April 2005


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Saturday April 2nd

Got to wood place at 11.30am, and acquired some more pieces. Managed to fit them in the car together with the onion sets (Marshall's) and all the tools. It took a couple of trips from the car (and help from Vince) to get everything up there. Started off by planting half of the onions, 7" apart. After having planted a full tray plus the small tray, had lunch then did the second half. Had fun putting blue pipe hoops over the bed: 2.4m lengths seem to be about right. Tied them together with twine (3 lots) and then anchored the end hoops to stakes. Then tried to cover it all with the blue plastic - great fun, as it´s rather stiff and difficult to handle. Chris helped a lot, and eventually I managed to pin the sides down with pegs and pieces of wood. Then I could start sorting out decent terracing for plot 1. Replaced the piece of wood I'd nicked for the tomato bed, and did the shallot bed properly. Dug some creeping thistles out of the flower bed, where they seem to be sprouting faster than I can dig. Here is quite a handy information link with photos. Unfortunately if they set seed, I could have them for years. Topical glyphosate painting looks like the best solution, if they come up again. I dug down quite a long way (over a foot in most cases) so if they reappear they'll be weaker, and easier for the glyphosate to kill. I hope. Discovered something's eaten some parsnips - grr. Will have to resow, hopefully into the loorolls. Chris reappeared from her top plot and said I was welcome to the bags of flints, so sifted them for soil and barrowed them up to the path. Now complete: after about half an hour the sun had dried them off and the path was looking very nice. Put the beanpoles up. Took some photos of the current state of progress, including the tulips (all the yellows have opened and look totally blowsy). Home at 6.30pm, with some more of Tony's Jerusalem artichokes.

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onion cosy

Sunday April 3rd

Dug up some primroses from the back lawn, popped them in pots and took them with a pot of old red tulips and some of the late-planted Jetfires up to the lottie. Planted them around the Bramley, so that they give a bit more succession. Also dug up a pesky raspberry cane which was growing in the wrong place. Strimmer got used to trim everything in sight: it's still eating line though, so will have to get some more. Managed to work out how to safely turn it upside down to strim the edges (the handle turns!). Had quite a relaxed afternoon sowing seed: a radish has germinated from the first row. Sowed a second row, this time of the spherical cherry belle ones. Resowed the munched parsnips. Sowed a row of spring onions next to the shallots. Planted the freebie gladiolus callianthus in groups of five in the flower bed. Sowed a line of mini sunflowers (16" high ones!) and two full sized at the edge of the bed. Strimmed the grass on the plot border with Chris and put carpet down on it from the raised beds. Covered the sweetcorn bed with a couple of barrowloads of manure (so quite thick!). Only at the end did I remove some more leeks and pull out the weirdly coloured one. It came out minus most of the roots, and slimy. Panic. Is this white rot? Put it on some carpet and went home. Consulted the web - white rot symptoms yellowing leaves and rotten roots. Aaargh! Ten minutes later went back with a carrier bag and dug out a cubic foot of soil around the leek position. The leek I had went yellow from the centre out, whereas WR causes leeks to go from the outside in, and I couldn't see any fungus, so I was hopeful it wasn't (but taking no chances).

Monday April 4th

Emailed RHS about the leek. Answer: Leeks are prone to certain virus diseases and these may be involved.  This is of no significance unless you intend to propagate from this plant, as remaining leek crops will soon be discarded.  Viruses will not lurk to infest following crops. Sometimes yellowing involves root disease or disorder - again there is no cause for concern as such diseases and disorders will probably not infest subsequent crops.  White rot is another matter. White rot requires warm soil and will show up in summer.  Your leeks seem to have been fine until now, so it is more likely that other causes are involved. It is certainly prudent to discard this leek complete with roots and adjacent soil, but there is no need to undertake other, more drastic, measures. We would be happy to examine samples of course, but I don't feel there is cause for concern just yet.


Saturday April 9th

Freezing! No good going up to the lottie as I figured anything I might care to sow would freeze first. I did go to the trading hut and buy a large bag of 6X (pooh!), some plant labels with large faces and some more perlite after using up the rest of my large bag on the bucket spuds. Then I went to Focus and bought 2m of narrow guttering with the clips and end pieces, as well as corner brackets to reinforce the raised beds and stop them warping any more. I shall fix the shed now! Also wood glue to fix the plant house again, after the top came to bits.

