Sunday, 22 May 2011

Rain, wind and occasional sunshine

Given the current very changeable weather, you have to get out when you can, between the showers. So that means doing as much as you can in the short sunny gaps in the clouds. Here are my little tomatoes, which were ready to go out earlier than I expected. I've tried for years to grow tomatoes, with little success. It's partly to do with our latitude, partly our soil and predominant weather (wet!). So this year I decided to buy some ready grown plants from the nursery, and selected two varieties which are a bush type and thus earlier fruiters than traditional cordon types. So here they are, Balcony Red at the front and Totem at the back. After all the rain, the soil is good and damp and these plants got a good dollop of horse manure underneath to get them off to a good start. Some slug pellets just in case the slugs take a fancy to them, a cloche on top and they should grow on nicely now.
After another cold winter, the slug population has diminished but they still make a beeline for my lettuce plants, the seedlings being particularly vulnerable. Still, they did save me the bother of thinning out the rows, as they rather handily left plants spaced about 10 cm apart which is just right. We also have a lot of snails here but, while they do seem fond of rhubarb leaves, they don't seem to eat much else. And they are rather pretty, with shells in different colours.
I also took the opportunity to get my courgettes (zucchini) and marrows in. These are the courgettes, after my experiment last year I repeated my 2 trowels of horse manure under each one technique, rather than fertilising the whole bed. These plants are looking good, but given the wind and heavy rain, they are all now protected under cloches until they've grown on a bit and it's warmed up. While it is warmer and dryer in the south, this week has been decidedly chilly "up north".
After giving my pumpkins a good talking to, one of the recalcitrant seeds has actually germinated, but the other two have disappeared. So I've replanted these pots. There's plenty of time, it's still early in the season and a bit chilly.
The climbing bean which was looking to climb out of my window is now safely in the ground, next to the peas. The plant on the left is one of last year's parsnips which I'm leaving to go to seed. Speaking of parsnips, I did experiment with growing them from my own seed, and a number have germinated though there are some gaps. I'm wondering about filling the gaps with my bought seed, but not sure if it's too late now?
In terms of fruit, this year looks to be a bumper and early one. The gooseberry bushes are heavy with fruit which is already a good size.
Some of the redcurrants are already starting to colour up, which is incredibly early for these as I would normally expect to start picking them at the end of June or beginning of July.
My plum tree is covered with little green plums, but I think I'm going to thin them as the tree is showing signs of being a biennial bearer. A heavy crop can exhaust a young tree, leading to poor flowering the next year. If you thin them out, the tree copes better and flowers next year too. The books tell me you should wait until the stones have formed in the fruit, so it's about time to do this, when I can find a few minutes!
And my troublesome Blenheim Orange apple tree has lots of fruit for the first time ever, after about 7 years in the ground. So buying another compatible pollinator and pruning a bit harder has had the right effect. Apple trees can be complicated beasts, and this one has been particularly difficult. It's a dual eater/cooker and an October apple, so there's plenty to look forward to.

Wherever you are, I hope the weather is kind to you this week.
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