June 2006

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Thursday June 1st
Suddenly realised that it was the allotment inspection on Monday so got back from work and went straight to the plots, having bought a pair of socks on the way home as I´d forgotten to take any with the gardening gear! Weeds were the priority, and weren´t nearly as bad as I´d thought they would be and so spent some hours working my way through a couple of the worst beds (The spring cabbages and the scorzonera/beetroot). No sign of parsnips, so scraped out a shallow depression rather like a pea trench and scattered seed in it. We´ll see what happens next. Looked at the knee-high grass and was rather depressed by how messy it all looked. Nothing a good strim won´t sort out... Didn´t help that the fine enviromesh on the red cabbages had blown about a bit, and was untucked at one end. Luckily pigeons hadn´t got it but I think it´s let in the flea beetles. Rats.

Friday June 2nd
Chucked a lot of plants out into the garden to get used to the outdoors first thing. Up again straight after work, this time with strimmer, the first lot of French beans, the first 15 runners and the intention of getting the new squash bed levelled off. Whirred my way round for some time, finally getting the place looking tidy again. Fetched two barrowloads of manure for the squash bed, put it in, threw soil over the top from the next section and left it to go and do the runners: there were 14 supports so one got two plants. They´ll all get doubled up tomorrow when I take up the second lot! Then two more barrows of manure, and the French beans. These were the green ones, all nice and compact. Got 24 in, watered them all and went back to do the last two runs for the raised squash bed. Called it a day.

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Runner Beans `Enorma´

Filled squash bed

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French beans
`Safari´

Saturday June 3rd
A scorcher of a day. Went up plastered with sunblock (I need factor 60...) and sunhat, and insect repellant! Had a lot of plants to go in, so reversed the car up and so had the stove, kettle and fresh tea as I planted. Fantastic! Glad I´d done the strimming in the cooler evening of yesterday. Lots of folk were up there tidying furiously! Started off by planting six rampant butternut squashes into the newly manured bed. I hope that this year they actually give me some fruit! Unfortunately the rest of the trayful wasn´t the expected spaghetti squashes, but the green courgettes. I swear they thought they were trailers! Planted two small (and therefore more bushy) Defenders in the main courgette bed, with the single Parthenon that I had this year. The really badly trailing Defenders got put in behind the greengage and the storage box. They can either bush up or trail all over the manure heap! Gave the last butternut plant to Maggie, who gave me some spare borlotti or flageolet beans. Then moved down to the French bean bed, and planted the yellow `Berggold´ beans. Not so many of those, though they are taller. Must sow more! The next lot of runner beans got doubled up - I have 28 in now! Then the beetroot bed, and planted out the Boltardys. They´re bigger than the Cylindra, and a rather different colour! Probably due to having been inside the coldframe. Decided to do something about the collapsed enviromesh, as it was mainly because the blue piping was leaning in different directions. Tied in some bamboo canes, and it´s now properly supported. Looks rather smart now. I can now say the same about the spring cabbage bed. After weeding it the other day of weeds, today I weeded it of cabbages, giving several away in the process! They had done really well, though the slugs definitely prefer the round ones to the pointy. The net went to its summer home over the raspberries, though noted that the autumn ones are a bit chlorotic. Seaweed meal at the roots and a leaf spraying of maxicrop I think. Finally had to go home to get more plants - the tomatoes. They´d been shoehorned into the frame for days and now were pretending to be the Leaning Tower of Pisa on the lawn. One had partially snapped, but tomatoes do recover and grow new roots. Started by digging really deep holes, and snapped another plant completely as the root ball was very heavy and an axil couldn´t take it. Humph. Luckily I´d spare San Marzanos. Now have 16 of those and 8 cream sausages planted out, with the cream sausages being in the middle of the block of San Ms.

