Saturday, 24 April 2010


A fortnight ago I bought a mini greenhouse (£17 from Asda) which kick started my return to gardening after a long cold winter. I was on holiday and the weather was warm and sunny - perfect conditions for pottering around in our back yard.

I dug out my collection of seeds but had to bin most of them as they were seriously out of date. So it was down to the Riverside Garden Centre and back to Asda to replenish my stock. I used the River Cottage's Veg Patch Handbook to guide me to the best varieties, but also came across a number of seeds specifically designed for containers.

We don't have a big garden. If I discount the narrow strip between the rear extension and the wall between the houses (which is too shady for most plants) then we're left with an area measuring roughly 15 feet square. Two thirds of this is concreted over, with a raised rockery taking up the remaining third. My dream is to dig the whole garden up and start again but, in the meantime I rely on containers.

Once Alan had erected the greenhouse I soon filled it with dozens of pots sown with my new seeds. There were four kinds of tomatoes (Super Marmande, Balconi Red, Tumbling Tom Red and Harbinger), dwarf broad beans (The Sutton), peas (Hurst Green Shaft), runner beans (Polestar), squash (Cobnut), salad leaves, aubergine (Orlando), courgette (Firenze), chili pepper (Prairie Fire), basil (Italiano Classico), Thai basil, flatleaf parsley, coriander, sunflowers (Giant Single) and butterfly flowers. Then I sowed nastursiums (Jewel Mixed), calendula (Art Shades Mixed), beet (Cardeal) and borage in outside pots. I sowed more peas (ordinary ones meant for cooking) in a window pots to be eaten at shoot stage. In a large pot I planted our first lot of salad potatoes (Vales Emerald). The front of the house was not forgotten either as I sowed three window boxes with salad leaves and radishes (French Breakfast).

I've been following the BBC series Edible Gardens presented by Alys Fowler, which has been a source of inspiration. Alys taught me how to plant an indoor microgarden (instructions here) and I've now got broccoli and watercress growing in ice cream containers on our bedroom window.

Two weeks later most of the seeds I sowed during the Easter holidays are showing signs of life, with the noticeable exception of any of the tomatoes. So I've sown some more of all of them and am hoping they'll germinate more successfully. Alan also sowed some spinach (Bordeaux), French sorrel and fennel (Romanesco) in the rockery.

I've really enjoyed being out in the back garden whether I've been planting, tidying, checking on the progress of our multitude of tadpoles, hanging out the clothes, helping the girls with their homework, relaxing with a cup of tea, admiring our neighbour's glorious forsythia or eating our meals outdoors (the first of the year being a chorizo tortilla with wild garlic and nettle pesto on sourdough bread - delicious).

Roll on summer!

PS This post is crying out for a few photos. I'll get my camera out tomorrow and remedy the situation.


  1. yay! what a lot of different seeds you've sown. I've only done a few. Perhaps I should be a bit more ambitious.

  2. I have gone a bit mad, haven't I? The reasoning was that the more I sowed the more would germinate and survive to harvest. We'll have to see whether it works. One thing I've noticed is that there appear to be far fewer slugs and snails around this year. Maybe the cold winter did for them or maybe they've been eaten by one of our four frogs. Either way it's good news.

  3. I've found my mini greenhouse very useful -it's 4 tiers like yours - but a word of warning, be careful in strong winds as it can blow over especially when the cover is on. I see you have it against a wall, but if the wind comes from the side or gusts that might not help. I keep mine weighted down with bricks on the bottom, which helps some. It may be that it's only blown over when I've forgotten to add the bricks.

  4. Thanks for the tip Karin. I've taken the precaution of weighing our mini greenhouse down with a growbag on the bottom shelf. Hopefully this'll do the trick.

  5. Sounds like you've been busy and the lovely weather has encouraged that I expect. Let us hope it continues good, I think we deserve it after the long winter. Hope you have lots of success with your planting. A