May-Hem

Being a gardener I welcome rain but it hasn’t stopped since my last blog post, it’s very soggy now with no sign of letting up and the forecast through to next week is more heavy downpours and gale force winds thrown in for good measure, slugs are just loving it and I can’t keep up with the weeding, especially at the allotment. I was a bit behind with seed sowing due to holding off because of the weather, but you know you’ve caught up when the squash and pumpkins are germinating. I’ve just finished sowing sweetcorn into pots in the conservatory where it’s warm and toasty, but I’ll hold off with beans for another week or so as I plan to sow them direct.

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In the vegetable garden there’s plenty of life and lush growth, it’s just a constant battle to keep it all safe from pests. The first sowing of peas are just beginning to flower now and the next batches are catching up in growth but I’ve had to be very creative with protecting them from pigeons who are determined to get them before we do, the usual twiggy deterrents just haven’t cut it this year.

protecting peas from pigeons

To prevent the lower leaves being stripped and clumps being pulled through the twigs, I’m using single sheets of fleece loosely wrapped around the pea sticks and tied with a knot, it all looks a bit of a faff but it seems to be working plus the fleece does help to accelerate growth. Next year I may have to use some sort of net frame and grow all the peas in one bed to keep them protected, I prefer to dot them around the garden on the ends of raised beds to save growing space but I may have to change the way we grow them.

 

protecting peas from pigeons

protecting peas from pigeons

Carrot and parsnip seedlings are up and still tucked up inside the tunnel cloches during the day to protect them from being smashed to bits by heavy downpours, at night we put panels on the ends of the cloches to keep slugs and snails out otherwise we’d lose the lot, the end panels are just off cuts of roofing sheets held in place with a short cane.

carrot seedlings

parsnip seedlings

Beets are growing but very slowly compared to other years, I wasn’t particularly happy with the first sowing of beets as I’ve said previously, they seemed very weak for some reason. The next batch are much better and hardening off ready to go outside but I’ll hold off until the weather settles down a bit. Onions were planted out last week, much later than last year, this will be the second year growing onions from seed and hopefully they’ll be just as good as last years crop.

potato leaves

Second early potatoes ‘Charlotte’ are looking strong and maincrop ‘King Edward’ are just poking through. Strawberries are looking fantastic this year, the growth is so lush. Clearly loving the extra water!

strawberry flowers

seedlings

The greenhouse is filling up but little bit behind in growth or I have sown later than I usually would, but hopefully it will all be ok and catch up. There’s little point putting too much out at the moment, it’s already a 5* restaurant out there for slugs!

Hopefully next month will be more settled. Fingers crossed.

Beautiful Days of Spring

After what felt like a never-ending winter, spring sunshine finally arrived in bucket loads. The warm weather encouraged us outside, allowing plenty to be done in the garden including planting more fruit trees. The garden is very wide and open towards the centre, we decided to give the garden a more enclosed feel to give a little more privacy and what better way than planting trees! The orchard gives the chickens lots of safe places to dart should a bird of prey watch them from the air.

Pink apple blossom are beginning to open on our older apple trees while the soft white blossom of pear and plum are just finishing, fading to brown. The blossom attracts lots of bees and of course the fruit will feed an array of wildlife, not just us.

Other planting has taken place too including the potatoes, hurrah! I’m a bit lazy when it comes to potato planting and have planted them for many years a bit no diggy, just a wiggle with a stick really. I place them out on the surface of the soil and then using the handle of a broken spade (you can use anything you can find that’s similar) I create planting holes by pushing the stick in the soil and wiggling it around. I drop a seed potato in each hole (chits up!) and cover over. Easy! Earth up as the leaves appear, I just simply mulch the surface with compost. Job done. Due to the weather we’re a bit late planting our second earlies this year, they went in just days before our maincrop.

Peas raised in modules were planted out at the end of March with more going outside a couple of weeks later, a covering of fleece at night for a bit of protection from frost and cold winds. Frosts and cold night time temperatures have been frequent this month, more than I can remember for April. Carrots and parsnips have only just been sown in the last week, much later than we would normally, but again, temperatures haven’t been favourable. We always cover rows with tunnel cloches until the seeds germinate which works well, so they should be fine. Beetroot seedlings multi sown in modules are outside now after being hardened off, they were very leggy and didn’t seem as strong as usual so I wasn’t very happy with them, back ups have been sown in the greenhouse in case they fail to thrive.

The soft fruit area was extended recently but won’t be ready for planting this year, there were a couple of gaps in the older area so we planted a new blackcurrant bush, variety ‘Big Ben’ and a whitecurrant, variety ‘White Versailles’. Inside the greenhouse I planted dahlia tubers into pots at the beginning of the month, most are sprouting (just a couple not showing any signs of growth) so at night I cover them over with sheep’s wool garden felt which keeps them extra snug and safe from slugs that may be lurking in the deep and damp corners of our rickety old greenhouse!

This year we sowed our tomatoes much later than we usually do (bit of a late theme going on in this post), April 6th to be exact but I think this has actually worked out much better. We have only just potted them on, usually by now we’re grappling with tall plants with flowers that are hungry for more nutrients and in desperate need to go in the greenhouse, which is still too cold at night at the moment. We keep our tomatoes in the house until night time temperatures are favourable, usually end of May. This years plants will be much easier to look after and hopefully happier, healthier specimens that haven’t been knocked back by being pot bound and starved of nutrients in the weeks running up to late May. They always fruit well for us in the end but they do suffer a bit at the beginning, just to get that head start. It’ll be interesting to see how our tomatoes do this year.

The prolonged cold spell at the start of the growing year put us off reaching for the seed packets, so this is what we plan to do more of this week even though cold winds and rain have returned. The greenhouse is cosy and everything will catch up, including us.