Cool on one hand, Cold on the other…

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Victoria Rhubarb With Gooseberry Bushes

Once again April has spluttered and stuttered its way from Fools Day to Mother Earth. For the 3rd year in succession the April weather in Ireland is being dominated by an anti-cyclonic blocking pattern steering in easterly winds and a continental air mass.
During months of high summer this would be welcome, but this early in spring it not only signals that drier air which is always welcome after the winter’s deluge, it also introduces weather patterns which steer air currents from the far eastern continental land mass, Scandinavia and Arctic regions meaning that it is also the harbinger of cooler than average air temperatures.
At least this year we get to say that April has been cool. Last year it was cold: the margin between 1 degree below average for time of year and 2½ degrees below average making all the difference between cool on one hand, and cold on the other. Spring and early summer last year was a disaster for most gardeners, eventually proving the coldest spring on record since records began. Nothing germinated, nothing flourished, and bud burst was 4-5 weeks late with almost all bloom stunted. This year things are moving; moving slowly, but moving nonetheless. Last year we had to sow and then re-sow parsnip seed 3 times before we hit green; whereas this year we’re out of bed on the first occasion. They may have taken their own sweet time in getting up, but at least the Gladiators are up in mid-April. Much the same with the bunching onions: last year’s seed were only beginning to show through by the end of May having been sown at end of March, this year they’re displaying crook necks after 3 weeks, which is about average. The Aquadulce are taking a stretch at last, and we will have to get the supports in place like yesterday before they start banging their heads on the clay, and the lettuce and rocket sown 3 weeks ago have finally put their feet down. Although still on the cool side we’ve put our beetroot (Solo) and radishes to bed, but we’ll leave the haricot and the peas a week or more yet.
The Victoria rhubarb is leafing up well at last and our plan is to have some this weekend; and once gardeners begin harvesting their rhubarb all seems good with the gardening world for another year.
Everything we’ve sown so far this year has germinated, but that is not to ignore the fact that the cool dry air has played its part in interrupting spring once again. The lack of Atlantic rain is also marked. For the third year in a row there has been a noticeable absence of those pulsating downpours we generally call April’s showers, and it seems the north easterlies are set to bring us right to the end of the month with this weekend’s forecast not faring much better.
With cooler than average and drier than average air a careful balance must be struck with watering newly established and germinating seed beds, for although the days are bright and dry, experience has taught us that most germinating seed can just about tolerate such naturally challenging conditions, but not with artificially dampened feet. One single day of intermittent April showers will develop your garden in a way that a whole month with a watering can never will, so easy with the hose while the easterly blows! We will see a welcome return to the prevailing south/south westerlies, and not a moment too soon I might add, but, the truth is that this year’s April showers will now most likely arrive sometime in May.

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