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Butternuts

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rejigged red cabbage enviromesh

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Beetroot

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Tomatoes

Sunday June 4th
After a very warm night, another scorcher though with a bit more cloud and a halo. Thought what the heck and took up everything remaining bar the soya beans. Found that the green French beans had been scorched yesterday - grumble. They´d been out longest, too! Definitely more sowing! Started off with the spaghetti squashes - two are now at the top of the squash bed, and two are hiding in Maggie´s raspberries. Then on to the sweetcorn. There are lots! Planted out 22 Lark (two gaps for the ones still at home) and 16 Minipops in the one bed. Four more are in between the butternuts! Eeep! Then got into a bit of a mess. Way too many extra cucurbits! A long green trailing marrow is at the very top of the courgette bed, three more are in between the sweetcorn in a pseudo-three sisters approach (though if I grow the pea beans, I´m tempted to go for the full-on trio). Another LGT is by the greengage in between the self-set squashes and the two defenders. Another´s by the firebox in the new-manured and newly destoned area. Two Gold Rush are in the top of the carrot bed (well...) and a third is now Vince´s. Why oh why oh why do I grow so many blinking cucurbits????
Finally on to the leeks. I didn´t think I had very many! Wrong! Thirty got buried up to their necks in the earmarked bed; I hope they were big enough as they seemed quite small to me. Another twenty went very closely-spaced into a nursery area by the sweet pea (now bean) wigwams, and the last few went to Dave, who said they were bigger than his direct-sown Musselburghs. My nursery bed has them spaced out at about an inch and a half, so either I´ll get baby leeks or they´ll be spares for the inevitable munched ones in the main bed. Suddenly realised I only had 10 minutes to get some more compost and pegged it.
Only thing not planted out now - the soyas - and a few stragglers like the individually potted corn. And the soya are a mix of fantastic plants and nothing at all, despite chitting. Not an easy plant to grow. Huzzah! Nearly done! Then the month or two wait for veg to start harvesting. Meanwhile, the fruit... Have Tuesday off and if it´s fine, then it´s the great currant and gooseberry netting...

Monday June 5th
Had to go up because Metcheck was telling me it was going to drop to 3oC overnight. The BBC says 11oC. Not much difference! But since this is about the usual time we have a late frost, I went anyway. And spent half an hour watering and lost the urge to try and cover things since I´ve got more out than I can deal with. Then Maggie arrived and re-inspired me - I´ve got all those water fountain cloches after all - so they are now parked over various cucurbits, and some fleece I dug out of one of them is now around the runner beans. A last piece is over some of the sweetcorn, and the two cloches are over more squashes. I can hope, and I can also go up early tomorrow to take them off before everything fries! Not everything is protected, just the stuff I would be most loathe to lose like the butternuts and courgettes. Also threw some holier than it ought to have been green netting over the gooseberries, as I suspect they´re being raided already. Will do it properly tomorrow (I hope!). Sowed a lot of new French beans and the pea beans.

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Dinner plate-sized red cabbages

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Fleece and bottle cosies

Tuesday June 6th
Day off - and a warm one again. Managed two hours in the morning and a couple more in the evening, with a chunk of the middle of the day being taken up with hunting down bits and bobs (not entirely successfully). The morning shift was initially to take off the covers so that things didn´t fry any more than they already have; it wasn´t as cold as it could have been, but better safe than sorry. Then started on the redcurrants. I don´t have enough netting, but did manage to get the bases wrapped up nicely, so the berries aren´t easily accessible to beaks.
Somewhere along the line I decided to earth up the potatoes, and after I stepped back, I found I had a feathered friend. But oh, didn´t he look pathetic? Featherball the robin in full moult - he looked like a juvenile, with speckles rather than red. I did wonder if it was a juvenile, but not this early and certainly not with that song. He flew up into the Bramley and sang. I fetched the camera and put it onto movie mode, and hopefully it will be accessible here but only by clicking on the small image as the file´s 5MB despite editing it to be much smaller!

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I´m afraid it´s only 30s of the 2 minutes I recorded, but you will at least get to hear him if you have a decent net connection.  After than it was all a bit of an anticlimax, and I dragged myself back into the netting until I really did get too hot to continue.

I reappeared mid-evening, hoping to watch the sunset and get the watering done. I´d also found a packet of Parsnip  `Avonresister´ which is sowable to June. I didn´t faff about - just planted the whole packet fairly thickly in three rows. Hopefully *this* time... Did the radish trick and sprinkled them along the rows to see where the `snips were.  Did a bit of hoeing of weeds - not too many thank goodness.

