April, come she will, and the overgrown plot of land we signed for at the end of December 2016 is beginning to resemble an allotment at last. There is still much to do on the monster’s New corner, but, at least we have some onion and shallot sets growing away in terra firma. We have also moved the onion seedlings out of our daughter’s polytunnel and set these in the ground and our cosmos are germinated and putting on an inch or so. The dwarf sunflowers have germinated, and all the fruit bushes we moved from our former plot in January have burst bud and the bees are pollinating the early flowers on the Hinnomaki gooseberry bushes; the summer John and April Queen heritage apple trees are about to bloom, and all six of Mrs. Dirt Diggers rose bushes are topping away with this year’s growth, and to cap it all off we have actually harvested some rhubarb form our new plot. We know it’s a little early as, ideally we should have left it a bit longer before picking some stalks as these stools were only transplanted in early January, but, we just had to, and what a sweet treat…the first produce from the monster’s NEW corner. We’ve set the structures of our raised beds, marked out our pathways and mulched the whole fruiting area with woodland chippings; and last week saw us take delivery of a new shed: a new bolt-hole for the monster. With peas, broad-beans and some new strawberry plants being set this weekend we’ll be busy as this year’s sowing season gets under way in earnest, and we are glad to say that we are just about on cue. Although a little cool and grey for much of the last 5 days at least the weather forecast is for somewhat brighter and milder weather than of late, and remembering that tomorrow is Greenfingers Day, sure what more could any gardener or allotmenteer hope for eh! Buy some seed…… and sow up a pot or a drill on your plot…
(Having arrived very late this year, winter has finally (if only temporarily) put paid to progress on our new plot adventure. After many months on the fence of procrastination we finally took a leaf from the Pontius Pilate’s diaries and in mid December, having had our fill of the petty personalities and the petty activities at our former allotment site, we dug up our fruit bushes, lifted our rhubarb, emptied our tool lock-up, dismantled our wooden beds and finally washed our hands of the whole sorry saga that unfortunately seems to be part and parcel of life on a lot of council allotment sites.
In December we relocated to a new site 6 miles away, and whilst the very depths of winter may not be the ideal time for such an undertaking, we did, at least, manage to get all out bushes replanted and quite a large area of our new plot dug before the winter’s weather finally curtailed activity.
To date we have 3 blackcurrant, 3 gooseberry, 2 dwarf heritage apple trees, 1 plum (Opal), 1 peach (Red Haven), Timperley early and Victoria rhubarb stools and also 3 red currant bushes which will go in this weekend. We’ve also relocated 5 of our rose bushes and to fill out the compliment to a rounded 6 we also purchased and planted a new David Austin rose, Young Lycidas. We’ve also relocated some Bay and Rosemary bushes, and last weekend my partner in grime planted over 80 gladioli bulbs, Lupin seedlings and hardy geraniums which hopefully, will all add to the summer interest in about 5 or 6 months. Although today, March 1st, is the first day (meteorologically speaking) of spring, the weather is decidedly wintry yet, and the forecast for the rest of this week is more of the same. But, at least we content ourselves with the knowledge that we are on track with our time-frame, and actually managed to dig all of the area in which we plan to sow and grow; it may not be cultivated as yet, but at least it has had a winter turning. So, while awaiting an improvement in the weather we shall concentrate on pathways, borders and divisions; firming up the perimeter-barrier and set about ordering a shed. As Father Dougal may have said…
“Wow Ted! A Shed Ted! You mean an actual allotment shed? Woowwwww Ted”!
May 3rd and for the third night in a row we had no frost last night…Spring perchance!
After one of the coolest Aprils in memory May arrived and with it brought the first prevailing south-westerly in over a month. Still a little blustery at present though, and the darling buds shall be roughly treated a few days yet, but noticeably they have double digit temperatures to contend with, and though shaken and a little stirred at least conditions are finally conducive to tempting the last of the frigid buds to give way.
Radish, beetroot and parsnip seed are all germinated; the Lollo Rossa, Oak Leaf and Little Gems are out of bed as are the White Lisbon’s, Deep Purples and Rojas de Niort; Gooseberry Blooms are setting, and the first hints of strawberry blooms are visible; The Stuttgarters and Karmens have weathered reasonably well though only time will tell when we see the percentage of bolters in mid to late summer: the blueberry bushes planted during the winter have taken as have the two apple trees we had to move; the Tayberry scrambles have bloom, and the Autumn Gold raspberry clump is putting on a few inches at last. The Suttons beans that had stuttered are on the move again, and with the improvement in weather over the last few days we decided to sow some Velour mange-tout. We’ve also sown up a large pot of Italian giant leaf basil, and once the basil is in summer can’t be far behind…
May on the Monster in the corner generally heralds the beginning of weeding season and with all the early spring growth and development so weather suppressed this year we’ll have to be mindful that once activity takes off in the next few days it will be instant and explosive, and everything will suddenly happen at once.
So, the likelihood is that everything we sowed in March and thought we’d lost will germinate; and everything we sowed to compensate for that loss will also germinate; and every winter blown weed seed in subterranean hibernation will germinate just as we get to survey the limitless store of nature’s free bounty which every gardener unwittingly disturbs in turning the soil.
An hour or two spent weeding right here when it’s all happening helps to keep everything in check: to leave the May’s weed head out to seed is more than garden or gardener needs. Experience has taught that this first flush of weed is the most important to control and the two or three weeks of effort expended now always pays an early dividend and that by July the developed crops should then shade out the rest of Mother Nature’s freebies.
But careful as we go: where for weeks on end we’ve had to wear warming and protective gloves as we worked the Monster in cooler than average air, we must now resort to the kid glove variety as we go and hoe especially in the beds with tap-rooters where the aim is to cause as little disturbance as possible to those roots which have taken long enough to get going in the first place.
We generally weed parsnips and beets before seedlings become too established, and always a few hours after a good downpour or a good watering, using much the same approach for the thinning out process…
However, with the weeding season comes the watering season, and the bedding plant season, and the hardened-off season and planting out season; and with the weeding season comes the aphid season, and the earthing-up season, and the watering season, and the beer trap season, and the cucumber sowing season, and the soft wood season, and the sow the autumn and winter seed season, and the slug season, and the pinching out season and the salad days season. But, how quickly the season will likely turn, and the summer season’s short lease will quickly fade; always a little too quickly.
So, you can plan on how you’ll make your season’s hay in the bright and broadening days of May, but remember to leave the May’s weed to go to seed is more than garden or gardener needs.