Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A Busy Week in the Garden


The variability of our British weather is so unpredictable that it is very hard to plan tasks that are weather dependant. When should I harden off plants, when do I plant my tomatoes and sow my first vegetables. At this time of year we have to watch out for that late frost. After a couple of nice warm days we get the early vegetables sown or plant those raised in the glasshouse, only to find we run into a dry spell when watering has to be resorted to. Once young seeds germinate or new plants get planted they can get a check to growth if they get too dry or we get those strong cold winds that can shrivel up tender young growth.
Although spring has been quite cool it has helped to hold back early flowering trees and shrubs now less liable to suffer a late frost. Weeds are slow but they are beginning to appear, and many lawns are getting their first cut in the second week of April, rather than the last week of March as in previous years.
However plants are wanting to grow, so there is work to be done in every part of the garden.
We did get a couple of warm days when the sun lounger came out, the winters dust got blown off, and I did manage to have my coffee break at leisure, but it is hard to relax when you know there are more than a dozen jobs all needing done.

In the greenhouse

Tomatoes. Growbags were purchased from our City Road Allotments onsite shop for my tomatoes. Both my maincrop Alicante and cherry tomato Sweet Million produced excellent plants in small pots. This year’s growbag is just a wee bit smaller than last years so I am only putting in two plants per bag rather than three. I cut out my circles and thoroughly water the compost, then leave it for at least one day to drain and warm up before I plant. I always cut slits in the bottom of each bag to allow drainage. The tomatoes are supported with polypropylene binder twine which hangs down from wire supports in the roof of the greenhouse. As the plant grows it is twisted around the twine.
It will not need any more water for a couple of weeks and no feeding till the first truss sets.
Chrysanthemums. Cuttings continue to be taken, but losses from the hard winter have killed out some varieties and weakened others. To make up my numbers I will have to take the tops out of freshly rooted cuttings and propagate these to increase stock.
Young plants of Cosmos, cabbage Golden Acre, Brussels Sprouts and my onions have now all been put out to harden off. All my geraniums were put out last week as they are usually pretty tough.
The space left will be filled with a batch of Nemesia Carnival, Petunias and Busy Lizzies which are excellent for tubs and hanging baskets.
Sweet corn plants have germinated and continue to grow strongly. They will be potted up in another couple of weeks.
Tuberous begonias are now growing slowly, but will soon need more room as these mature tubers produce big plants.
Grape Vines. All my rods which were pruned in winter are now sprouting several new growths from each spur. I will leave these alone for now as they may not all produce a fruiting bunch. Once I can see the bunches, I will remove any that are barren and thin the other down to one fruiting lateral per spur, which are spaced about nine inches apart along the rod.

The Allotment

At long last I have completed my winter digging.  I had intended to complete digging before Christmas not knowing that a two foot blanket of snow was scheduled to arrive quite early and was in no hurry to melt. That episode put back plans a wee bit.
Strawberry variety Mae is now in full flower in my low polythene tunnel, and as long as we don’t get a late frost I should be enjoying my first fruits at the end of May.
Early summer salads have been transplanted from cellular trays previously grown under glass into another polythene tunnel. I have planted lettuce, radish, spring onion, beetroot and Early Nantes carrots. They are all grown very close together, but will be spaced out as I use them.
Leeks have now been sown in a well prepared seedbed. However I still have enough leeks left from last year to crop another two weeks. They have been great value.
Broad beans are now growing strongly from a late March planting.
Kale and Swiss Chard plants left from last year continue to grow and get used as spring greens for stir frying and in soups.
Raspberry Glen Ample was wiped out by a root rot over four years, most likely some strain of Phytophthora. The dead plants were removed, topsoil replaced and mounded to assist drainage then the row was replaced with twelve pot grown Raspberry Cascade Delight. This new variety is supposed to be resistant to Raspberry root rot disease. This is now April and there is not the slightest sign of any life in any of them. Either they have been infected by the disease still around on the land, or they have not been bred resistance for all strains of phytophthora, or maybe the Scottish winter was more than they could handle. End of experiment.
I have planted up a new row, going back to Glen Ample, as it really is an excellent variety, but this time on a new part of my allotment.

Ornamental Garden

Spring flowering shrubs are now at their best with rhododendrons, azaleas, kerria, mahonia and camellias all putting on a brilliant display.
Gladioli can now be planted fairly deeply just in case there is any late frosts, but also to help support them. I will keep some back for the allotment to grow on for cut flower.
Aconites are now well past, but the seeds can be gathered and broadcast to other areas to increase the display. Each seed should flower after about three years.
Peach Peregrine flowers get hand pollinated with a sable brush every second day. Even though the flowers are late, there are very little insects around to help with the pollination.
The flowers are not very strong looking. They may have suffered in our harsh winter.
Time will tell.
Peach leaf curl disease is still affecting some new buds, even after spraying twice with Dithane at leaf fall and just before bud burst. I pick these off and destroy them.

Now, just before I find yet another job, the sun is starting to shine so I may risk a few minutes on that sun lounger.


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