Derrised the poor summer cabbages, which didn´t ever get the fine enviromesh on and so are being eaten to death by flea beetle. The red cabbages are sitting smugly under their mesh, growing like crazy. They´re already the size of dinnerplates. Really should have got two packs. Still, need to sort out the sprouting broccoli next. If I can find the right net... the brand I like seems to have vanished, leaving only the one that stretches to fit, which has a nasty habit of boinging back and leaving huge gaps if it comes unpegged. I´d rather have the one that is a fixed size so it at least stays over the bushes/supports. Need to get more carrots in. No more prisoners - a large sowing is coming up! Finished off with watering. I´d bought some Maxicrop to pep up the chlorotic raspberries, so watered them with it, and then watered the potato foliage and the tomatoes too while I was at it. Pooh! Very strong seaweed smell from this bottle. Then watered the crispy beans and the courgettes and put 6X on the onions (as if it wasn´t smelly enough). Hopefully that will give stuff the nitrogen they need while there´s a hot spell and they are putting on leafy growth. Very important for onions as their eventual size is related to how much leaf there is by the summer solstice. The one thing I know - they´re going to be bigger than last year because they are already!!

Wednesday June 7th
Even muggier day - still 20oC by the evening. We didn´t get any rain though. On the way home, went for the rest of the magical mystery tour that I didn´t get around to yesterday, and got to Homebase. They´re now about the only place I can get the fixed-square mesh. Bought a large box of that, and then found some plastic-covered metal `canes´ which were slightly smaller than the internal diameter of the blue water pipe. Perfect. Bought six.

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Took everything to lottie and spent an hour crawling about making a broccoli cage. Quite pleased with the result - the blue pipes slide up and down but only when pushed, so could get the exact size for the 4m width of the netting. The support canes are attached using duct tape rather than string, so they don´t cut through the net. Also they bend in a bit, but that won´t hurt. Faffed about with the netting (finding a whopper of a slug as I did so - 4-5" long. Didn´t directly kill it - dropped it in the beer trap!). and eventually got it under control. Need more pegs though - will get them at Gardeners´ World Live in a week or so as they´ll be about half the price of the garden

centres. The ground under the cage is very hard - think I might have to water it before I can plant - but that should suit the purple sprouting broccoli that´s destined to go in. I will try and get some of the Rudolph ones to size (poor things) but I´ve got the bought punnet for the main ones. I´m determined to get some this time - it´s got beyond a joke! Now all I´ve got to do in the planting department is plant the soya beans, plant the last remaining sweetcorn (including finding a home for the heritage variety Stowell´s Evergreen - the oddly named white variety) and get the broccoli in. When the new French beans come up (there are already signs of germination) then they can go in too. Oh and more carrots. Then it´s watering duty...
In the construction side, I´ve got the blueberries to net. Annoyingly they´re right next to the broccoli cage and I was hoping that I could extend it, but the net wasn´t wide enough. But it was too long - there´s a chunk spare so I think that will go over the blueberries. And then the rest of the currants and gooseberries. Urk!

Thursday June 8th
Not quite as muggy today - but still pleasant enough to be able to go up late and be warm enough. Finally remembered to lug up the bamboo canes to mark the squash positions; it´s easy at the moment to see where the roots are, but give them a few weeks and it´ll be a huge mass of leaves (and hopefully little squashes). Also took up the bought broccoli: nibbled almost to destruction. What is it about the snails in my back garden that makes them eat broccoli? I have no trouble with cabbages (indeed the spare reds are still in the cold frame, untouched) but the poor broccoli, despite having a plastic cover on, has been invaded through the vents and nearly

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destroyed. Anyway, they are now up at the lottie and planted under my nice new cage. They´re 18" apart longways and 24" widthways: this gives me the option of putting more in the centre at 15" spacing if I ever get the Rudolphs to a decent size. Watered the new parsnip sowing area (will have to do this nightly for a while) and the cucurbits. Sunset was one of the glowing red ball ones. Next: the soya beans and the last sweetcorn.

