May 2005


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Sunday May 1st

After a day out, spent evening planting up a second cucumber and some of the sweetcorn. A bit of an oops. Had written I had loads of minipop seeds. Tipped out the actual foil packet and found it was labelled Ovation. Argh! Have lots of full sized supersweets and no minis. Planted 16 Larks (which are supposed to be better as tendersweets anyway) and filled the rest of the rootrainers with 16 Berggold beans. Ho hum. With the 24 Safaris planted under the bottle cloches at the lottie, that may well be enough beans for the season! I´ve had a lottie for 4 years today!

Friday May 6th

Dash upto allotment with P to fleece everything in sight. Forecast for next week while I´m away is frost. Typical. Last year it was a heatwave. There´s always something extreme at this point in May. Watered stuff.

Saturday May 14th

Landed with a sigh of relief at 6.45am. P picked me up an hour later and after getting back and unpacking, went and looked round the plants. All alive! Even the tomatoes in the growhouse which were there for the frosts.  Unfortunately it wasn't all good, as up at the lottie the potato fleece had escaped in the windy conditions and about half the earlies are now looking like they've been hit by a flamethrower. Wail. On the other hand, the cabbage fleece had also escaped but the cabbages are perfectly happy with no detectable flea beetle. Put the fleeces back into place. Peeked under the bottle cloches and I have 18 little Safari beans up! Despite the frost. Chris said she'd had to scrape ice off the car twice in the week so I'm not surprised my poor spuds were unhappy once they'd lost their protection.

Started off by doing a bit of netting. The redcurrants are both growing like crazy and the Jonkheer van Tets has some full sized currants on it already. Eeep. It's now enclosed and netted, as is the Red Start and the blackcurrant by the rhubarb. Need to net other blackcurrants next, as some of the other new plants are coming into fruiting this year. Only one isn't - the stunted one in the middle of the orchard so I think that will find itself uprooted and shifted at some point.

Upturned the carrot cloche and dug out another trench for compost. Sowed the maincrop Autumn Kings. Cut the last piece of blue water pipe into four, so now have small cloche of doubled-up enviromesh over the carrots. Should be able to leave it there until they're ready to pull. The Early Nantes have been in almost two months already! They crop in 70 days from a summer sowing, so I guess I'm looking at another month before they're ready. If the cabbages do better this year (so far so good - this time last, they'd been fleabeetled to hell) and the onions are ok (the overwinterers are bulbing nicely) then we might actually get proper coleslaw this summer. Chris donated a few lettuces - gratefully received as mine are doing incredibly poorly. Didn't get round to putting them in - tomorrow!

Sunday May 15th

 Finally went up to lottie when it was quite late - 7pm - and spent a couple of hours there. Strimmed all the grass so it looks more presentable, planted the lettuces in the cabbages and planted some more beans to fill the gaps under the cloches. Secured the potato fleece (again) though this time with a lot of wire so the poles don't come off. Hopefully they'll get through tonight ok.  Found some more chives by the shed, so dug up a clump, split it, and planted half by my other ones. The rest went to Maggie. Still have another clump by the water butt!

Tuesday May 17th

Put the minipop sweetcorn to chit on some paper towels. Hopefully this will get them going before I get the space in the rootrainers etc, as I used those to plant 32 soya beans. They're also in the heated prop, so should be up before a week's out. Put the tumbler tomatoes into the hanging baskets. They've been in a month, and made a decent set of leaves and are about 7" high, so that should help me get next year's timetable right. The others are still stuffed in the greenhouse and tall… must open top up daily soon and start hardening them off properly.
Things to do:
Sow the Salsify
Sow the minipop sweetcorn once it's germinated
Sow more beans
Get beetroot and chard modules out
Sow more parsnips
Buy leek seedlings and plant out
Plant out remaining lettuces and sow moreP
Net raspberriesP
Net gooseberries
Plant out broccoli when at 5-leaf stage
Harden off anything in conservatory!

Friday May 27th

Day off and what a scorcher. Phew - way too hot. Made it to lottie with sunblock etc and found that the fleece had blown off the cabbages abnd the thrice-damned pigeons had shredded them. Five of them are ok thanks to the fleece landing on them, but the rest are skeletons and some are beyond recovery. Watered them, planted a few more lettuces and secured the fleece yet again. Bugger. At least I should get some of them this summer which gives the rest about a month to catch up. I hope. Managed somehow to net the summer raspberry canes, helped mostly by the net being intact and folded properly. The gap between the summers and autumns has vanished - I have no clue which are which at the join now. Planted the cream sausage tomatoes (determinate) and put in a string support suspended from a length of rope between posts. They are described by US websites as an heirloom European paste tomato, which I take to mean that they are great for making tomato sauce. "Paste tomatoes are characterized by possessing high amounts of sugars and acids (flavour), a lot of pectin, and less water than other tomato types.  The higher amount of pectin, coupled with the lower amount of water makes the juice thicker and requires less time to cook down to a paste consistency." Planted the Parthenon courgettes, including one in Chris's patch. I think I got the right place. After spending a few hours out of breath and wondering if it was me or the heat, went back to car and checked temperature. 31oC. Not me. That temperature would flatten anyone. It was hotter than in Miami!

