|~ Rhubarb, cowslips, cornflower (Centaurea montana) and cowslip seedlings to transplant ~|
There's never enough hours in the day is my mantra as the gardening year starts up in earnest. March can sorely test a gardener's resolve to resist sowing too early. As fruit trees come into blossom, fingers are crossed against the possibility of frost. It's been such a brilliant spring for blossom and, for once, beneficial bugs too. This year, with exceptionally mild spring temperatures, I've also been on the lookout for pests such as aphids, baby slugs and vine weevil grubs in pots. My searches have already proved successful; as I garden completely organically, this is an area to keep on top of.
I didn't completely resist the urge to sow: French beans, peas, mange tout and courgettes were sown into modules on the 11th March, with the intention of having plants ready to go out at the end of April. The peas are growing strongly and are ready to be potted on, the beans and courgettes are so inactive that I'm wondering if I actually sowed any in the modules! A gentle poke around may be in order. It doesn't matter if they don't germinate because there's plenty of time to resow. Once the first lot of peas and beans are planted out, I'll sow another lot to have fresh veg over a longer period. I'm writing all this down in my little black book - it's amazing how quickly the details get forgotten. For this first round, I'm growing (or not, as the case may be) four each of Bingo, Sugar Ann and Delikatess peas, four Golden Sweet mange tout (a tall yellow podded climber), two yellow courgettes, two striped Italian courgettes and eight Canadian Wonder bush beans. All of these have been started on my balcony in an unheated propagator.
|~ Sage, garden mint, globe artichoke, wild garlic, flat and curly parsley ~|
Meanwhile, down in the veg patch, herbs that were cut back are regrowing strongly, a raised bed has been sown with Karmazyn broad beans - 23 in total, the 24th space was already occupied by a bean I'd found in last year's bed and shoved into the soil last December. It was a tiny seedling when I planted the other beans and is still the only thing showing in that bed. It's only been three weeks but, given the recent warm weather, I was expecting to see something other than last year's sunflower seeds germinating. Dare I say that some typical April showers would be helpful?
(Update: as I'm late posting this, but typed it last weekend, the broad beans are now showing!)
Sweet peas sowed on 24th February were all growing nicely by 17th March, the new Sarah Raven seeds giving 100% germination and being the quickest off the mark. They've all now got their fourth set of true leaves and have been pinched out to encourage sturdy bushier plants with more flowers. I'm following the advice given by Wellywoman in her book The Cut Flower Patch to maximise my chances of success!
|~ Borage, pear blossom, tulips, apple blossom ~|
The pear and plum trees are currently covered in blossom, just ahead of the cherry and apple trees. It's a glorious sight that the bees are aware of - there's also a few self-seeded borage plants in the fruit tree border for extra nectar for hungry bumbles. The tulips under the trees are just open while February's narcissus are still blooming! At this stage, I'm quietly optimistic of a good fruit harvest this year.
|Gooseberries, raspberries, marshmallow|
Salad news: I've sown a small raised bed with a selection to be used as 'cut and come again' salad leaves: rainbow Pak Choi, spinach Reddy, Bull's Blood beetroot and Lamb's lettuce. The Pak Choi has germinated well; any thinnings will be transplanted and grown on elsewhere. As soon as I've built another raised bed, that too will be sown with more lettuce varieties, this time to grow on into larger plants.
Upstairs on my balcony, I've added a couple of window boxes for more quick pick salad. I've repotted the lemon verbena; this plant would grow into a large bush if planted out into a border but I like to keep it nearby to pick the leaves for tea. The little chives plant that I planted on from a supermarket buy last year died back over winter but is putting on good strong growth this year - must remember to keep watering it! A couple of days ago, I bought some inexpensive slimline greenhouse staging - 4 wire shelves on my sheltered balcony mean that I can start seed sowing in earnest without clogging up my windowsills. Space, the final frontier.
My big job for April will be to try and fence all the way round the Veg Patch island. Having tried fencing off individual beds with strong plastic netting, I've found that there's one bed where cats are still getting in - and it's not buried treasure they're leaving behind. Coated wire netting seems to be keeping animals out of individual beds, but then it becomes an effort to weed the fenced area. Fencing around the perimeter is the next option to try. I'm hoping that this latest plan will work; we're all so fed up with picking up poo that unless this is sorted, it could be curtains for any ground level food growing.
On a much more positive note, Victoriana Nurseries have donated a quince tree to the community garden! That brings my fruit tree total to ten trees. If nothing else, that's an achievement that I'm very proud of. The quince is a bare root tree so, until I've decided where to position it, I've planted it into a large pot of multi purpose compost where it will be well watered and happy. Any trees supplied with bare roots should be given a good soak in a bucket of water to rehydrate the roots and then planted as soon as possible; ours will be planted this weekend.
(Another update: the quince tree is in, planted with a team effort on Friday.)
So what's in store for April? Next on the agenda, after fencing, is weeding. That's the price I've paid for not cutting off the Orach seedpods promptly. Seedlings are growing in the fruit tree border and popping up by the thousand. I want to sow some meadow flowers under the fruit trees and don't want them, or the trees, competing with the orach seedlings for nutrients so they'll have to go. (I might just keep one or two … !) I've got herbs, honeyberries and raspberry canes to plant out and seed sowing on my balcony will begin in earnest this week so there should be some progress to report by the end of next month!
Happy gardening days are here again!
This post is written to link in with Lizzie's Garden Share Collective over in Australia where they've been glad of some rain after a very dry 'summer'. Lizzie is still blogging despite being days away from giving birth so I wish her well with her labour and hope it all goes smoothly. xx