Sunday April 10th

Much warmer now after the -3 degrees frost of Friday. Was very glad I´d put the cosy over the onions while they hardened off after being accelerated in the conservatory! Now it´s back to being nicely springy. After having gone and bought guttering yesterday, I had to work out how to get it to stick out far enough to actually catch water, since the overhang was about one gutter´s width... bits of spare wood and corner brackets to the rescue. Lee donated a piece of piping and a tiny plant pot which proved ideal for jury-rigging the water into the butt!  Then it was back to the real use of the corner brackets. Gradually worked my way round the beds, and eventually succeeded in bolting most of them with only a small blister to show. Weeded a bit (and dug out the wild bramble from the orchard for the nth time). The early redcurrant Jonkheer van Tets is absolutely covered in flowers this year, and the Red Start is about to follow suit. I´ll have to net both of them.

Bulbs in orchard now looking splendid, though in future I suspect I won´t get all of them flowering at once because things will be planted on time... here I´ve got some Jetfire narcissi (which should be over by now) and also some pale lilac croci.


Monday April 11th

At last it´s light and warm enough to go up after work. It feels like spring´s finally on its way. Spent an hour or so shuffling backwards across the onion bed, adding in the Turbo sets. Despite a 2 week advantage they are quite a bit smaller than the rocketing New Fen Globes. Have to admit that though the latter were awfully late in arriving, they´ve certainly made up for it. Added another blue pipe section and rescued quite a lot of fleece from the cold frame. The new, clean stuff is disintegrating while the mucky, muddy used fleece is absolutely fine. I have no idea what ate the new stuff, but I´m not impressed. No obvious nests or infestations in the frame (which has a solid wood base). After a bit of fiddling which would have made Heath Robinson proud, I managed to cover up all of the onions. With yet another cold spell forecast at the end of the week, I think they need a bit of cover if I´m going to get them rather larger than last year´s pathetic specimens. No sign of the HDRA seedlings, though it probably doesn´t help that the seedbed has caked over. Watered it lightly, in the hope that the rain will keep it soft enough for the seedlings to come through. The house module-sown ones are doing fine. I´m going to have appleblossom by the end of the week - the early Windsor has got buds that look about to open. Lovely sunset.

Tuesday April 12th and Wednesday April 13th

RAIN! Hopefully the rhubarb will take off now.

Sunday April 17th

Sowing day. Pricked out lots of chillies and the Sungella tomatoes. Had rather a lot of the Purple Venezuelan chilles come up (eventually...) so might be donating spares to a plant sale! Sowed tomato tumbler at last (and some seeds out of one of last year's fruit to see what happens!), courgettes Parthenon and Gold Rush, Webbs lettuce and my Strelitzia Reginae Juncea and Mandela's Gold. Those I also scraped to let water in easier, labelled very carefully and popped in the heated propagator with the courgettes. Realised that I couldn´t get all the things I wanted in the propagator so some will have to lump being outside. Couldn't find the wretched purple sprouting broccoli! All plantings were into individual pots so that they can be moved out of the propagator as soon as they germinate, so they don't get too leggy (and let me get something else in). Rearranged the conservatory so that the seed house is by the far window again and gets the best light. The Strelitzia is back on the table, happily growing roots out of the bottom of the pot yet again, and a seed pod :) so my hand pollination must have worked!
 Finally made it up to the lottie as the lovely weather vanished under clouds, and found the second row of radishes have germinated, there's still no sign of either the HDRA onions or the spring onions, and the red tulips are out (as the yellow ones go over, so nice succession there). Dug two more perishing thistles out, and something with a very large twisted root that was growing in the sweetcorn bed. Well it's out now. I hope! Hoed the shallots and the autumn onions. Not much growing in between them but I'm not letting the weeds get a foothold, least not before I have to go away! A few volunteer spuds had popped up in the onions - which were removed promptly. Only tiddlers so not hard to get out without damaging the onions (which are doing very well now - fleece working nicely). Watered the slightly nibbled beetroot and carrots - uh oh - so will sow modules for the succession. Parsnips hanging on (and a couple more have germinated, though sadly in already-occupied rolls!). Forgot to look for the sunflowers. Discovered the potted gooseberry was flowering, and donated it to one of the new families. The rhubarb was growing a flower bud, so wrenched that out. Hopefully it'll now grow more leaves. Will chicken manure it at some point. Whilst in the orchard, noticed lots of weeds now coming up under the bushes so will have to go in there with a hoe, but it was starting to drizzle so decided to go back later in the week to do that. Rearranged the gutter outflow to be more over the butt, and left as the rain really set in.
 Got home and promptly found the wayward early purple sprouting broccoli seed. Sowed 24 of them - hopefully they're not too old to grow, and if I only get patchy germination, well with that many I should get enough!

