May To-Do List

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Cabbages enjoying the spring sunshine

At long last May is here! Days are longer, temperatures are higher (hopefully) and if we all keep our fingers crossed it might just start to feel like summer in the next few weeks. This is the month when I’ll begin sowing and planting outdoors in earnest, but still keeping an eye on the weather as the risk of frost hasn’t completely passed yet.

My top five tasks for May will be:

  • To start sowing outdoors if the weather turns mild (we had snow less than a week ago), and to continue sowing indoors if the weather stays too cold.
  • To begin hardening off all the seedlings that have had a coddled start to life to make sure that they are tough enough when the time comes for them to be let out in the big wide allotment world.
  • To plant the last of the seed potatoes. This will be my main-crop variety Golden Wonder, which is meant to be especially good for roasting (yum!)
  • To keep a close eye on the weather and to protect tender young plants from any late frosts.
  • To weed, weed and weed some more. The couch grass, which seemed to be under control at the end of last year, is reappearing with a vengeance. Mainly at the edge of paths. There is anti-weed matting under the paths but I think it might have bio-degraded sufficiently as to let the grass roots take hold. I really don’t want to have to lift all the paths but it looks like it might be necessary in order to get the upper hand on the situation.

Other tasks on the list this month:

  • Harvest and clear the last of the Swiss Chard ready for the potatoes going in that bed.
  • Create new supports in order to tie the raspberries in. The old supports are too short and slack so we’ve got canes going everywhere at the moment.
  • Pot on growing plants as they outgrow their current pots.
  • Thin out seedlings, especially the salad crops outside the back door.
  • Earth up my potatoes. If exposed to the sun tubers will turn green and poisonous.

Seeds to be sown indoors:

  • Brussels Sprouts and Flower Sprouts – This month might be the last chance to get them sown if I want them ready for Christmas dinner (which I do).
  • French Beans (Borlotti Beans-Lingua De Fuoco) – I’ll be sowing these in root trainers and transplanting out in June/July.
  • Kale (Nero di Toscana) – I love kale and I’ve heard that our slimy friends the slugs also share my passion. I’ll be bringing my kale on indoors and hopefully they’ll be big enough not to be too troubled by the time they get planted out.
  • Runner Beans (Scarlet Empire) – I’ll be sowing these in root trainers and transplanting out in June/July.
  • Sprouting Broccoli (Purple Sprouting -Redhead) – I’m getting these planted now due to their long growing season. Nothing teaches you about delayed gratification quite like putting something in the ground in May and knowing you won’t be able to eat it for nearly a year.

Vegetable to be sown directly outside

  • Carrots – I’m planting one row of Chanterey Red Cored 2 at the beginning of the month and then another row either in last week of May or the First week of June to try and create some succession. Then Autumn King 2 variety will be going in later in the year.
  • Peas – I did want to sow these indoors but the year has run away from me so we’re just going to have to see how they do in the ground.
  • Radishes – I already have a little row of radishes outside the back door but they’re not coming on very well, I just don’t think our yard gets enough sunlight, so more will be going in up at the allotment for good measure.
  • Spinach – Spinach is one of my all time favourite veg and I quite often go through phases where I eat it everyday in some form or other. As such quite a large area has been given over to growing spinach and I’m going to try and keep a harvestable amount available for most of the year.
  • Swede – So ugly yet so tasty. A row of swede will be going in this month. I’ve read that they store quite well so I’m not going to worry too much about having a glut later in the year.
  • Turnips – If possible I want to try and get at least two harvests of turnip this year. So some will be going in now for harvest in mid to late summer and another batch will replace them for harvest in the autumn.

Vegetables to plant out in May

  • Aubergines, Cucumbers, Cucamelons & Tomatoes – “Plant out” for these three really means to go into grow bags in the greenhouse, which doesn’t actually exist yet but I’m working on it.
  • Cabbages – So I have a summer variety called Elisa F1 and a summer/autumn red variety called Red Jewel F1 which are pretty much ready to go out. I’m just waiting for some brassica collars to be delivered and we’re good to go.
  • Brussels Sprouts – I only sowed these this weekend and there’s no sign of germination yet. Fingers crossed they once they’re up they’ll grow fast and I’ll be able to get them out in the last week of the month, if not you’ll be seeing this task on the June to-do list.
  • Potatoes – Maincrop Golden Wonder is still to go out, hopefully as soon as I finish writing this.

 

Unboxing: The Really Good Cut Flower Seed Collection by Sarah Raven

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Happy Sunday and happy bank holiday weekend! I recently subscribed to Garden News Magazine and, as a gift for subscribing, received the Really Good Cut Flower Seed Collection by Sarah Raven. I spend more time than I care to admit to browsing on the Sarah Raven website so was more than excited to receive this free gift. The collection includes 13 packets of seeds in a reusable tin, sowing instructions, a month by month sowing and harvesting chart and a colour planting plan designed by Sarah to help you when planting your cut flower patch.

