March winds blow and April showers bring forth slugs eating my flowers! I ignore the greenhouse for one night to discover the next morning that out of eighteen baby leaf lettuces I am left with four. What’s worse, something has also eaten my entire radish, including the roots. I am convinced that the culprits are woodlice, until I read in a magazine that woodlice are often wrongly accused of this; woodlice in your garden are a healthy sign. So where are the slugs? There are surprisingly, no slimy trails, and I can’t see them on the soil. I look in horror at my jeans to find one fat critter has attached itself to me, probably when I was on my knees looking for them. It gets flicked off my leg with a dibber, slightly cruel but it’s a reaction to mild disgust that this thing with no legs is slithering up me. It’s a bit too late to get Nematodes to save what’s left of my lettuces so I sprinkle slug pellets around the remaining leaves and sow more radish and rocket seeds.
May is an exciting month, everything is gearing-up for summer, it’s RHS Chelsea week and our established fruit trees, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, gooseberries and currents are putting on flowers and early fruit is forming. There’s plenty of blossom on the apple trees and I really hope the wind pollinates it rather than blows it away. The ornamental trees are in full leaf, the grass is always in need of a trim and the shield bugs, bees, butterflies and other insects are making themselves known.
The weather has gone potty, one minute it’s almost summer, then its back to heavy winds, lashing rain and chilly nights. We haven’t had frost but it’s going down to one degree some nights. I am trying to harden off my plants but they seem to stop growing then have massive growth spurts. I have lost a load of sunflowers so I have decided to just vent the greenhouses in the day rather than drag the plants out before work, have a change in weather halfway through the day, and come home to ruined plants. I do look at the weather forecast, but to be honest they don’t always get it right in our area. My dad-in-law says the best way to see what the weather is doing is to look out of the window! He actually means look at the height of the clouds depending on how high they are; you should be able judge if it’s going to rain in the next half hour. The other way we can tell if we are in for bad weather, is by the behaviour of the house sparrows at the feeding station. If they completely stuff themselves, even on a really calm morning we know that we are in for stormy weather within a few hours; if they just flit back and forth throughout the day we know the weather will be fine for a few days. Do you have any natural weather indicators?
In the big greenhouse the sweet peppers, tomatoes and aubergines are situated in their final growing positions, there are pots and hanging baskets planted up ready with viola, pansy, nemesia and linaria to be shown off to the neighbours once the weather settles. The Fuchsia ‘Garden News’ has been transplanted into glazed pots and adorn the area by our front door. The Begonia Apricot Shades are still in the greenhouse and the leaves are growing by the day.
Our small greenhouse has been transformed, there is now only one border as the rest is under paving slabs, new staging has been installed and rapidly germinating seed is being monitored for damp-off, pest and diseases.
The remaining border in the small greenhouse is still home to the onions. During an afternoon last December, cleaning, I found sets sprouting in a cupboard under the kitchen sink. I made a decision to plant them in the old greenhouse in hope that they would grow – they seem really happy so for now I am letting them get on with it. I hope they don’t bolt. I keep referring to the instruction leaflet that came with them as I have no experience of growing them. On the weekend I noticed they were trying to send out a flower stem from their centres, I nipped these out, and can happily report they are using their energy to make the bulbs instead.
My cucumbers have arrived from T&M so the onions have a few weeks to finish off what they are doing as I need the space for my cucumbers. I want to keep them separate from the tomatoes and peppers and aubergines as they don’t appear to like the humidity of the other plants. I need to feed the soil after the onions finish. After my garden peas have finished outside I am going to use the soil for growing either lettuce or radish as legumes put nitrogen back into the soil.
My list of jobs is growing as quickly as the plants. Each evening, I go outside and inspect every plant. I have a three year old Goji Berry that has recently being moved as it didn’t like its position in the garden; it now sits behind a Tayberry. I have never eaten Tayberry before so I am really excited, especially as it was in the bargain bucket for £2.49 last year from a well-known home improvement store. I have never tried a fresh Goji Berry either as it hasn’t fruited at all. This is my fault for not putting it in the correct place to start with.
Next everything in the greenhouses gets a watering. I then do the stomach muscles workout of watering pots, bags, baskets and beds in the garden with a two gallon watering can. A hose fixed to a water supply would be easier, but I really enjoy the exercise. It helps my arms and chest muscles too. Mark fixed a tap at the bottom of the water butt so that I don’t have to go up and down the steps to fill the watering can from the top of the barrel all of the time. Also as I had to lean in quite far sometimes over the barrel I think he was worried I might end up head first in it. It’s easier as the top and back garden get water from the top of the barrel and the front and side garden get water from the bottom of the barrel.
I discovered that medical rubber gloves which are really thin, work well for doing fiddly things on my list like getting at the side shoots of the tomatoes or potting on nicotiana and sunflowers as the hairs slightly irritate my skin. The gloves can last anything between one and five uses, unless I forget them in the greenhouse and they melt in the heat.
I am trying the potatoes at the front of the house as it gets the sun from just before midday until sunset. It’s really comical when people stop and ask “Errm what plants are they?” I tell them and then they ask “Do potatoes really grow in bags like that?” I think the pictures speak for themselves. I noticed that there is a competition for the biggest potato crop on the T&M website I don’t think I will have the biggest crop, but I am really interested in the results as, mentioned in my previous blog, I have two different types of grow bags to compare.
I have picked and stewed some rhubarb, it’s was sweet; I ate it with Greek yoghurt and honey. Mark hates rhubarb so it was all mine! I wish I could say that my lettuces and radish were nice but I never got to try them thanks to the slugs. Looks like I will have to wait a bit longer. Has anyone else had any disasters in the greenhouse this month or is it just me?
Between now and the end of the year my greenhouses, gardening diaries and this blog are going to be even more important to me; I recently went for my cardiology consultation and the news though not unexpected, was not the best. As I am forty and I had my main heart surgery when I was seven, there was always a chance that as I got older I would need, what the specialists now politely term, an intervention, I am going for further tests, with the one due mid June, and although I feel fit and well, I have to err on the side of caution. My cardiologist said to carry on as normal and that includes going to work, gardening and generally getting on with it. I am not going to feel sorry for myself, and I certainly don’t want people to feel sorry for me. People with congenital disorders are used to hospitals and test and procedures, it’s a way of life, but that does not mean that we are not affected by it. For me gardening gives me something positive to focus on, and to share it with others is incredibly rewarding. It’s also useful during a long MRI to keep the claustrophobia away by trying to name all of the plants that are currently flowering in the plot, or visualising myself there rather than in a noisy machine.
I love my garden and it has many challenges, although after last Saturday Mark has decided it’s too dangerous for him. Unexpectedly, he ended up in A&E after trying to put together a homemade bamboo cane support frame for the tomatoes. He was cutting off a strip of insulation tape holding a bunch of canes when the canes rolled in his hands. The Stanley Knife sliced easily through the tape and just as easily through his finger. He is a first aider at work so he gave me instructions on stopping the blood flow and how to bandage him. It settled, but started bleeding again and again. After two hours we decided maybe he needed stitches. The nurse said it needed two to three stitches but unfortunately two doctors were unable to stitch it as there wasn’t enough thickness in the skin. They glue stripped it instead. Talk about blood, sweat and tears!
Next month is early summer, the start of the potato and pea harvest in our garden, it’s also a time when I can unwind with a cup of coffee in warm evenings sitting on my bench hid behind the wildflower and Lupin border watching the world go by.
Love Amanda xx
My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.