Cheering Up My Monday – My Virtual Garden

It’s great to look back on and I sometimes check up on myself with great satisfaction. But, as with many paper records, some day it’ll get lost or damaged.

I’m adding some new tulips to my two online virtual gardens:

  1. The Garden Tags app @gardentags
  2. Royal Horticultural Society

Both sites keep track of all my plants and they fire out timely reminders of maintenance tasks to be attended to. Thanks to both, I never miss a trick.

The three varieties uploaded are Yokohama, Purissima and Orange Emperor. Actual planting to be completed soon. Of course, I do keep a paper record of things, plants I’ve bought, seed lists, what goes where, daily tasks to be done or completed, and so on. It’s great to look back on and I sometimes check up on myself with great satisfaction. But, as with many paper records, some day it’ll get lost or damaged. I suppose it’s good to have the best of both, paper and digital. In any event, it’s the same garden, same beauty, same work & enjoyment.


21st September 2020.

Cheering Up My Monday #5

It’s Monday again, so time for some cheering up. The good thing is that I’m easily cheered up. It only takes one or two little things. In particular, noticing the little things around the garden while my porridge is undergoing microwave-therapy is enough to get my week off to a good start.

But first, by way of housekeeping, I’m noticing that by reading a wide variety of garden blogs I’m loving all the ideas that come my way, so thank you all for sharing your garden world. Recently, I came across a lovely cycling blog where the author wriites a very short bit after the article along the lines of “Paraig is the author of Petals by Paraig”. He does this at the end of each post, but the interesting thing is that he then adds a sentence that links in with the post. This sentence changes for every post. I’m going to try it. If you like, just jump to the end, but don’t forget to return up here. As the weeks and months pass by it is very likely that I’ll have summarised myself so much that I’ll know everything there is to know about ME!

In recent months, I’ve begun collecting three unusual household items. Yes, many of us are collectors. We can be heard saying “Gosh, that would be great in the garden!”, or on the other side of the coin, “Don’t ask me why. It’s for the GARDEN!” In my case, the comments in my household have veered towards the latter.

Let me explain my little idiosyncrasy. We light a stove here from mid-October until April. We burn turf, timber and sometimes coal together with documents that need to disappear. I’m the ash cleaner and fire-manager. I had been disposing of this ash in the rubbish (ok, garbage) bin, but realised I was throwing out a valuable soil enricher. Subsequently, I’ve added two other ingredients to the mix: used tea-bags and eggshells. Ours is a big tea-house, and our egg-quota for any given week is almost a dozen. Now and then a small amount of other items are added as they come to hand, for example small twigs, dead-headed pansies and useless Crystal Palace FC match reports, shredded for effect. These items add texture to the fine fire dust.

On a daily basis, this mix is stored in a large container in the shed. Back in early November, as soon as I’d collected a decent amount of all three, I set to work, churning up this mix with used peat moss, and a small amount of sand/gravel. The result was amazing. November was a good time to do this because the vegetable patch was emptying, so I loosened the soil, added generous quantities of this household-waste mix and worked it in. Now, there’s another load ready.

I do have some questions, however, and perhaps it’s a bit late to ask. Has anyone tried this or something similar? Is there any disadvantage to doing this? Are there any other ingredients that might make the recipe better? I did think about the hygiene implications of storing eggshells but soon overcome any phobias by ensuring that they are reasonably clean (I love my boiled egg, and am thorough in getting out the last little bits) and then store them by crushing them gently before mixing with the previous day’s fire ash. If anyone has further light to shed on this strange activity, please share in comments.

Last autumn I had built some HOTELS for beneficial insects, and now this soil-enricher really is going to make a further big difference during the year ahead. Let the growing season begin!

Finally, I’m trying to come up with a name for this unusual mix. As yet, I’m at a loss, but there’s no rush. Any little hints from readers will be safely stored on the back-burner for later consideration.

For the record here are the ingredients;

  • fire ash
  • tea-bags
  • eggshells
  • potting compost
  • used compost
  • sand/gravel
  • other small bits and pieces as available, just to keep the original recipe fresh and ever-so-slightly-changing

Happy gardening,

About the author: Páraig is the author of Petals by Paraig. He is sometimes noted for unusual hoarding habits and recently has taken to collecting eggshells and teabags. Paraig is a lifelong Crystal Palace fan. Twitter and Instagram @petalsbyparaig

Alyssum: Easy Seed Saving

I love growing from seed. So do many people. Browsing the garden centre, supermarket or catalogues for brightly-coloured seed packets is good fun, and even greater fun when the seeds actually germinate and grow fully.
This week, following some good advice on Garden Tags (my mobile app for updating my garden and sharing stories with other keen growers), I started the process of saving seeds from plants already in place. I started with Alyssum “Golden Ball” and it was thrilling. I had noticed that the seedheads were just ready. Flowering had finished about three weeks ago, and the beautiful brown seeds would surely scatter in the wind within a short while. They looked very much like linseed that I put on my Flahavan’s porridge for breakfast.
What you need:
  • large container
  • scissors
  • small container or envelope
These seeds are so easy to save. I cut large clumps from the plant, and in the process gave it a good “haircut”. This in  itself is necessary to prepare the plant for winter and better flowering next year. I held the clumps upside-down over a plastic bucket, and shook them vigorously. Lo and begold, the seeds fell and with them only a little chaff. Alternatively, it works well if you put them into a lettuce leaf “dryer”, and twist for 30 seconds. The seeds will fall through the grill, but the rest will not. After about ten minutes sifting out, I was left with only good ripe seed. I did need to remove some seeds that were not fully ripe, but the task was easy as most were just right. I have stored them in a small sealed plastic container, and will be planting them after Christmas in the propagator.
This was used for screws & nails; now it’s for seeds
By my reckoning I’ve got about 200 seeds from one plant. I’ll likely grow them on and will only be able to keep five or ten in my small garden. What will I do with the rest? I’m a member of a seed-swap group, so I’ll be on the look out for members who have seeds that I’d like to get. It’s a win-win situation.
I’d be happy to share these seeds in return for a chicken or even a few heads of broccoli. Better still, I’d opt for a nice plant (seeds or cuttings) from someone’s garden Or, I’d be happy to grow a dozen for someone who would appreciate them. Cost will be just what it costs me for a bit of compost and pots, labels & tlc. No online ordering system in place, coz the banks would pluck most of the profits, so anyone who wants these plants, just get in touch. For me the fun is in the challenge of growing seeds. I’m not looking to be rich in the process. Not rich in money, but definitely rich in therapeutic satisfaction.

What else can be saved from seed now? Lots of plants really. I’m trying wallflower, aubretia, marigold and sweet pea. Happy seed-saving if you decide to try. And if you’re an ultra-keen gardener do take a look at the Garden Tags app.

Pádraig, 28th September 2016.