Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Early May in the Vegetable Garden

Apologies for the lack of posting, this is for two reasons. Firstly the Almighty Google has decreed that henceforth my business website data must include bunches of numbers and codes, and I've been passing hours every day punching numbers into a spreadsheet, after I've hunted them down on the internet of course. Deep joy. So I've been spending a lot of time hunched over my computer instead of outside in the garden. While it will take a month or so to finish the job, I have broken the back of it now and should be able to avoid the special circle of hell reserved for those who misbehave in the Google empire - Invisibility in Product Searches.

Secondly, when I have been able to get out I've spent all my time weeding and watering, trying to keep up with the plants given the dry weather. So no time to stand and admire, much less take pictures. In the meantime my rhubarb has gone mad, as you can see from the photo above. I've taken these flowers off the plants now, so it can concentrate on producing nice stems to eat.
We've had an extremely dry period of weeks, which hopefully will end this weekend, but it hasn't been too hot, which has meant that the soil is still damp underneath, thankfully. We had a forecast of frost this week, so on Monday I spent an hour earthing up the potatoes to protect them. I couldn't get every single leaf under cover, unfortunately, as you can see from the photo above, where some leaves were caught and burnt. Apologies for the dandlelion seeds in the picture!
Last night's frost also caught some of the apple blossom, this is on the Spartan tree. The frost is always patchy, but I'm not too concerned as most of the blooms have now been pollinated.
The lettuce has been under a cloche and is growing on well now, with newly germinated seeds filling the gaps too. The cloche keeps the frost off and has kept the cold winds away too. Despite the dryness, the last few days have been chilly.
This is the Blenheim Orange apple tree. I took this photo to record its magnificent flowering this year. I have had problem getting this to set fruit, so purchased another apple tree last year to help in the pollination; it now has a Worcester Pearmain on one side and a Spartan on the other. All the signs are good, the Spartan has also flowered well so I'm hopeful we will finally have a first crop from this tree.
The warm weather means that everything is a couple of weeks in advance of where it should be. This photo is of the redcurrants, which I would normally expect to pick in July. This year I think I will be picking in June, given the development of these fruits. All the soft fruit is racing away. I spent two hours bent double at the weekend finishing the weeding of the strawberry bed, not a moment too soon as while I was rescuing the plants from the grass, I found they had started flowering. I've never seen them flower in April before - I have mid and late season plants, not earlies. Again, I think I'll be eating them in early June instead of late June/July.
The peas and broad beans are growing well, though I have been watering them a bit to help them along. By now I should have done my second sowing of peas, but I can't see the point of putting them in dry soil, so will wait until next week. I have started the marrows, pumpkins and courgettes in pots, I don't like to do them too early, especially since I lost some to the frost last year.
Earlier this year I showed a picture of a pot with a sad looking piece of a Bleeding Heart plant in it; my Mum had accidentally split a bit off her plant while weeding and we weren't sure it would survive. Plants really are amazing things, it didn't just survive but now has several fronds of flowers.
Another early flowerer has been the Hawthorn, which we would normally expect to see around the 6th May here. It actually started last week, but the different trees all flower at slightly different times so we have a gradual whitening of the countryside going on now. Such pretty flowers.
The main theme in the garden at the moment is the dryness though. My gate won't close as it has shrunk so much the bolt doesn't meet the hole in the timber; a trusty brick has to suffice. I am getting a bit tired of watering, since my water butt is now empty and I have to trudge up and down the hill to the tap. Let's hope this weekend does finally bring the rain we've been promised!
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