6 Apr 2014

March/April: Keeping up!

~ 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









30 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Endah! Hopefully even more colour and veg goodness at the end of next month!

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  2. Things will get going in earnest this month.

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    1. I hope so Sue. Although the warmer weather we're having in the south means more watering. My water storage bins need refilling already!

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  3. This is the busiest time of year for all of us, I think. Always a challenge to avoid sowing too much!

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    1. I'm trying to be realistic about quantities this year Mark - I've found that even with a freezer, there's only so many beans that can be eaten in a season!

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  4. It's such a busy time of year, always something which needs to be done. I've been doing a bit more seed sowing today.

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    1. I think that's the best way, Jo - little and often! Otherwise seed sowing and preparation can get a bit overwhelming if it's all left to the last minute!

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  5. Reading this, and looking at the pictures, perfectly illustrates just how busy this time of year is for gardeners. And the next few weeks are likely to be even busier.
    I see that you mention centaurea montana which I grow, and is one of my favourites. I planted some white ones in the autumn but it looks like they rotted away in the wet ground.
    Happy gardening. Flighty xx

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    1. Sorry to hear that you've lost your Centaurea, Flighty. Although the subsoil here is clay, the topsoil seems to drain quite well so I've been lucky. I didn't know about the white ones, I'll be on the lookout now for some, they sound rather attractive! Happy gardening to you too! C xx

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  6. Not enough hours in the day nor the space to store seedlings. And it's only just started! I shouldn't sound so negative.Have a good week. xx

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    1. No, not negative at all, Joanne! You're just being realistic! We have to sow a few spares in case plan A doesn't work! Wishing you a good week, too! Cxx

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  7. Peas are taking over here. I sowed them and mangetout at the beginning of March and they're ready to be potted on for the second time. The mangetout was four year old seed! I'm hoping they will have a good year. Am contemplating taking a risk and planting them out rather than potting them on again.. and be on standby with fleece.

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    1. Haha! always worth trying old seed, Rusty! I think I'll only pot on my pea seedlings for a couple of weeks before they go out .. or maybe I'll pot on half and plant half - it would be so nice to have early fresh peas! It's been very mild here for a while now, great for the fruit blossom! And I've seen plenty of bumble bees and ladybirds about which is more good news!

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  8. Busy days ahead Caro but your progress have been fab so far!

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    1. Thanks guys, kind of you to say so! I didn't put enough time into the garden last year, so I'm trying to be more organised this year! Hopefully there are greater things to come!

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  9. You've certainly been busy Caro. I think that I'm loosing the plot already! Always wait until April before sowing courgettes, French beans and mange tout but then it's warmer down there in London. How generous of Victoriana Nurseries to donate a quince to the community garden.

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    1. The weather has been so mild that I thought it might be worth taking a chance on sowing early - trying to get ahead of the game as I was so disorganised last year!! I think we have to trust our instincts and watch the local weather at this time of year. Yes, I have had a lot of support from Victoriana for our community garden over the years, they are a very generous family run concern - and I've been particularly blessed with the quince tree!

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  10. Thanks Caro :-) You have been busy this past month. I had to have a little chuckle about cats getting in your garden. Its something that just would not happen here on our farm. However anything digging and leaving poo is a real problem. I hope you sort out some sort of fencing. I wonder if there is something that cats don't like the smell of you could put around the garden?

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    1. I'm wondering now, Liz, whether other GSC members have predators that they have to cope with in their gardens? Perhaps a topic for the Facebook page! I've heard lion poo is off-putting for cats, but that's probably true for humans as well!! As well as the fence, I'm thinking of planting some Catmint away from the veg patch to distract the cats off in another direction! Worth a try! Cx

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  11. Replies
    1. Hi, fellow Garden Share member! Thanks for stopping by, I've now found your blog which is well worth a read! And, thank you, yes the tulips were a good idea (and cheap!) and I had help planting them from one of my neighbours - the flowers cheer me up every time I see them.

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  12. Sounds like you have been very busy - it's that time of year isn't it - a time we gardeners have been waiting for all winter - I think your garden is going to look a treat this year

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    1. Ah thank you, Elaine! I hope you're right. I have a little help this year which makes doing the garden so much more fun! This time of year holds so much promise for the garden we're about to create and the produce we can grow, it's no wonder we look forward to it!! Looking forward to keeping up with news of your garden as well!

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  13. What a wonderful industrious post, you have me all fired up now, I feel like dashing out and getting stuck in, shame it's raining! Your rhubarb is looking good, mine hasn't showed at all yet!
    Good luck sorting the cat prblem that does sound tricksy.xxx

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    1. Ah, lovely, it's nice to know that blog posts inspire others - I often feel like that when reading other peoples gardening exploits! I'm sure your rhubarb can't be far off, mine seems to be growing by the day! I heard today that foxes are back in the garden so the cats may not be the worst of my troubles!

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  14. That's a good long list of chores you've already done... and still more to do! It's a great time of year though, all that promise of new growth and future harvests

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    1. After a mild winter, the spring garden is looking lovely. I'm really pleased that I thought ahead about putting in some spring colour while I'm waiting for the veggies to appear; with the tulips flowering at the same time as the fruit blossom, the garden is getting lots of compliments. It's very exciting and, like you say, full of promise for summer harvests!

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  15. I find I have to fight a faint feeling of panic at this time of year, it always feels as if everything demands attention at once, and just keeping on top of the weeding can drive me mad! Your look to be in great shape though, and the fruit collection is wonderful. I have blossom on the pear and on one of the plums, all newly planted so this is my first spring with them, so exciting. I don't envy you the cat problem, I hope the fencing sorts things out. Oh, and I love that shot of the tulips under the trees! As for broad beans, my attempt at an early sowing has had mixed success thanks to mollusc damage. Happily I will be able to fill the gaps with the next sowing. I am growing 'Golden Sweet' again this year too, and am already looking forward to those beautiful pods.

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  16. I can relate to your feeling of panic, Janet - I actually start to resent the time given over to gainful employment when there's so much that needs to be done towards making a beautiful garden! I'll look forward to seeing how your little fruit trees develop over the year - even if you get blossom but no fruit, you know that your trees have got off to a good start. I'm seeing lots springing into life, it's such an exciting time but there's still lots more to do! My mange tout went out over the Easter weekend, now I'm hoping for a few days of gentle weather to settle them in!

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Comments on my posts are much appreciated and help to build an online community of blog friends. Everyone is welcome! I love to discover new blogs so please leave a comment to introduce yourself.
Caro x

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