Saturday June 10th
An early start, but not quite as early as I´d hoped on a stupidly hot day. Finally took up the soya beans and the last of the sweetcorn, and planted them all. Some 55 soyas in the end went in, and were given a mulch of the extra compost that had failed seeds in. Lots seem to have failed after chitting because the stupid things were growing upside down and the roots had curled round in a complete circle! I must find a way of knowing which way up to plant them... Took the chance to connect up the hosepipe and top up the water butts (thank goodness 3 valleys haven´t yet applied for a drought order!) and evict a lot of wrigglers from the open ones. Lots of things that could cope with direct watering in the middle of the day were drowned while I was at it (and there was careful watering of more tender things, too). The autumn raspberries seen to be less chlorotic than they were - there´s only a couple of very yellow ones now. Must spray again with the Maxicrop though. Good stuff.

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Garlic scapes - one of my favourite crops as it´s one of the first, and delicious!

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Soya beans

Got home and a few hours later noticed another tray of soya beans to go in, and there´s no room. *Sigh*. I think they´ll have to share the end of the parsnip bed with the Stowell´s Evergreen sweetcorn.

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And a green garlic bulb - hope the rest are as big!

Sunday June 11th
Even hotter - hope we get a thunderstorm or two soon... Managed to get up by 10am and it was already very hot. This time I´d taken up a tray of basil (which were planted around the tomato bed edge), the oops tray of soya beans (most of which I found homes for in between the rest!) and the next tray of lettuces and Boltardy beetroots. They were planted in the small roots bed; it´s now mostly full. The lettuces were the cut-and-come-again Salad Bowl ones that were freebies in Kitchen Garden; some were distinctly red though most were green. They were planted as they were in the modules - they´d all been planted up with multiple seeds and so some had single plants and some clusters. They´re quite small so they´ve a slim chance but there´s only one way to find out. The beets were also small - just coming up to first real leaves, but I didn´t want them to get as gangly as the last lot. Which are big, I´ll give them. The roasted Cylindra are starting to get new greener leaves thank goodness.
Having found the green wire, I was able to finish covering the Jonkheer van Tets redcurrant, so the birds can´t get in at all now. There´s still the top of the Wellington XXX to do, but the blacks are behind the reds so I´m not too worried at the moment. It´s the gooseberries that I´m seriously bothered about - they are massively heavy with fruit, even if a fair bit has got gooseberry mildew. It´s going to get sprayed with bicarb, which apparently works wonders. (I might also spray the tomatoes with weak aspirin solution - also supposed to make for

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healthier  plants and ward off at least some of the more common diseases.) Anyway, the green goosegog is lightly covered with netting, enough to stop the marauders landing. It was the yellow one I was most worried about - it´s so heavy cropping that the branches were almost horizontal on the path. Hammered in three broom handles and then spent some time with the green wire making a triangular cage with wired sides, at least enough to get the branches more upright again. Only then realised just how many berries there are... Covered the enclosure (mostly) with the leftover new netting. A couple of areas are more open that I like, but the main fruit is safe-ish (left). Went back up several hours later to water things.

Monday June 12th
Another, even hotter day, despite a large amount of the country getting thunderstorms and torrential rain. It got muggier as we went on, and going to the lottie to water was delayed until it was a bit cooler (allowing me to spot a circumzenithal arc). At the plots, everyone seemed to be out. The main result of all the new folk is that there´s a lot more about at any given time - increasing safety for everyone and also keeping plots nice so all of us have to do less to battle invading weeds. Anyway, started the watering, and Chris appeared to collect strawberries. She gave me one - wow - completely different taste to the supermarket ones (even if those are also English). Pulled the grass out of the side of the flowerbed, and discovered another surprise cucurbit! There must have been quite a lot of seeds buried under the old compost heap! Forgot to mention that yesterday one of the spaghetti squashes had an open female flower on (and handily, an open male!) so introductions were made. Peeked today and the baby squash hasn´t shrivelled so I may be looking at my first of the season. Weeded a bit of the red cabbages and rederrised the white cabbages after watering them: they really are looking so much better now.
Sunset was a beauty - and there was a hint of a noctilucent cloud and a sun pillar. Good evening for sky watching.

