A wintery day at The Garden House, Brighton January 28 2015
Due to the torrential rain, 2 out of 3 of today’s tasks took place indoors. We took some more hardwood cuttings, made bird feeders and sorted some seeds ready to swap at Seedy Sunday.
It’s the time of year to take cuttings of dormant hardwood shrubs including things like figs, roses and gooseberries. Today was the turn of the fuchsia, pictured above. We took cuttings about 30cm long, cutting just below the node at the bottom and just above the node at the top. The nodes are where all the hormones are stored, so this is where the energy for growth comes from. Using sharp secateurs, we snipped the bottom flat and the top on a slant. As well as helping identify which way up to plant the cutting (after we’ve popped it down on the table for a second and forgotten) it means that the flat bottom can be abrased a bit, helping open more surface area to potentially produce roots. The slanted top allows rainwater to slide off the cutting, rather than gathering on top and becoming all damp.
The soil we used was a mixture of half compost and half fine grit, mixed together and put into tall square pots. We fit four cuttings to a pot, each one placed in the corner to allow maximum space for their roots to grow. In about a year and half they’ll be ready to be planted out. We’ll know when they reach this point as the roots will start to show coming out of the bottom of the pot.
It’s a tough time for the birds in the garden at the moment. With slim pickings as far as food goes, it’s time for us humans to step in and provide some things for them to eat. We made bird feeders by hollowing out orange halves, attaching string to them and filling them with a mixture of nuts, seeds and lard. A very simple and attractive way to do our bit for wildlife this winter (NB, if you make these, they will feed the squirrels in your garden too, whether you like it or not). For an alternative to try at home, check out Messyla’s bird cake recipe for a very stylish version made of leftover bits and pieces.
The third task was preparing seed packets for Seedy Sunday, with seeds harvested back in the Autumn. Oh my, do you know how much I love sorting seeds? Just the thought that human people have been carrying out this activity for thousands of years fills me with so much happiness. Members of families and communities sitting together round a fire through the winter sorting out the seeds ready for the coming Spring, growing food to sustain themselves and in their own way maintaining the diversity of plants that makes our planet such a wonderful place to live. Now, I don’t think any of us in the Wednesday gardening club are necessarily saving seeds to aid our survival, but it’s good to know we are doing our bit to encourage the diversity of foodstuffs. Did you know that out of 50,000 known edible plant species, just 15 variants provide 90% of the world’s food crops*? As climate change threatens to alter our environment with effects that none of us can yet comprehend, it’s important to have access to as wide a variety of crops and plants as possible in case any of these staple crops fall victim to pests and diseases that we have no way of eradicating.
Seed sorting is such an enjoyable way to spend some time and between us we sorted thousands of seeds this afternoon as we sat in the garden house chatting and learning. We used a variety of different packets; a) Seedy Sunday packets which you can pick up from Infinity Foods, b) specially designed Garden House packets and c) a few of the What You Sow printable seed packets that we stuck together with washi tape and double sided tape.
We packaged a selection of seeds; poppies, cornflowers, stocks, and some more unusual flower varieties; tagetes cinnabar (a type of marigold), mina lobata (Spanish flag) and lunnaria annua (annual honesty). It was fabulous.
Seedy Sunday is the UK’s largest seed swap and takes place this Sunday at Brighton Dome and Corn Exchange. If you haven’t been before and aren't sure what to expect, I shared 12 tips for first time visitors on the blog earlier in the week. You can swap your own seeds that you’ve collected or pay a 50p donation per packet. There’s also a comprehensive programme of talks and loads of gardening themed organisations wanting to talk to you about gardening themed activities. Hope to see you there!
*It’s true. It’s on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staple_food
Seedy Sunday: http://www.seedysunday.org/
Printable Seed packets: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0445/2673/files/What_You_Sow_printable_seed_packets.pdf?715
Seed Saving ideas on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/whatyousow/seed-saving/
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