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.

May Peek at the Veg Garden

veg garden

This month has flown by for me and I’m quite late putting this post together. The photos were taken just over a week ago, since then, everything has put on more growth.

sweet peas
The first sweet pea flower of the year

Inspired by Charles Dowding, the four no dig beds we planned are finished (no dig = cardboard to smother the lawn/weeds, topped with a deep layer of compost), onions occupy one of these beds and doing well. Sweet pea scramble up an obelisk in another of the beds and these will soon be joined by courgettes, with butternut squash, pumpkins and beans going in the larger beds in the middle of the garden.

veg garden

Broad beans overwintered from November (‘Aquadulce Claudia’) are almost ready to pick and ‘Bunyards Exhibition’ started off in spring  are flowering already. I’m giving a heritage variety of broad bean called ‘Crimson Flowered’ a go this year, as the name suggests, the flowers are crimson and should look really pretty.

veg garden

Garlic ‘Red Duke’ is looking really good with thick necks and no sign of rust (yet!), probably the best-looking garlic I’ve ever grown. I just hope the bulbs are a decent size because the leaves are extremely healthy and leafy!

veg garden

Quick crops such as radish, mustard frills, spring onions, rocket and salad mixes are all providing plenty of pickings for meals. We grow these in containers and wooden crates. The herb patch is thriving, along with thyme plants that are doing brilliantly in a spot that doesn’t receive much sun at all. Experimenting with gardening sometimes pays off.

jaguar peas

Peas are growing strong and flowering now, variety ‘Jaguar’. More peas have since been planted out including my favourite purple varieties ‘Blauwschokker’ and ‘Shiraz’, the flowers are just as stunning as sweet pea. Sweetcorn is now in position after hardening off, I  prefer to start the seeds off in pots and keep them in the conservatory where it’s always warm.

watering can

Beets, chard, carrots and parsnips are popping up and potatoes are looking very good and almost ready to start flowering. Plenty of tiny fruits on the blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes to look forward to and the strawberries, wild strawbs and raspberries are all in flower with small fruits forming.

The veg garden looks like a proper veg garden now, the bunting is up on the shed and flowers in troughs and hanging baskets soften it. It’s hard to believe this garden is less than a year old, I’m very proud of it and looking forward to seeing it evolve and change even more over the coming months.

nasturtium in a trough planter
Nasturtium in the wooden trough will eventually spill over and creep along the gravel path.

Happy gardening everyone!