Saturday, 27 April 2013

Plant Sale Preparation and Propagation or Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow!

Another year another plant sale.  I can hardly believe that this is my fifth year of organising the plant sale for the Finchley Horticultural Society.  Every year I say never again but somehow I still seem to do it. There are months of work required.   It is the most important source of income for the Society to provide equipment and to maintain the sites.  Without this the allotments wouldn't survive unless there was a considerable rent increase for each of the plots.  In spite of this there are only a minority of plot holders and members of the Society who help significantly, certainly in the early stages of organisation.

First, in the winter, the seeds are selected from the seed catalogues.  Hours are spent pouring over the huge selection and we try to introduce new things every year, according to fashion and what we think may be successful and popular.  There is one golden rule; if it is in flower it will sell!  This is a feat in itself.  Seeds need to be sown successfully at the right time so that they will be in flower in time for the plant sale. Very hard to do especially if, as last year and this year too, there are difficult weather conditions.  Last year we also had the added disadvantage of toxic compost to deal with.  This resulted in the loss of all the seeds sown in this compost.  This led to the added expense of buying in another lot of seeds.  We also had a plague of mice so even once we got the compost right all the courgettes and pumpkins had to be resown.  Nightmare!!

We also propagate perennials all year to sell at the plant sale and at other times too.  This also requires the dedication of several of our members.  They spend a great deal of time dividing and taking cuttings from stock plants on the Society's permanent beds and from their own gardens. 

This year we did have some compost problems but we were alert to the possibility so we were on top of the situation as soon as we noticed any problem at all.  Seeds have come up and we've been pricking out healthy seedlings; however, the weather has been very cold and, even though we have heated beds, this was not always sufficient when the weather was very cold.  Now that spring seems to have arrived things are looking up, but we have put the plant sale forward one week to compensate for the cold start to the season.

We visited Capel Manor last week and saw that they were also a little behind with some of their plants, indicating that we are not alone.  This was a very interesting outing. 
We were first shown around the Which Research Gardens by our fellow allotment holder who is in charge of this area.  Unfortunately, on the day that we went the heavens opened and we were restricted for some time to the greenhouse area as this was the warmest and most sheltered place to be.  Later on we were introduced to one of the lead gardeners who took us around the gardens, amongst which are ex Chelsea show gardens recreated in the grounds of Capel Manor. 

We were also shown round the regular greenhouses which were full of very healthy stock plants, cuttings and seedlings and the new cactus and succulent hothouse.  This was very nice indeed, I did try to take some pictures in here but my lens misted up, as you can see.    The walled garden was particularly interesting, It was situated next to the house and there was a good display of species tulips.  Our visit was all too short and this is a garden that I would like to revisit.

Unfortunately, by the time we finished the cafeteria had closed.  We decided go to Myddleton House, which is just a short distance away, for tea.  This has the added advantage of free entry and a very good tea room with home made cakes and other goodies.  We had had another wet visit here last year, I keep meaning to go back and see the gardens when the weather is fine.

Both Capel Manor and Myddleton House Gardens are very accessible to anyone living in North London.

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