This morning was a beautiful spring day - perhaps a little deceptive as colder, wintery weather is forecast for later in the week. Still, it puts a spring in your step and makes it feel as if anything would grow!
My after school gardening club starts again tomorrow with a new bunch of 5 to 7 year olds. Last week I finally managed to get the planning for this half term sorted. It'd tried during half term but somehow the cold, snowy weather had made it difficult for me to focus my thoughts. So now the next 5 weeks are mapped out pretty well with a more hazy idea of the weeks from April to July. It is a weird way to garden - once a week for one hour and with a 6 week gap mid July to end of August. I've learnt a few things from my experience last year so this year I shall be keeping in the successes but trying a few new ideas too.
I usually go shopping on a Monday morning but today I thought I'd start with a few of the "money-saving" shops such as Pound Stretcher, Poundland, Wilkinsons and Lidls to see if they had some gardening bargain in. It is amazing what you can pick up in these shops and they have some great gardening stuff at this time of year.
Every year I flick through all the seed catalogues looking for the best deal on onion sets - red and brown - and every year I'm underwelmed by the results. I've tried heat-treated and non-heat treated, collections and individual varieties. But now I have learnt that it works out much cheaper and just as reliably to go down to Wilkinsons in March and buy some nets of onion sets down there. So with this in mind I headed out to the shops.
Pound Stretcher first - they had some summer flowering bulbs in, mini cold frames (already have those), and other interesting gardening items but nothing I needed today. Then Poundland - more summer flowering bulbs, some garden ornaments and seed trays etc. They're also got the plastic Easter eggs back in too that I use for the Easter egg hunt for gardening club (more on that closer to the time) but I saved these from last year so don't need to buy them again now. Still, I managed to pick up a handy multi-pocket folder that will help keep all my notes and resources neat for gardening club.
Then into Wilkinsons, with a trolley this time. Two bags of red onion sets (£1.25 for 250g) and a bag of brown (£1.25 for 500g). They have lots of interesting things in today - seed potatoes, mushroom kits, herbs in pots, horseradish roots, fruit bushes... but I'm selective about what I'll buy from a place like this because they clearly don't employ anyone to look after these things and sitting on a shelf for weeks in their packaging is far from ideal. I notice they are selling off some plug plants for half price but when I inspect them the plants are completely dried out! Still, they have 4 cloves of elephant garlic for £2 and I've fancied growing that for ages but they are often much more expensive than that, so I add them to my trolley. They have sets of 4 plug plants for £1.50 and I decide to buy some tomatoes. This is probably a mistake as I don't have a greenhouse and my windowsills are a bit gloomy but for £1.50 maybe it is worth a try to get some early tomatoes. I pick up some sage and thyme plugs too for the herb garden I want to grow with my club. I'm surprised by how perky these plug plants look but on closer inspection I see that they are sat in a tray of moisture retaining gel so that explains it.
Finally I add 2 trays of 20 pansy plugs (2 for £7). I was looking for something that the gardening club children could give as a mother's day present in a fortnight and this seems like the perfect thing. I'd had primulas in mind but these are clearly going over right now. Now all I need to do is keep these healthy for 2 weeks until needed then the children can plant up 2 each and I'll use what's left to make up a hanging basket for home. There are loads of other interesting things but that's enough for today - besides it's a bit of a walk back to my car and I have to carry all this stuff!
Next to Lidls. They have got lots of gardening things in right now but nothing much left in the way of plants. I treat myself to a new pair of secaturs for £2, some decorative fun canes for the girls' plots, a sprayer, and a pair of slip on gardening shoes for when I need to hang the washing out.
So this afternoon I unpacked the lot and put the onion sets and elephant garlic out in the shady coldframe with the shallots and seed potatoes. I thoroughly watered the pansies and put the two trays in the other coldframe. I potted on the plug herbs and these too went into the coldframe. Finally, I potted on the tomato seedlings and put them on the windowsill. It feels like I've had a good gardening day but I'm a little concerned how things will fair in the coldframe. After all, it was still February two days ago! Oh for a heated greenhouse!