches in the meadow, but I decided that would have to do for the time being. After lunch I set about starting to sow seeds in the greenhouse, after a long preamble moving pots around to make room on the bench for my new propagating cases. Those Fritillaria meleagris that were in full growth were stood outside on the concrete, where I am hoping Mr Cool will defend them from attack by rodents. Some bulbs had gone mouldy in their pots despite my best efforts not to over water them. It is faintly surprising that they are so fussy about their watering regime in pots when you think that in the wild they grow in damp river meadows, but they are.
I rinsed the inside of the heated propagating case, wiped it with kitchen towel and sprayed it with Milton for luck. Mould is one of the big problems when trying to raise plants from seed in a crowded multi-purpose greenhouse. It is disheartening when nothing even comes up while a fuzzy layer of fungus spreads over the surface of the compost. Mind you, sometimes you can see it started on the coats of the seeds themselves. I used to water the seed pots with the copper based fungicide Cheshunt compound, but it was withdrawn a few years ago, and there is nothing now marketed to amateurs to treat pots of seeds. Good hygiene and sparse sowing to avoid overcrowding the seedlings are about the best you can do.
I hope the seed compost will be all right. Seed composts need to be low in nutrients and drain well while simultaneously not drying right out too easily. I bought a new bag of a John Innes type compost last week, and fluffed it with my fingers to break up any lumps while avoiding tamping it down to leave the air in it, but was rather surprised at how much it settled in the pots as soon as I watered it. I am using new pots as well, and only sowing half the packet if there are plenty of seeds in it so I can have another go if the first sowing fails. I enjoy growing things from seed, and it is a great way of getting lots of plants if you need to cover the ground and of obtaining things you won't see offered for sale in most garden centres, but I am more relaxed about it a couple of weeks after sowing when I can see the first tiny shoots emerging and no mass outbreak of mould, and know that the compost was OK and I got the watering right.