Monday, 22 May 2017

Asparagus and bedding plants

(New 2017 blog post published in December 2019)

The greenhouse was overfull and it was not my fault

It was all Management's fault . . .

As has happened before at Bag End, it started with asparagus - or rather it started with (as has happened before at Bag End) the FAILURE of asparagus.  Honestly, it is meant to be a tough, hardy crop and in theory I am giving the damn plants what they want/need, but for the second time I had got an asparagus bed fail.

Attempt number one failed completely - what is now the first bed in the fruit cage killed off ten crowns of Asparagus Jersey Knight in their first winter.  Hindsight and understanding our ground better now than I did then leads to suspicion that the culprit was waterlogging.

20 plants went into a carefully prepared bed in the vegetable patch in April 2014 and for the second year running I only had five showing any signs of life, let alone offering up anything edible. I started with ten crowns each of two varieties - the ‘Gijnilm’ is delicious but half of them have disappeared and all of the “Pacific Purple” has gone back to New Zealand without saying goodbye :(

This time last year I wanted to order some new crowns to fill the gaps but left it too late.  This year however, in in late April I realised that three-quarters of the plants weren’t going to give me a crop, got online in a hurry and found the only place which had available stock was Thompson & Morgan;  20 new crowns, four each of 4 varieties, were due by the end of May.

Anyway, stop rambling around and get back to the point:  whilst at the T&M site I had a quick firtle round, as you do.   Lunacy was in the air that night and I found they were having an end of season sale.

36 Geranium F1 ‘Best Red” plug plants on sale for 2.99 instead of £12

72 random bedding plants on sale for £1.99 instead of £71.88 - no, that’s not a typo, the full price was over SEVENTY POUNDS. 

There is no way on God’s Green Earth I would pay nearly a pound each for what I knew would be tiny little things, barely more than seedlings but at that price, get ‘em in the basket.  Which was my first mistake - by now I really do know that annual bedding plants are a lot of work and not always worth it.  But then Management came along and said “don’t be daft, at that price get two lots of each”.  So I did.  Which was my second mistake, because I was doubling the effect of mistake number one.

There is a third mistake quietly festering in the background - I am never, ever pleased with the quality of T&M stock, and I don't seem to learn - sigh.

I was not hugely surprised when the plants arrived; I expected them to be in poor condition and they were.  The packaging T&M use was completely substandard - whilst the plastic grid holding the roots does its job the cardboard outer which is meant to protect the plants during transit is thin and flimsy, we’ve got cereal boxes in the cupboard which use better packaging.  I should have taken photographs on arrival but I was in a hurry to rescue the poor little things so I dived straight in to re-potting.

A week later I had some casualties, but that was to be expected;  those which had survived slowly picked up.

And with the benefit of publishing this two years late . . . the bedding plants were "shrug shoulders: Meehhhh".  They grew reasonably and a non-gardener might have been satisfied.  Knowing what I can produce when my plants have a decent start in life, I was not.  To ram home the point, as if it were needed, a picture of tomatoes raised carefully from seed for comparison:

And the Asparagus which caused all the trouble?  It was planted in the second fruit cage, very carefully.  And with the benefit of publishing this two years late . . . it also failed, a complete waste of another £25.  The plants never grew strongly and the slugs finished them off.

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