Wednesday June 14th
Another scorcher, and went up to drown everything. Picked my first gooseberries of the season and some more rhubarb to give to Dad. Discovered that Kate, Yvonne and Jim are off to the NEC too on Friday! Swapped mobile numbers in case we can meet up.

Friday June 16th
BBC GW Live 2006. Arrived just after 9am, and went straight to the GW Plant Swap armed with a large Bulgarian Carrot chilli plant. Swapped it for two of the Berryfields trial plants so I have Numex Twilight and Fiesta. Makes up for not having managed to get hold of any of the trial seeds back in the autumn, even though both plants are way smaller than any of my main ones. Bought pennyroyal from Jekka´ Herb Farm (for Chris, but I didn't know whether to get upright or creeping so got both and I'll have the other since they're good for insect bites!). Also managed to get a pack of netting pegs (more expensive than I'd thought they were, so only one) and cane caps (ditto - only one place selling both these things too, so a bit restricted). Did get the obligatory ball of string!

Saturday June 17th
Left parents after a rather late lunch and managed to get back in time to go and water some desperately dry plants. Even the lettuces had wilted! Hope it doesn't make them bolt…

Sunday June 18th
A more muggy overcast day, so I wasn't in danger of frying. Spent most of it in the back garden trying to get it rather tidier than it has been for some time, and largely succeeded. That´s the trouble with getting a lottie - the garden suffers! Didn´t actually make it to the lottie though, as was feeling rough.

Tuesday June 20th
A quick dash up to the lottie before work to check how things were, since it had been starting to spot with rain last night. Sadly we'd only had about half a mm and I wanted to see how the seed rows were. And I have got little parsnips! They're coming up!  Pleased. Watered the butternuts, the parsnips and the early spuds - hopefully I´ll be able to do a bit more tonight.

Wednesday June 21st
Summer Solstice. Not a bad day - not terribly hot but sun and cloud. Windy though - cold frame lid has blown off again. Put the sections in the shed as they aren´t really needed now until the autumn. Had to fill the water butts tonight as they were empty. Got the Miss Wet T-shirt prize again as the hose shot off the tap and soaked me. Much laughter. Set the hose going into the chain of butts by the shed, then started scooping water up into the cans as they filled. Drowned everything I could so I don´t have to do much tomorrow apart from remember to take a fork up and dig the Marco garlic, which is nice and brown. Even watered the sweetcorn (growing very well now) and the red cabbages (massive monsters). I hope their heads are in proportion to the outer leaves - which are now plate-sized in their own right. I now see precisely why they are planted out 2´ apart - they´re nearly touching already! Instructions say to give liquid feed when heads start to form so I shall have to comfrey them soon. The same goes for the minicoles - they have finally started to grow very rapidly and away from the flea beetle attack. Gave them a good drink, too. The PSB looks like it is starting to get going.
The summer sprouting broccoli has got flower heads on all remaining plants - hopefully they´ll be nice and large come the weekend and I´ll be able to have a stir-fry. Courgette plants are still small but starting to take the proper shape. Hopefully sometime in the next week or so they´ll do the whoosh! trick and suddenly be huge, seemingly overnight. There are three cherries still growing - watered the tree again. I´m a bit loathe to water the potatoes due to blight risk, but the night temperatures are now lower than needed to trigger it so I think I might just have to do that some time soon. Last week they were definitely high enough so needed to watch out! The self-set cucurbit in by the greengage is going very well - I think it´s a trailing marrow. Least I hope it is - it´s the best plant I´ve got! Shows how in situ sowing may work a lot better than transplanting. Certainly hope it will do for the French beans - the slugs have got all the latest batch of modules! Argh! Direct sowing coming up, probably tomorrow as well.
 The parsnips are coming up like crazy - finally! I hope that they aren´t disadvantaged by the soil and stones, but better that than none at all. Need to redo the carrots for that matter, too. Think I´ll use some of the John Innes that´s lurking at home to pad out the awful compost I got, and which dried out incredibly fast.
 The lettuces salad bowl are growing very fast too - I hope they´re the same as the ones Yvonne and Kate are gowing, as they´ve grown like they´re on steroids! Must sow some more in the conservatory. Think I´ve enough beetroots now, though. And the Romaine lettuces are almost there. Oddly, the couple of them in the parsnip bed are doing better now than the cold frame ones - think it must be moisture as the frame ones don´t get much now the tree is in full leaf and I´m not up there every night. Must rig up some kind of watering mechanism for those.
To do list:
sow more lettuces in modules
sow French Beans directly into bed
sow carrots into JI/compost mix and water well
comfrey or seaweed feed tomatoes, cabbages, PSB, anything else etc.