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The tin itself is lovely and I can definitely see myself using it for many years to come, plus it’s in my favourite colour! Inside the tin the seed packets came wrapped up in purple crepe paper with a matching purple bow keeping them all together. It’s little touches like this that I think would make this collection a perfect gift from a green-fingered friend, or even just for yourself.

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Also included are information sheets containing all the information you need to get sowing and planting. There’s even a design plan to help you make the most out of the collection.

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The collection itself features 13 different packets of seed eight of these are flowers and five are complementary foliage plants the aim being to give you enough variety in a small cut flower patch to create stylish displays for your home.

The cut flower and foliage varieties, along with their packet descriptions, are:

 

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Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’ – “Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’ has large, open flowers of pure white, with delicate apple-green foliage. The classic cut flower and a supremely lovely garden plant, which no one should be without.” A half hardy annual that prefers full sun. Vase life: 7-10 days.

Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’ – “Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’ is a deep-orange, with buds and backs of petals in crimson.” A hardy annual that prefers full sun. Vase life: 5-7 days.

Sweet Pea ‘Matucana’ – “Sweet Pea ‘Matucana’ is a bi-colour magenta and purple. The strongest scented sweet pea in the world! 10/10 scent. This variety is an heirloom grandiflora type, and is often confused with Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’. The origins are unclear, but it may have originated in Peru.” A hardy annual that prefers full sun. Vase life: 4-5 days.

Zinnia ‘Giant Dahlia Mix’ – “The flowers are spectacular, huge and long-lasting; a wonderful mix of oranges, reds, pinks and yellows.” A half hardy annual that prefers full sun. Vase life: 7 days.

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Sweet Pea ‘Painted Lady’ – “Sweet Pea ‘Painted Lady’ is a beautiful bi-colour pale and darker pink sweet pea. A very highly-scented, old-fashioned type. Also the earliest-flowering of the highly scented varieties, so excellent if you need sweet peas for May, 9/10 scent.”  A hardy annual that prefers full sun. Vase life: 4-5 days.

Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Tall Double Mix’ – “One of the longest-flowering and glamorous hardy annual cut flowers. This pack contains pinks, mauves, whites and crimsons.”  A half hardy annual that prefers full sun. Vase life: 7 days.

Papaver nudicaule ‘Party Fun’ – “A scented poppy – handfuls of crumpled silk – with a spicy, delicious scent. Papaver nudicaule ‘Party Fun’ also makes one of the loveliest cut flowers, unravelling from tight buds and lasting surprisingly well in a vase. This mixture flowers in a wide range of colours, from white to yellow, orange, pink, and even scarlet and bicolours.” A biennial that prefers full sun. Vase life: 5 days.

Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Dazzler’ – “Cosmos ‘Dazzler’ has large, open, buttercup-like flowers of carmine-pink with delicate, feathery foliage. Beautiful, tall and airy.” A half hardy annual that prefers full sun. Vase life: 7-10 days.

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Euphorbia oblongata – “Euphorbia oblongata is the all round best-looking, longest-flowering foliage plant you can find anywhere in the world.” A short lived perennial that prefers full sun. Vase life: 7-10 days.

Moluccella laevis (Bells of Ireland) – “Moluccella laevis (Bells of Ireland) has tall spikes of fresh apple-green bells arranged all the way up the stem. An outstanding foliage plant.” A half hardy annual that prefers full sun. Vase life: 7 days.

Amaranthus caudatus ‘Viridis’ – “Amaranthus caudatus ‘Viridis’ has long, soft tassels of pale, fresh acid-green. Perfect for mixing with dahlias and sunflowers, or arranging in a large vase on its own.”  A half hardy annual that prefers full sun. Vase life: 7-10 days.

Salvia viridis ‘Blue’ – “A hardy salvia, with minute flowers but enlarged and brilliantly coloured flower bracts of purple-blue.” A hardy annual that prefers full sun. Vase life: 10 days.

Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ – “Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ (Honeywort) has silvery leaves with purple hanging bells, one of the best annual foliage plants.” A hardy annual that prefers full sun. Vase life: 7-10 days.

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All-in-all I think this is a lovely collection from Sarah Raven and can’t wait to get all my new flowers sown. Unfortunately I received the collection a little late in the season to have flowers this year so this might have to be stowed away till later in the year. It’s probably for the best as I have far too much on my to do list already!

The Really Good Cut Flower Seed Collection is available from Sarah Raven and retails at £29.95.