Price Points: Windowsill propagators

Windowsill propagators | H is for Home

We’re on summer time – the nights are getting shorter, the days are getting longer. The earth is warming up, it’s time to get some seeds sprouting. Some seeds can go straight out into open ground or outdoor pots & planters. Many other seeds are a little more delicate and need a helping hand. Windowsill propagators are the perfect tools for the job.

This week, I’m finding it hard to choose the best of the three, each has its own plus points. The cheap Jiffy comes with biodegradable ‘pot strips’, so there’s no need to disturb the fragile little roots when planting out. The mid-range Marshalls offering comes with trays that can hold up to 48 cells, so pricking out won’t be necessary. The Super 7 has a heated tray which means that seeds will germinate earlier, more quickly and more successfully. Quite an asset if your windowsills are as cold as ours!

  1. Jiffy 20 strip windowsill propagator: £6.00, Suttons
  2. Windowsill propagator kit: £14.95, Marshalls
  3. Garland Super 7 windowsill propagator: £25.99, Keen Gardener

Lemon fresh!

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growing lemon seedlings in a vintage oversized tea cup | H is for Home

I first got the idea of growing my own lemon plants from a pin I came across on Pinterest.

Vintage oversized tea cup, lemon seeds, gravel and compost

It looked really easy so I collected all the pips from lemons we used in cooking for a few weeks.

Planting lemon seeds in a vintage oversized tea cup

When I had a handful, I was ready to go. I opted for this lovely oversize cup as a container – you can choose anything you fancy – cups, old tins, boxes etc. Some gravel in the bottom to prevent water-logging and multi-purpose compost to cover. Done!

Germinating lemon seeds in a vintage oversized tea cup

The pips were planted in February and small shoots appeared in June, so it took quite a while for them to start germinating – I have to admit that I nearly gave up on them! They got a day in the sunshine as encouragement & reward when I saw those first shoots appear.

Lemon seedlings growing in a vintage oversized tea cup

Look at them now! The bold, brightly coloured pattern of the cup contrasts with the glossy green foliage of the young lemon plants. It looks fabulous on our kitchen window sill… and they smell gorgeous when you rub a leaf between your fingers – fresh and citrusy.

Lemon seedlings growing in a vintage oversized tea cup

I can leave them in the cup as they are now and have lots of these pretty dwarf plants – or perhaps pot these on to get larger lemon trees and start again with the pips. A fully fledged lemon business maybe!

Allotment Diary: April & May

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cow parsley growing on our allotment

We’ve not done an Allotment Diary post for quite a while – that’s not to say we’ve not been busy.

Working on our allotment in May 2015

We’re bringing you what we did in April & May… all in one go!

Justin digging beds on our allotment in May 2015

We cleared more overgrown areas for planting crops.

Adelle securing tomato plants on our allotment in May 2015

Some lovely young tomato plants donated to us by Trudi next door went into this bed.

Making pots from newspapers for potting on seedlings

We’ve also been planting lots of seeds at home where we can keep an eye on the young plants. Adelle spent an afternoon making these little pots out of old newspapers to accommodate some of them…

Growing radish seedlings for our allotment in April 2015

…and seed trays are full to bursting.

Growing bean seedlings on our allotment in May 2015

Young plants are then taken to the allotment to plant out – French beans in an old bathtub here!

Growing squash seedlings under a cloche on our allotment in May 2015

And these little butternut squash seedlings have found a new home under their cavernous cloche.

Chitted seed potatoes being planted in trenches on our allotment in April 2015

The potatoes we chitted and planted a few weeks ago are doing really well – no frost, thank goodness!

Potato plants thriving on our allotment in May 2015

We have them dotted all over the place in beds & bags – Jersey Royals, Maris Peer and King Eddies.

Strawberry plants flowering on our allotment in April 2015

Strawberries are developing flowers that should become nice juicy fruits. This is another bathtub project which we’re very hopeful of – keeping them slightly elevated under nets should keep slugs and birds at bay.

Last year's celery still growing on our allotment in May 2015

We left these celery plants in their beds at the end of last year – they seem to be growing nice new stalks this spring, so we’ll see what happens.

Currants on our allotment in May 2015

Fruit bushes are looking very healthy this year – these redcurrants should be full to bursting come September.

Creature proofing our allotment

We’re started putting up protection after last year’s crop devastation. Also, a network of canes are in place along bed edges at the moment. This is an attempt to teach our dog Fudge to walk along designated paths like Nigel the Golden Retriever on Gardeners’ World!

Woodpile on our allotment in May 2015

Other jobs included sweeping the very last of autumn’s leaves and cutting back overhanging branches which shade the plot. More sunshine for the plants and a bit of firewood for us!

Flowers on our allotment in May 2015

We like to keep some areas on the allotment over for flowers – they look pretty and are great for wildlife. Many of them self-seed, so it’s just a case of giving them loose boundaries and transplanting where required.

