One Man & his organic plot - Part Three

Our head of Organic Horticulture Chris Collins updates us on his balcony and allotment progress including transplanting young plants, welcoming a family of blue tits, and gorging on fresh salad leaves.
Chris Collins holding young seedlings

Summer is finally here and all of Chris's hard work over the past couple of months has finally paid off...

It’s probably the most stressful month for a gardener in some respects. The buzz of spring is in full flow as April ends and anticipation of the growing season ahead sets in. It really is an exciting time. I was busy seed sowing in the first few months and my rather adventurous nature always leads me to having plenty of plants on the go, from bedding plants to vegetable heritage plants, my flat became full.

It’s when to transplant these young plants out that the dilemma begins, because May can be very unpredictable. It makes very clear sense to me now, why the old boys on the parks always insisted on waiting until the 1st of June for any tender plants to go out. The time came a week or so ago though that I made my move. No longer able to cope with the green jungle forming in my hallway. First up was my balcony area. I’m so lucky to look southwards onto a tree canopy and London’s new river. I am blessed with amazing sunsets as well as great bird life.

I’ve even had the pleasure of a family of blue tits nesting in one of the bird boxes I have installed. They have now fledged and I can’t help feeling a little hurt that they are no longer around. However with a mix of old Roses (Albertine currently I flower), Cannas kindly donated by Ryton, summer bedding plants, heritage beans, tomatoes and peppers the balcony was planted out and already looks fantastic! In the next few weeks it will burst into colour and I will again be in awe of plants and what they can do. This is further emphasised by the fact that all these plants are in containers and hanging baskets. The secret of success is really regular feeds of weak solution of seaweed extract, starting off with SM3 and then changing to SM4 later in the season - the key is little and often. I will also be top dressing a couple of times with comfrey pellet.

The allotment was next and seems to be going ok. I am however away with work often and the horsetail, which I have in abundance takes advantage. I come back to a plot coated in shoots of it and I am then forced into vigorous hoeing in order to get back on top. There is no short cut and I’m in this fight for the first few seasons, I also had a lesson in why it’s important to grow your seedlings in a greenhouse or polytunnel. Growing in the house is ok but low light levels mean the plants become ‘top heavy’ meaning lots of green but far too few roots. They elongate and I could tell this was the case by the length of the intermodal gaps between the leaves. A new greenhouse has been ordered and is on its way, which is fine as it’s something else to get excited about but sadly some of my transplanted plants did not make it.

Never to be down hearted I looked to all the quick crops I have sown as compensation for my few losses. With more than I know what to do with I am now gorging on fresh salads of lettuce and rocket and the fresh spinach lightly steamed in butter is a real taste bud treat. With an array of veg now planted all my hard work is going to be rewarded throughout the summer – providing I hoe off all that horsetail!

Happy Gardening, Chris Collins

Take a look back at the last editions

One Man & his organic plot - Part One

One Man & his organic plot - Part Two