Wednesday April 30th 2008, 4:06 pm

free veg plants I found through freecycle

I’ve got a few friends who are fantastic gardeners. They have years of experience and dedication behind them and they seem to know the right time to plant everything and generally get it all done on time. Their earth is always dug ready for planting, their seeds get sown on time and their seedlings are planted out before they show the slightest signs of stress (plant or human).
Unlike them, my ambitions are always much greater than what I manage to achieve. Last year, my planned tomato terrace of unusual heritage varieties didn’t quite come off. I started them all off from seed, the plants were doing ever so well but just when I needed to pot them on, on to the ‘terrace’, my attention was diverted for a few weeks and that was that. The plants tried their best to flourish in their tiny pots but without divine intervention they didn’t stand a chance.
That is just one example where time and other commitments took precedence over my gardening schedule. Still, it is always better to dwell on the successes rather than the failures isn’t it?. More recently I have been examining my ‘style’ of gardening in order to find other ways around these problems. Of course in the ideal world we would all follow the rules as told by wise old gardeners with knowledge handed down through the generations, or, at the very least, by following those charts with coloured coded ‘sow’, ‘plant out’ and (hopefully) ‘harvest’ bars. There are thousands of gardening books out there spelling out the ideal scenario.
I have mentioned before that I am fast becoming a fan of buying ready grown veg plants when you only need a handful of plants but yesterday I went one better. I belong to my local Freecycle group. For anyone who doesn’t know what Freecycle is, it is a global network, split into local and regional groups, whose main aim is to prevent reusable things from being discarded and sent to landfill. Since I have been a member I have seen caravans, wood burning stoves and even condoms! change hands. It is a great way of recycling stuff, getting rid of things and acquiring other things you didn’t realise you wanted.
Plantstuffs, which don’t really fit into the landfill remit, occasionally come up for grabs, as well as bean poles, peasticks and plant pots. A constant stream of emails all day long can become a little annoying but the advantage of opting for immediate updates is that you can be first to bag a bargain. Yesterday someone was offering a few trays of vegetable plants that were surplus to requirements and I was able to go and collect them straight away.
It seems to me that this is just the most brilliant way to do things, for people to always plant more seeds than they need and then to swap the excess for something else they don’t have time to sow. I know this goes on to some degree already on gardening forums etc and seed exchanging is quite established but I’m sure that with grow your own veg becoming increasingly fashionable combined with the technology we now have at our fingertips, plant swapping makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, I still don’t know where the seed potatoes are going to be planted and the clock is ticking.

Roland - my gardening helper

Thursday March 27th 2008, 5:16 pm

rasberry canes waiting to be planted

Today is positively spring like. It really feels like the first day of spring and for me that means getting a washload of laundry underway and pinned out on the line to dry in the fresh air. Of course my optimism could be short lived but at least for the moment life has a uplifting vibe.
My bed is surrounded by gardening books and bits of paper detailing my horticultural hopes for the season ahead. I am always way too ambitious but at least in March anything seems possible. The four edged beds, they can hardly be called ‘raised’, that I made last year are in pretty good shape; dug over, weed free and raring to go with any freshly-dug bare earth covered with hessian coffee sacks to keep them safe from marauding cats.
The globe artichokes which were planted last year are looking very lush (I think I was supposed to have cut them down to the ground over the winter but I forgot) and the rhubarb (Glaskins Perpetual – I chose that variety just for the name) is also looking very promising.

Globe artichokes

I have a few more new beds to dig, nowhere for my chitting potatoes to be planted and rasberry canes that need to go in somewhere. Gardening can be another of lifes big pressures if you don’t approach it right and it can cost a fortune as well. I don’t have a greenhouse and with limited windowsill space in the house I am trying to be realistic. I’ve still got lots of viable seeds from last year that I will be using up this year but I don’t need acres of tomatoes, just a handful of plants and likewise with other vegetables. So why do I think I have to grow everything from scratch?
Last year when I had not got round to planting something on time or else my carefully nutured seedlings disappeared overnight when the slugs had a snack attack, I started looking for ready-grown plants to buy. Mail order veg plants, ready to go in, is an increasingly growing business and you can now have a whole vegetable plot delivered to your door based on square metreage.
This trend is becoming apparent on ebay too and I feel sure this is likely to be a real boom area. I wouldn’t feel comfortable buying in my whole garden like that but I have been finding some really great things on ebay to help lighten the load. So far this year I have bought in a great selection of raspberries from Blacklands Plants and they arrived in the post in excellent condtion, have pre-ordered 5 organic tomato plants each one a different variety from helenchenplants who is growing some really interesting varieties of tomatoes, chillies and aubergines, and found unusual beetroot seed, burpees golden and chioggia, from Pelican Seeds. Last year I bought in leeks, sprouting broccoli and cavola nero plants on ebay because it was too late to plant from seed and they are all still doing very nicely. This is definitely the way to go.

Beau enjoying the spring sunshine