Training a rose bush on an arch on our allotment in May 2015

We inherited a rather tangled and untidy rose bush which grew almost horizontally through the undergrowth. This metal arch should give it more structure and opportunity to flower – the brick path will eventually be extended beneath which should look great.

Robin perched on a spade handle on our allotment in May 2015

One beneficiary of some natural areas are the birds. We might not want them eating our strawberries, but there are plenty of insects that they can get stuck into. We get all kinds of finches, tits and thrushes. Our friend the robin has been a permanent fixture on our visits. You can’t leave your tools unattended for long without it using them as the perfect vantage point for freshly uncovered worms. We do have one bird problem though. We’re fans of Mark Radcliffe & Stuart Maconie on 6Music. Unfortunately, we caught one episode where they said that the wood pigeon’s call sounds like “My toe hurts Betty”. It drives us nuts now – we just can’t get it out of our heads!

Picking stinging nettles on our allotment in May 2015

It’s not just wildlife that benefits from the untouched corners of the allotment. These nettles are growing in a rusty old trough at the far end of the plot. The young tips make great soup… and nettle bread was one of our recent Cakes & Bakes posts.

The robin perched on a fence on our allotment in May 2015

It’s certainly been beneficial to get going a bit earlier this time round – hopefully we’ll reap the benefits later in the year!

Allotment Diary: Instant gratification

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tray of Savoy cabbage seedlings bought from Gordon Rigg

We succumbed to a bit of instant gratification prior to this week’s allotment visit – impatient waiting for all our seeds to sprout! 🙂

tray of French marigolds bought from Gordon Rigg

We pass Gordon Riggs garden centre on our way there, so we pulled in and picked up a few things. Some pretty French marigolds – a perfect companion plant for the tomatoes we planted last time – its smell discourages whitefly that feed on the tomato leaves and cause the fruit to ripen unevenly.

tray of kale seedlings bought from Gordon Rigg

A tray of Cavolo Nero – a very hardy variety of kale that’s disease resistant and unlike cabbage, not considered a tasty snack by hungry pigeons! Some Savoy cabbage too – and a few young celery plants.

tray of French marigolds bought from Gordon Rigg

They went into our newly created beds – in neat rows at the specified distance apart. At least we’re sure which are the vegetables and which are the weeds. It’s not quite as easy when seeds go straight into the ground. We have to confess that after this small job, the rest of the afternoon was spent drinking tea and reading the papers!

Allotment Diary: Devastation!

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sweet cicily and aquilegia growing on our allotment

We arrived at our allotment this week after a 12-day gap. Everything was greener, there were more plants in flower. It was a lovely, sunny day.

a hole made by squirrels digging up seeds we planted a week ago

On closer inspection – devastation! Most of the seeds that we’d sown in toilet roll tubes had been dug up and their cardboard containers unceremoniously strewn about the place. We reckon the culprit or culprits were of the squirrel variety after an easy meal.

black plastic seed tray planted up with garden peas

Our original plan for the day was to clear debris from the sunny spot and turn it into a bed and our seating area. We weren’t anticipating having to re-sow garden peas, sweet peas and sweetcorn.

garden pea seedling on our allotment

The garden peas we planted (without cardboard tubes) a couple of weeks earlier were sprouting nicely. Lesson learned for next time!

salad seedlings emerging through the compost

Thankfully, we had a few other positive green shoots to report. Some of the lettuce seeds we planted on our last visit were already sprouting…

potted strawberry plants sitting on a low wall on our allotment

…there were lots of strawberry plants that were sending suckers out all over the place that we divided & potted up…

gooseberry fruits growing on our allotment

…the gooseberry flowers were turning into little fruits…

wood pigeon building a nest in a tree on our allotment

…and a pair of wood pigeons were busy building a nest in a tree just above our heads.

Justin levelling an area into a bed and seating area

We eventually got around to working on the sunny spot in the late afternoon – clearing away the pile of rubbish, plastic water drums and levelling out the ground. Hopefully no more nasty surprises will await us on our next visit!

Allotment Diary: Sow & Sow

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planting 3 types of beetroot

Last week on our allotment we returned to the important business of sowing more seeds. We had 3 different types of beetroot. We love it with parsnips, squash, garlic and rosemary in roasted vegetables.

upcycled butlers sinks being used as planters

Remember those old, heavy Belfast sinks we salvaged from a far corner the previous week? Well, we stood them on some bricks, filled them with compost, watered them in and sowed them with seeds.

planting herb and salad seeds

One’s been given over to herbs – coriander, flat leaf parsley and basil…

planting lolla rosa lettuce seeds

…the other will (hopefully) provide us with a selection of cut & come again lettuce – mizuna, rocket, land cress and red & green salad bowl mixed. We even had a little space left to plant a single drill of some lolla rosa seeds we got from the BBC Dig In project a couple of years ago.

having a break in  the sunniest spot on our allotment

It was the sunniest day since we had the allotment and it was only then that we discovered that the sunniest part of the entire plot was what we’d designated as our ‘dumping ground’! Next time we’re there, we’ll be making it into a better location for a break and spot of lunch!