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An ideal spring ?

Updated: May 7, 2020

The broccoli was (and is) great. We've enjoyed sumptuous green shoots almost every other day now – and there are 22 bags safely stored in the deep freeze. Beats asparagus any day in my reckoning – and it's much easier to manage and weed. Rhubarb is the other early spring delight but we've only managed a couple of pickings – lack of rain, I think.

My early plantings are doing their best through this cool (but sunny) April drought. Potatoes are coming through and the salad crops are doing well. Even the carrots have made a good showing but not much sign of parsnips or beetroot. Rain is expected at the end of the week so I'm planning my first carrot thinning session then. On Monday I planted out 51 sweet corn plants after hardening them off for 3 days on the patio outside the green house. I also planted out the young lettuce seedlings and the first of my aggressive pumpkin plants.

In the green house, the well established vine is already going crazy – needing almost daily pruning to stop it invading the entire space. The new seedless vine is making steady progress but shows no sign of fruiting this year so we won't be able to see just how delicious the new grapes might be. On the other hand, the vigorous thornless blackberry (trained against the south facing greenhouse wall) has now set massive flowers in this its second year – so some delicious fruit should be forthcoming. The strawberries are in flower, too. All the apple trees are in full bloom now – the plum blossom has already fallen. And the tulips and daffodils look splendid around the orchard. I'm slightly concerned that the small Himalayan blackberry (which I bought at the church fair last summer) may get out of control. I have already had to put up new support wires and I see that in the western states of the USA this plant is classed as a dangerous introduced species. Apparently it can grow 15 feet high in a single year – with some shoots as long as 40 feet! We shall keep an eye on it! Keeping my raspberries from escaping is a hard enough job already!

Earlier in the month I put up the support loom for the runner beans. This year I'm experimenting with starting the beans off in pots in the greenhouse – I have 40 pots sown. I know it's more work but it should be a great boost for a bumper crop – avoiding the worst depredations of slugs and mice. And my battle with mice and the pea crop continues. This year I've sown the peas under wire covers, hoping this would deter the hungry birds. Within 48 hours every single pea in my first sowing had been eaten or removed by the mice!

I rotavated the whole area and sowed another 2 packets of sugar snap peas. This time I soaked them in oil first and put down mouse traps. I'm now catching 2 or 3 mice every day (tempting them with tasty morsels of mars bar) – but their pals have still eaten a lot of peas so I'm not holding my breath! It looks as if I will have to adopt the plastic guttering trick as soon as the builder's merchants open again after the corona lockdown. Those mice are certainly resourceful little creatures. Fortunately, the tasty peas seem to have diverted the mice away from the newly sown french beans. This year I have covered the entire bean area with the fine green “rubble netting” which I bought last year for making the butterfly-proof enclosures for the brassicas. It seems to be working as the birds have not (yet) been able to peck off the newly emerging shoots.

All in all, I can't say it's been an ideal spring. We have had several very cool dry springs over recent years but generally the plants finally bounce back once the rains come. One lucky insect enjoying the dry sunny weather is the wasp – here's a fine queen chewing wood pulp from the patio table top!


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