Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Growing for free......sharing 'happy' plants

Alchemilla mollis - Lady's mantle - a 'thug' ? Or a clever little self seeding 'angel'?
How many of us have things which are happy in are garden - so much so they almost become a weed? I don't like the word weed - conjures up images of nasty things needing to be chucked out. Most plants can be recycled to the hen coop, the only real weed in my life are nettles (only because they bite!) which I leave for the butterflies and stay well clear!

The Lady's mantle in my last garden was wonderful I use it for cut flowers and if I didn't watch it would swamp me out the photo above is the culprit in question! They are so happy with us that they go forth and multiply and multipy and multiply. I got given a box full from a friend who simply just had too many - she called it a 'thug' I call it 'clever'. I can see her point - if she didn't dig a few up - her garden would soon be full of it - and with a new garden to sort out I'm happy to have more than a few plants for free/swap.

Plants which self seed for you for free are often much easier than sowing seed - half the job is already done for you - these little monkeys are already growing and are strong healthy little plants. I like letting plants self seed good for the birds who eat many types of seed in the winter, good for bugs who like to overwinter in the wintering plant and good for you if we get strong little seedlings popping up. I'm leaving the Calendula in the photo below which is growing in my veggie garden to self sow later in the year - I'm going to watch out for baby plants in the spring - now that I've sown the plant - I'm not expecting to have to buy seed again - it should self sow freely enough and I just need to make sure if its in a place I don't like - I move it, if I've too many I'll give them away to friends.

If you've got plants which are happy in your garden - you can guarantee that there are friends and family who'd love to have a few - and the reverse is true. Most people have something in their garden which is happy and being prolific (an 'angel' or maybe a bit 'thug' like) - unless like me you've a new garden which is desperately in need of plants! Why not think about a bit of swapping or rehoming? 
A peedie tray of lambs lugs - came in the post after a day or two - right as rain - one small A5 tray which  held over 80 plants!
I've a lovely friend who has 'lambs lugs' (stachys spp.) coming out of her, well, um lugs (ears) there they are in the tray. This happy plant in her garden just makes more and more plant babies. When asked if I'd like some I'd always say yes please - free plants are always good - self seeded ones are clearly a happily germinated plant which isn't weak or sickly - this is a good stock to have!

The slight problem of course for me was that this friend had plants in her garden over 500 miles away! The solution for us was to post the plants in a little pouch and let them arrive at my house safe and sound. Take the example in the photo (up in the picture is the tray of baby plants recieved in the post). Now the little plants were all chocablock where they had germinated - I gently teased them out from their lovely little mass and ended up with over 80 baby plants.

Newly planted free plants of lambs lugs in a recycled fish box from the beach
Brilliant, here they are planted into a temporary big recycled box - in the the old compost from the tomatoes - to grow on a bit before I pop them into the garden in the spring next year. I'm only doing this because of the weather where I am, if I was in a sheltered area - they would go straight into their new home in the garden. Whether its things which reseed, or grow bigger until they burst out of their space - or something thats arrived and just carried on abundantly growing. If we've got extra plants in your garden - no doubt your friends/neighbours and anyone with a garden has why not try a bit of swapping? If you're near to them all the better - but if you're like me and far away from your friends - asking nicely for a few (or alot!) in the post might not cost more than a cup of coffee.

If I'd bought these plants in a garden centre - they would have cost me a goodly amount. I prefer to think of these free plants as 'angels' rather than 'thugs' - having a bit of my friends garden in my own makes me feel as if I'm surrounded with friendship. Thanks to 'Greenval' for the lovely 'recycled' baby plants I've returned the favour and given her a few of my extra baby plants I have, when I see the plants she sent I'll think of her.

Watching out on freecycle is a good way to find spare plants in your area or to advertise any that you've got spare. And, collecting your own seed/dividing plants/swapping extra seed packets are a great way to swap too - but a tale for another time!

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