Friday June 23rd
After having missed last night´s watering, I was glad to find the place looking ok. Still getting little parsnips appearing! Watering it every chance I get though, until they establish. This time remembered to take up the fork, and had a merry time digging up the garlic. There are over 60 bulbs, various sizes from really quite respectable (given Marco´s not the largest) to a bit tiddly. But even the tiddlers have relatively few large cloves and so are easy to deal with. Decided to do something about the French beans, and after watering the bed, made drills and sowed rather a lot of them. Hopefully I´ll get some now! The yellow ones didn´t too too badly but the green ones are hopeless.

Saturday June 24th
Hot day, though started off with a bit of a panic as we had an unexpected 2.5mm of heavy rain in an hour - and which drenched the garlic I´d carefully put out to dry in the garden. Spread them all out when it stopped and after a few hours they were dry again. Spent some hours in the afternoon cleaning them up and plaiting them. Made it to the lottie after Dr Who, dragging a particularly smelly load of kitchen waste up for the compost bin. Phew! Found most things doing well and still damp-ish after the early rain. Watered the beans and the courgettes, and then decided enough was enough and redid the carrot bed by taking out all the compost (dry as a bone) and crumbling it up with a lot of water. If that doesn´t rehydrate it, I don´t know what will. Poured it back into the trenches (!) and then sowed the last of the Autumn King carrots and then the packet of Flyaway while I was at it. Hopefully this time they´ll grow (and I´ll keep watering to make sure!). Two of the to-do list done, two to go. Pity I couldn't use the John Innes I'd carted up - I had picked up one of the bags which I'd added grit to. Hopefully the lettuces will be done tomorrow, and the rest is just a case of putting in the maxicrop. First early potatoes have been in 11 weeks and 2 days, 1 month of which was very wet. I hope that this means they´ll be decently sized in time for next weekend. Chris gave me surplus strawberries, which I will be hard pressed to not eat the instant I get home! Also cut some broccoli, which has headed nicely.

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Lots of garlic!

Sunday June 25th
House/garden got priority today, but did sow a lot more lettuces, both the Salad Bowl and normal Romaines. The latter are quite old seeds so sowed a lot. Though I´m eating a lot of them these days, and it won´t be hard to find somewhere to bung them!

Monday June 26th
Early morning rain again. Not heavy, but should be enough to dampen the seedlings etc.

Tuesday June 27th
Dragged P up with me to see how things were: watered the seedlings, the cucurbits and the runner beans. No sign of any new French beans yet, but it has been quite chilly at night. I´ve got a couple of courgettes growing! Not nearly as fast as they will when they get to full size, but I am not grumbling! The whoosh effect doesn´t normally happen until mid-July.

Thursday June 29th
Early morning dash to water the usual suspects. Still no French beans above ground. But the baby parsnips are starting to get second leaves: they are growing very fast. I´m not routinely watering anything other than cucurbits, seedlings and runner beans. Everything else will have to find its own water, though certain beds are going to be mulched with leafmould once their occupants get large enough. The sweetcorn are looking like they´ll be first.

At least we´re not yet into the danger of potato and tomato blight: Beaumont periods are unlikely over the next week as night temperatures are still dropping into the low teens (Beaumont period - 48 consecutive hours in which at least 46 hourly readings have had temperatures not less than 20°C and relative humidity not less than 75%, which are the preferred conditions for the blight spore to become active). This does mean I can spray the pots with maxicrop and not worry about the humidity.

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