I wasn’t expecting to be potting up seedlings in November but the basil, parsley and lettuce seeds we planted in August are growing strongly in the greenhouse. Along with the basil, we have some spiky leaved plants: did we get oriental mustard mixed in with our basil seed?
I potted up the basil this afternoon and have brought the seedlings indoors. By 3.30, as the sun fell behind the roofs, the temperature was dropping sharply. In the greenhouse, it was 12C; outside, it felt as if we could well have the first overnight frost of the autumn .
I’m hoping inside on a sunny south-facing windowsill, the basil seedlings will grow steadily until light and warmth pick up in the spring. We still have the lettuce and flat-leaf parsley to deal with. I’ve covered them with fleece and propagator lids in the cold greenhouse. It’s a juggling act at the moment: with the door and roof lights closed, the seedlings and cuttings risk dampening off and mildew. If we keep the door and lights open, the risk is from the cold, the wind and that old familiar pest, the squirrels.
Squirrels just love to have fun. They are the merry delinquents of the urban animal world. They run around daubing everything in graffiti and chucking their fag ends and lager cans over their shoulders: digging up cuttings, upturning pots, scratching up the compost, sinking their teeth into uprooted bulbs, which they then discard, hanging upside down from the roof lights in the greenhouse. Yes, even with the door closed, they still get in.
They’ve clawed up several of the geranium cuttings and the alchemila mollis plantlets. I’m growing resigned to their damage, though I still shout at them like a banshee. We’ve still got a good stock of pinks, rosemary and hanging geraniums – the cuttings we made at the end of August have rooted and are growing on: it’s a magical process.
We’ve also got three lavender cuttings which have rooted well and quite a few red/bronze heuchera. There are also around 20 verbena bonariensis – small self-seeded plants I dug up and potted on at the end of the summer – which will be great for the Preston Circus planters, along with the propagated pinks, geraniums and sedums. Unfortunately, they’ve picked up mildew – they always do – so I’ve sprayed with an organic fungicide.
I think we might manage a gardening session on Tuesday. No rain is forecast but the temperature will barely be 10C for the afternoon, falling potentially to 3C overnight. Feels like it’s time to put the heating (and the kettle) on in the conservatory and do some potting up inside. We need to get the lettuce and parsely into our large window boxes; they should be OK overwintering in the greenhouse. And with luck, we’ll have a good supply next season of the herbs which proved most popular in our public herb planters: parsley and basil.