Sowing Sweet Peas

Sowing Sweet Peas

sweetpeasI do like to sow my sweet peas in late autumn so that I can start picking them in June – and if I had enough space I would do another sowing in March to extend the picking season – but it is tricky enough as it is to find room for the autumn plants. Sowing in autumn means that if I do have any germination problems, I can resow. This year, most varieties came up like mustard and cress, but a few have failed so I am having another go.
I have some tips to aid germination.

  • Before you put the seeds in the compost, rub them with sandpaper to gently scuff the hard surface
  • Water lightly once and do not water again until they have germinated or the seeds may rot, especially now that temperatures have dropped
  • Gentle bottom heat will speed up germination
  • Once the seedlings are growing well I move them from the greenhouse to the coldframe and pinch out the growing tips to two sets of leaves. This encourages the plants to grow good strong roots overwinter.

In previous years I have used Root Trainers, sowing one seed per cell, but I do find them quite fiddly, so this year I am sowing each variety in its own long tom pot. I know you are supposed to avoid root disturbance, but as they seldom emerged from the root trainer cells with their rootballs intact, I think it is worth a go.

fresh-sweetpea-shoots
sweetpeas-in-coldframe

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An Autumn Chop ?

An Autumn Chop ?

Back in early September when I was clearing and replanting the woodland part of the garden, I got ruthless with some of the leggy Japanese Anemones and cut them right back. Most had finished flowering anyway and even these toughies were struggling in the low light conditions before I pruned back the lower branches of the trees and shrubs. All the new planting has settled in nicely and to my great surprise some of the anemones have sent up new leaves and flower stems that are about a third of their usual height.  Could this be a technique for getting later and lower flowers?  I’m going to try it again next year and see.anemones

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Foraging Beyond the Garden

Foraging Beyond the Garden

Coinciding nicely with my foraging ventures in the garden, the publishers, Green Books, invited me to a fungay foray in deepest Kent to launch their latest book – Edible Mushrooms by Geoff Dann (a licensed forager). We soon adjusted our ideas of setting off home at the end of the day with baskets laden with cepes and chanterelles when Geoff told us he had scouted the foraging area and there was hardly anything to be found – apparently it is a very late year.
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The foraging took place in ancient woodland where Jack Raven Bushcraft have a camp and teach all manner of outdoor skills. Given the expected dearth of mushrooms, Geoff had put together a collection of fungi he had collected from various locations for us to examine. These ranged from delicious, to edible, to edible if cooked correctly, to inedible, mildly poisonous and downright deadly. Duly cautious, we set off with Geoff, accompanied by Gary from Jack Raven, both of whom proved to be human truffle hounds (although sadly there were no truffles.) Other than a group of parasol mushrooms that had conveniently and visibly colonised the roof of a twig and leaf shelter, practically everything else needed eyes that were attuned to picking them out amongst the leaf litter. The Hen of the Woods would certainly have remained undetected by me.

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A selection of Geoff’s pre-foraged funghi

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Shaggy Parasol mushroom

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Hen of the Woods amongst the leaf litter

When we returned from our walk, Geoff cooked up our finds, together with some of his earlier foraging, in the camp kitchen and the variety of flavours was extraordinary. But given that one particular variety required 15 minutes cooking to make it edible and his warning that many are generally edible but cause a mild allergic reaction in a percentage of the population, I left more cautious than I arrived, which is probably a good thing for me and the environment. The day ended with a slice of a very tasty leek and wild mushroom tart made by Cathy, Geoff’s wife.mushroom
mushroom
I did absorb some fascinating and useful facts. Apparently true chanterelles (delicious and exceedingly edible) smell of apricots while the false chanterelle (poisonous) does not.

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True chanterelle

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False chanterelle is deeper coloured

The yellow stainer looks like a field mushroom, but exudes yellow when wiped or cut and is the most common cause of poisoning by mushrooms in the UK – the good news is that it won’t kill you.

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Yellow Stainer

I don’t remember the name of this inedible fungi – but Geoff showed us how its skin can be used as a plaster. Bit of a case of ‘first find your mushroom’ though.making-a-plaster-from-a-mushroommushroom-plaster-being-modelled
Puffballs are nearly all edible, including one weighing 2 stone that was found recently by a Scottish Woodland Ranger. But should you discover that it has a black interior when you cut it open I doubt you would be tempted to eat it, which is a good thing because it’s actually a common earthball. It has a strong unpleasant smell and is poisonous – even smelling it can cause an allergic reaction.

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Common Earthball

For braver souls than myself, Geoff’s book is an excellent and comprehensive guide to all the edible fungi of Britain and Europe and it is available from www.greenbooks.co.uk for £19.99.
Should you fancy learning some bushcraft skills check out www.jackravenbushcraft.co.uk

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Gardenista

Gardenista

by Daniel Carruthers

garden bookThe new gardening book from the popular website ‘Gardenista’ has hit the shelves in good time for Christmas. Branding itself as the ultimate manual for making your outdoor spaces stylish it’s packed with ideas. No expense has been spared in the production of this book, it’s full of inspirational imagery which has no doubt proved popular on their website. This hardback is the ideal book to have on your coffee table to browse at leisure. Buy it today online at Amazon or better still go to Waterstones !

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