Monday, 27 February 2012

The Apple Diary - Part 3

It got cold again. So cold we had snow on the ground for a week, although it only actually snowed three times. Watching the buses lining up outside the pub because none of the drivers were confident enough to drive down the slight hill to continue their journeys into central London was amusing, as was the simple fact that Boris's promises that London was ready for snow didn't stop the transport network coming to a halt that Saturday night. But the chill weather, and my negligence, took it's toll on the little orchard.

Behind the curtains, perched on the back of my sofa has so far been where they've thrived the best, but this also means they're out of sight and thus out of mind, and while being sorely distracted and overtaxed by working four jobs at once, I forgot about them instead of moving them back onto the dresser where they would be warmer.

And so I've lost 6 members of batch 1 and 1 of the 2 sproutlings from batch 2, as much from a lack of watering as the the cold. Yes I admit I'm a bad plant mummy. Fortunately a generous drink of water revived a few of them. One is still touch and go but all fingers and toes crossed.

However, there was one sproutling that seemed totally unperturbed by the circumstances that claimed his batch-mate. The late-arriving cox sprout was fortunate enough to have been insulated by the clingfilm over his cut-down milk carton and thrived while the others withered. Out of all the sproutlings I've grown so far this little bugger has grown himself the finest set of leaves yet, far bigger and healthier than any that have grown beyond their sprout leaves.

Saturday was a day of new beginnings for the little orchard. My little friend above was carefully transferred out of his carton and into a proper pot. The soil from the pots of the perished, as well as from the pots that never sprouted, was recycled into the 30 cells of my brand new propagator.

It's hardly a state of the art piece of equipment, but with this piece of plastic I know that the new seeds I've planted, 15 royal gala's and 15 braeburns, will be protected from anymore cold snaps, they'll stay watered better and they can each sprout without me worrying about them strangling each other in separate cells.
However, I've recently been informed that a lot of supermarket fruit, which all my gatherings have been thus far, are more often than not infertile, meaning that even though the seeds have sprouted, it's unlikely they'll ever bear fruit. Thus my mission for this week is to seek out London's real food markets and buy some properly grown apples, in the hopes that the little orchard may someday produce fruit of its own.

In the meantime the other plants seem happy enough. Miraculously, the chilli plants were unaffected by the cold snap, or the lack of water. The aloe vera babies are thriving still in the mother pot, when they are a bit bigger I'll transfer them to pots of their own. The oak tree is still bare but is ready to produce buds for this years leaves. This hearty little fellow has spent its whole life outside and so was undaunted by the cold, and is no doubt going through its natural seasonal cycle. My plan is that once the little orchard are in their own pots and a bit stronger, I'll move them outside into the back garden so they can do the same.

The weather has been noticeably warmer the last few days. It's weird to think that three weeks ago I was bundled up trudging through the snow to get to work and for the last two days I've been walking to the tube station without even needing a sweater.

And of course the sproutlings have been loving it. Even in just the last three days all but one have put out new leaves and have been heartily enjoying the warmth and sunshine. I just hope the little fella at the front will catch up with his batch-mates over the next couple of weeks. Despite being healthy and plump it has always struggled to produce leaves beyond it's sprout leaves. I don't know what this will mean for it's future development, but I hope it will start growing more leaves soon.

Later this week I'll be starting the next stage of my planting endeavours. In our back garden there's always been  two herb troughs which contain nothing but some stick-like chives and a lot of moss. I intend to requisition them to plant up my own herb troughs. I've already bought some coriander and basil seeds, as these are the one's I use most when cooking, and once this months bills are out of the way I'll be broadening the range.

I've also been set another challenge: to win the regard of three reptiles that have recently made their way into my life.

Evel post-tomato!
Gorak (centre) is a placid matriarch of a bearded dragon who will tolerate your attention and affection, as long as you don't prevent her from face-planting the floor after leaping off the edge of the sofa. Calcifer (right) is a bolshy little heir to the manor who disdains all human attention unless he is bribed with a tasty worm or two. Evel the tortoise (left) is a fussy eater after being fed only pellets for most of his young life, resulting in malnourishment. Since being adopted by my friend Ella, he's only eaten red things, so they're trying to persuade him to give green things more of a chance. So we're currently researching plants that all three of them would enjoy. At present my back garden is very sparse after some unknown person cleared it last summer so it's the ideal place to work on growing some reptile treats.
Now that spring is well and truly on its way, I look forward to seeing where all this growing of stuff will take me.