Saturday, 2 June 2012

Seedlings, Staking, and Nematodes

Note to self. Pot on all seedlings as soon as possible after a true leaf appears to avoid much fiddly separation and probable horrendous root damage.
Overcooked Nigella seedlings
This batch of seedlings was sown with rather unfortunate timing, in as much as they reached point of needing to be pricked out at about the lowest financial point in the month. With over a hundred of them I didn't have anywhere near enough potting space for them, so they've had to wait until I could afford to buy in a load of plant modules. This is done and they're now sitting taking up about a third of my coldframe... Hopefully this is the sort of situation I'll run into less as A) I build up a stock of equipment big enough to handle this volume of seedlings, and B) I learn the hard way to avoid it!

I've been experimenting with different methods of staking. To the inexperienced eye this does seem at first to be a little bit of a black art, but it quickly becomes apparent that it's one of those things that, on a basic level, isn't that hard, but will probably take a few years of experience to become proficient at. I started out on my first batch of plants with just standard garden canes and twine. This does what's required of it, but isn't very elegant or pretty. Hopefully the foliage on the plants concerned will grow in enough to cover it soon.

Ugly staking on Delphiniums
I've since realised that the large supply of apple tree cut-offs that I've been hoarding for burning on our chimnea could be used for a more natural appearance. I've started experimenting with this by attempting to sort of weave the branches together to form a useful structure. It looks a lot more natural, but only time will tell how functional it actually is.
Emerging Gladioli with apple branch staking

Nasturtiums with an apple branch trellis
Apologies for the poor pictures, but it was drizzling and a combination of wanting to not get too wet, and our neighbours already thinking I'm a bit strange without catching me taking pictures of sticks in the rain, drove me to haste.
The other staking tactic I'm going to take is to start acquiring some nice metal ones that look good in their own right. These seem to be very pricey however, so it will be a gradual accumulation.

The third and final subject I wanted to touch on in this post was a thought that was sparked when reading this post on the Bluebell Cottage Gardens and Nursery Blog that talks about peoples attitudes and approaches to organic gardening, and in particular a section in the comments where someone talked about nematodes.
I wouldn't say that I am an organic gardener as such. I don't use chemical sprays or similar, beyond taking some soapy water to the dreaded aphids, but I do have a very damp garden, and the result of this is slugs. Lots of em. I know Monty advises the use of grit around plants as a slug repellent, but to be quite honest, I can't afford that much grit. I have a lot of time for Monty Don - I thoroughly enjoy his writing and programs, and take a lot of inspiration from his gardening style. He does occasionally, however, recommend techniques that basically amount to throwing money at a situation, and this grit advice is an example.
Anyhow, I digress. My chosen slug solution is iron phosphate pellets. The reading on them I've done suggests that they are a good alternative to the standard ones that don't cause as much collateral damage, and they seem to work for me.
This post has been edited since I first published it because I came to the conclusion that what I'd written was drivel. I originally posited that we we didn't know what the long term effects of using nematodes might be, and that we should treat them with caution as a result. Since then I've done some actual reading up on them (as opposed to voicing a totally uninformed opinion) and I have to say I'm pretty sold on the idea. We do know what they do, we know that they're naturally occurring, and we know that should they fail to find enough slugs to feed on then they'll die back to natural levels. Given the amount of plants I've had ravaged by the slimy menace, I intend to give these a try. The Hostas will grow!