Saturday May 28th

More normal temperatures - a mere 21oC today. Much nicer, and much easier working. Started with the cabbages again - netted them completely and put the fleece back on top to stop flea beetle. If it blows off again at least the winged devil birds are kept out. Netted most of a blackcurrant, then ran out of netting. Planted the sungella tomatoes. These are indeterminate (cordon) so will need to be sideshooted, but they are supposedly very heavy croppers. Chickenpelleted all the onions and the area where the butternuts will go. I think the trailing marrows are going on that patch, too. Oddly, looked at a module tray that had been sitting with some spare onions in, and found it was growing beetroot seedlings. Planted them in the gaps in the beet row. Uncovered all of the spuds - still can't believe how fast the frosted ones have grown back. Or how well, though two of the maincrop Sárpo ones are not doing very well. Looks like they have been munched by something.


recovered potatoes


Tomatoes and supports. Note the grass in the background.

Sunday May 29th

Still cool (thank goodness). Planted some more courgettes - this time the Gold Rush and the Defender. There are tiny females on the Gold Rush, though not quite as large as the ones on the Parthenon. Though no guarantee the GRs will pollinate, at least the Parthenons will. Planted the Garten Perle tomatoes, making a total of 18 plants. These last ones are flowering already, and are a determinate tumbling variety. To prevent them flopping onto the ground, they got the same string supports as all the rest (especially as they look just the same). Then decided to tidy up a bit. Started with the shed, and an hour or so later I had a much better layout, carpets and a lot less junk! Filled up the water butts and reeled the hose properly, and popped that in. Decanted the beer to a spring water bottle - just as well, because something had managed to eat into the foil/plastic and it was leaking. Pooh! Set up the slug pubs in the courgettes while I was at it. Decanted the 6X into the old chicken pellet tub and put the bag into the shed (now there's room). Then set about the back of the shed area - the flopping loganberries and the grass nightmare. A few hours later, I had a full binliner of couch grass, a nettle (ow) and lots of willowherbs. And a very much tidier area. Moved an old carpet up and used it to cover the last visible bits of plastic mulch, which should stop some of the breaking-through grass from getting going again. Finally decided to add another row of Autumn King carrots, as the last one has just popped through. Just managed it with the existing compost, though the evicted soil is now building up rapidly! Meshed them all, took photos and went home.




The back of the shed and tomato area - no grass!

Monday May 30th

Up to lottie in the evening after a day out, and finally sowed the salsify! Sieved a trench of soil for one row and just planted two more directly: small rows, with a seed every cm or so. Weird seeds - something like marigolds. Then again the flowers are composites so not surprising. I shall see if the sieved row does markedly better or not. Also planted out the module beetroot and chard. The latter are distinctly coloured, so was able to alternate the shades of yellow, pink and white so the row will eventually look pretty as well as edible. The beetroot were put in a row in between the parsnips, and I also sowed yet more of those in the vacant stations in the hope I'll get a few more than 12. Didn't thin the trios, as they'll just grow three smaller, more usable roots. They perked up quite fast. Begged a favour off Jim - to see if he had any spare sprouting broccoli which I could buy off him. He wouldn't let me - and gave me a huge trayful anyway. Which he said were either calabrese or purple sprouting but he couldn't remember which! I am now very much in his debt and will have to find a suitable come-back. In the meantime, the watered tray is now under a cloche with both ends blocked against the devilbirds. It would be awful if I were to lose them. But I have no more spare net to put them in properly so will have to do that tomorrow or Wednesday. Lee gave me a sunflower, which is now sitting happily in the row where I planted umpteen of the things and of which none appeared… He will share the broccoli as no way do I have room for all of them! Finally raided the leek seedlings in the orchard and popped a couple into the holes which had lost theirs. I shall fill up the bed with those at some point. Watered the onions (again) and the courgettes, which look surprisingly happy. Next up: plant the butternuts and the trailing marrows, though Maggie will get one butternut and has promised me a spaghetti in return :)

There are now 65 gladioli up. Not bad out of 75, even if no more appear. Together with the carnations and the sweet peas I hope I shall not run out of cut flowers this summer (though when the gladdies flower I suspect I'll have way too many all at one go!).

Tuesday May 31st

Nice evening after a cool day. Took up the remaining cucurbits (the long green trailing marrows and the butternut squashes) and planted them, putting one of the butternuts in Maggie's plot so she has one. She came up later and presented me with a spaghetti squash so that went in the gap. Then spent the next hour squeezed on a path weeding the autumn onions and the path itself. One bucket of bindweed etc later, it looked somewhat better. Not sure if I'll get a chance to go up tomorrow as the weather report is rain. But at least I've got the worst lot done. Garlic bed next and the path between it and the rasps.



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