Thursday April 21st

After yesterday´s storm and torrential rain, and before tomorrow´s forecast frost, dashed up to see how things were. Found a few early spuds through so hastily covered them over with more soil. Dug a few more volunteers from last year out of the onion bed, and pulled some rhubarb from the smaller clumps (paradoxically larger stems than the main clump). The minarette apple´s flowering. Hope one of the others flowers soon so I can get some apples!

Sunday April 24th

Bit of a shopping spree today. Bought four bags of topsoil to top up the two smaller raised beds, a bag of John Innes 3, a couple of bags of compost for carrots and sowing, strimmer line and a small Wolf cultivator. Oh and 75 gladioli for £3, two cucumbers, an aubergine and two pots of bluebells.

The JI3 got used to pot up the bay tree, which now looks much better and used some of the old compost to pot up the aubergine and one of the cucumbers. The other one was so dry I had to leave it soaking. The lottie looks bare, still. The early spuds however are trying to escape, which means they´re well over 8" tall. Shifted all the hoops and the fleece off the onions and onto the spud bed, in the hope of protecting them a bit. Planted the gladdies in the flower bed and realised that there are going to be a lot of them. And I didn´t get yellow ones either, so still have to get some or I´ll look suspiciously patriotic as currently I´ve got red, white and blue! I´m sure the sweet peas and sunflowers will compensate (if the latter ever grow...) I built the pea wigwams without having remembered to take the actual plants up. They are well hardened off now, most of them with several shoots. Must take up tomorrow. Did the rounds and though the yellow tulips are now done, the reds are still going and for some totally bizarre reason, two of the yellows must have got some virus and have turned pale pink and green. I´m baffled. Planted the English bluebells by the red tulips (and they were correctly labelled, though I did buy open ones just so I could be sure!). Carrots now developing second fans of main leaves so I´m going to have to fleece them soon and plant maincrops. The cloches can then move on to French beans. Must plant some soon! The rhubarb has put a spurt on, so have the currants and sadly so has the bindweed. Must find the brush-on glyphosate!

Conservatory looking fuller now. Lots of tomatoes and courgettes up. Sowed a pot of basil, and will try to remember to do some more for planting out with the tomatoes in June. Broccoli starting to appear too, along with some Webb´s lettuce.

Rain finally arrived at 10pm. Perhaps I won´t be going up tomorrow.

Monday April 25th

Thunderstorm. Definitely won´t be going up!

Tuesday April 26th

Spent evening sowing cucurbits and shuffling conservatory contents to make more room to put trays. Sowed four butternuts, three Defender courgettes and four (x2) long green trailing marrows.

Saturday April 30th

Finally made it up to the lottie, armed with several bottle cloches, the cabbages and the sweet peas. Planted the peas, mostly two to a cane so there's about 20 of them. Tied them in loosely, and so can now wait for them to start shooting. Early spuds spectacularly through now, and fleece a bit wayward. A couple of maincrops also poking through, though fortunately there is more room to earth up. Had to phone P to remind self where the cabbs were to go - end bed - and then spent ages trying to get them in without snapping any leaves. Had two spares and needed them! Planted about 8" apart by 12" rows, so should have plenty of space. Really firmed them in (and ache to prove it). Covered totally in the new pack of fleece I'd got on Friday. Flea beetle HAH! (Least I hope so…). Risked sowing some French beans under the bottle cloches - 4 per bottle, six lots, so that should prove amusing. The old books say they'll grow under cloches at this time of year, so with global warming etc we should be fine.  Pulled a lot of rhubarb (it's gone boom, though a couple more flower stems are up) and was rather astonished at the flowers on the crispy eater. Bramley totally devoid. No surprise there.


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