It seems that the mysteries of global warming have brought us the driest and coldest April for 50 years – and the plants have hated it. Just yesterday I saw that the 3 small courgette plants I popped in 10 days ago have been massacred by late frost. Today we have 5 degrees, driving rain and sleet with gale force northerly winds. The drought has now turned to floods and I am cowering from the weather tapping my computer. But let's look at the positives!
The salad crops (lettuce, spinach and rocket) are doing fine despite the weather. In fact it has been so sunny that the greenhouse plants have suffered from temperatures reaching the high 30s despite having the doors wide open in daytime. The potatoes have struggled to get out of the ground, more than 5 weeks after they were planted, but they have now been earthed up and (more or less) escaped the frost.
The asparagus is up now and all the soft fruits have their leaves as the bees flock around the flowers on the gooseberry bushes (which they seem to love).
Amazingly the parsnips have made a reasonably good germination and most have already been hoed and thinned (which makes a welcome change from previous dry springs). Amazingly too, we had our first peach blossom early in April and (miracle of miracles) there are already 6 little embryo peaches gracing this vigorous 2-year-old tree. The plum blossom has been spectacular and the apple blossom is now in full bloom.
We have already enjoyed many good meals from the marvellous sprouting broccoli and it's a good feeling to know that there are now almost 20 bags of this succulent green safely in the deep freeze.
The broad beans are now showing in the new “city” garden – despite the efforts of our resident voles to unearth a good number. The soil in this area is remarkably light and sandy but the potatoes have not shown through yet.
The wet weather has brought on the onions and garlic which are all doing well after being hoed several times during the dry spell.
Last week I sowed carrots, beetroot and more lettuce but, with the nights still being very cold, we will have to wait another week or so before sowing peas, french beans and runner beans (the loom of string supports for the runner beans is already in place).
The sweet peas are now planted out and we've sown seed for parsley and coriander.
The thornless blackberry is about to burst into blossom – the rampant shoot which will set next year's fruit is already 25 cm out of the ground (surrounded by the emerging blossoms on our strawberry plants).
In the green house, the sweet corn (60 plants) are now about 10 cm tall in their small pots and the 4 pumpkin plants (in slightly bigger pots) are quickly spreading their fat green leaves. Yesterday I planted out 8 tomato plants from their pots into the soil at the back of the greenhouse under the wildly vigorous grape vine. (Almost every day I have to pinch out more of its blooming shoots so the vine does not take over the entire greenhouse!) I also planted a tray of basil which should form the basis of this year's supply of home-made (and very delicious) pesto. Next week it will be time to sow the broccoli in the greenhouse so it will be ready to plant out in June.
On non-gardening days I've been converting the huge old sycamore trunks (cut down about 2 years ago) into 3-legged milking stools. These handy seats are great for fruit picking and easily portable for use in picnics and drinking outside the pub! It's very therapeutic work – cost of materials is nil and each takes about 4 hours to make. Yes – they are for sale (£50 each) but the transport could be tricky!