Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The survival of the ... tallest?

Today, I was hit with the realisation that I need to kill about 90% of the current plants I have (mostly poppies, because there are many many successfully germinated seeds).

It's a process known as 'thinning'. The pouches are waaaay too small to support more than one mature plant, so I have to pick one seedling to live, and take out the rest.

Of course, I could just plant the rest out ... if I had somewhere to plant them out to. I do have a shiny new pot, but even though it's super duper with four subpots for separate plants, I have managed to successfully germinate many many more. And besides, I want herbs in that pot so they're all together. Oh, and I have no potting mix for the pot. Yet.

Blah. If I'd known, I'd have planted many fewer seeds. I am going to write to the company that makes these cute little pouches and suggest some changes to the instructions.

It has occurred to me that for someone who spent significant portions of their childhood in the garden, I'm abysmally ignorant about plants. Although, to be fair, indoor pots in London are a rather different matter from a backyard in Brisbane. The yearly cultivation of nasturtiums, for instance, involved collecting the seeds, pulling up the old plants, forking the soil over a lot, sprinkling seeds hither and yon, covering with dirt, and watering. Instead of about 2 square metres of as far down as Dad cared to dig, I have about 2 metres of 14cm wide windowsill, the middle third of which is directly over a radiator. That's ignoring differences in humidity, temperature, and light levels, which I never really was told about in so many words anyhow, mostly I think because Mum and Dad knew what worked without learning from a book or by scientific experiment.

So; I know a lot about how to grow potatoes,  pumpkins, beetroot, bananas, tomatoes, strawberries, nasturtium, alyssum, watermelons, and bottlebrush trees. In a backyard in Queensland during non drought times. Oh, and a maidenhair fern in my bedroom.

Growing herbs in a pot on a balcony is something I've failed at a few times, generally due to not watering them for a couple months. That kills most plants when there's no rain, I think. And extra heat from reflected sunlight. I've also never grown from seed in a pot before; I've always repotted already established plants. As part of my wine degree, I've studied botany as far as vines are concerned, but when dealing with living things, book learning and the real world are often quite divergent. Knowing a bit about viticulture hasn't really helped me with my current learning experience.

The effort will be worth it, I think. Having green and flowers around cheers me up a lot. Leafy things help with air quality too, which in London is a bit of an issue. Sometimes, if I've spent a day out of the house, I get black when I blow my nose. Without going near industrial areas, or fires, or any such thing. It's disturbing, to say the least. And my skin tends to flake off because it's really dry up this end of the house (we have a mould problem up the other end).

Currently, the things I need to know are:

Which plants like what kind of dirt?
Where do I get that dirt of the non-stinky-suitable-for-indoors type?
Where do I get advice for doing this kind of thing? In person, that is.

....

Some hours later, I've replanted the Sunflowers - one in the original pouch, one in the failed basil pouch, and one in a new box I got today. The two shortest seedlings got tossed. I'm going to be slightly surprised if all the replants survive even though I was as gentle as I could be. I'd left it too long so the roots were entangled, and I had to handle them pretty extensively to separate the seedlings. On the bright side, this probably means I can save some more of the gerbras (there's 11). The new box has also been planted with seeds of nasturtium, cornflower, and sweat pea - two of each. There are spare seeds, which in my mind, is a much better situation than spare seedlings. I also spent some quality time with my thyme, picking out the dead bits, and discovered (or perhaps just noticed?) that it, too, is in fact a collection of seedlings, of which there are now somewhat fewer, as I pulled out the dead and really struggling ones.

I got down to the Fulham Palace Garden Centre, and purchased plant food, both of the make herbs happy and the make orchids happy variety. The orchid stuff I'll start using soon, the general herb stuff not until things have settled in a bit more - don't want to burn the seedlings by giving them more than they can handle. Unfortunately none of the staff on could tell me much about indoor growing, but they gave me some generic advice. I did get a nice 3hr wander around my neighbourhood, and saw some interesting things, so it definitely wasn't a wasted trip.

Oh, and ego boosting - apparently germinating from seed is difficult and chancy and requires skill, and ending up with far too many seedlings is not the usual case.

It is possible that I'll get out again tomorrow if I find another garden centre, and maybe I'll even come home with a bag of potting mix. If I do, I'll replant the thyme into the new pot - some of it, anyway. Or I might come home with more plants. It all depends. Mostly on my whims. But it's my windowsill and I'll turn it into a garden if I want to.

... Incidentally, I've worked out that I can probably grow about 36 plants total in the space I have. I don't think I'm going to go quite that far, though. Not this week, anyway.

At any rate, it's off to bed with me, to dream of green things.