May To-Do List

wp-1462352738160.jpeg
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.

 

Coughs, Colds and Clematis

Well, what a horrible week I’ve had! While the rest of the UK was revelling in the first flushes of Spring and sowing madly, I spent four days last week curled in bed full of the most horrid cold/flu type bug. Suffice to say that very little was achieved in terms of planting, potting or pricking out.

One thing I did manage to get done however was to pot up some clematis plug plants that I got through the post. I was already looking decidedly worse for wear and I didn’t want my young plants joining me in that regard should they be left in their packaging for too long.

image

I got these clematis free from Gardeners World magazine offer. The four varieties are:

Clematis cirrhosa Jingle Bells: A vigorous evergreen climber with dark green leaves and pale yellow to creamy white flowers. Flowers in winter and early spring. I’m not quite sure where the best spot for this one would be, thankfully it’s only tiny so I probably have a while to decide. Pruning Group 1.

Clematis alpina Constance: A very pretty, tough variety with bell shaped, deep pink flowers and pretty rich green leaves.  Flowers in April and May. As this is a variety that does well in a container I’m thinking of growing it up the south facing side of the shed where it’s roots would be shaded by the laurel hedge. Pruning Group 1.

Clematis Sunset: A compact, deciduous climber. Produces large, single, deep reddish purple flowers . Also does well in containers. Flowers early to late summer. Pruning Group 2.

Clematis montana var. rubens: A pinkish form of the usual white Clematis montana and a vigorous climber. I’m considering pairing this with the Constance in order to cover the shed from April through to June. Flowers in May and June. May also produce a second smaller flush of blooms in late summer. Pruning Group 1.

Plot 23b – Veggie Update!

What a busy few weeks! We’ve been kept away from the allotment over the last two weekends due to plans with friends and as a result the heavy duty clearance work has taken a back seat in favor of a post-work watering schedule in order to save the baby plants from the July heat. Hopefully (I use the word loosely), we’ll be back up to our elbows in grass and weeds this weekend before it all starts to creep back too much.

Without further ado, onto the plants!

Cabbage Baby

Our little cabbages are coming on leaps and bounds with new leaves unfurling every time we visit. We’ve had some slight slug damage to one or two. Organic deterrents have been researched to try and ensure that we don’t lose any to the slime army before they’re big enough to survive a slight nibble. Hopefully some sunken jars of beer should prove more attractive than our plants.

Swiss Chard

We planted some swiss chard seeds just over a week ago and they’re already poking through!! This is the first thing we’ve grown from seed and it was so exciting coming up the path and seeing something poking out of the earth that a) wasn’t a weed and b) something that we’d put in the earth ourselves! Hopefully it will continue to stretch up towards the sun and we’ll have lots of leafy chard by the end of summer.

Broad Bean

The broad beans are doing well apart from the fact that they have a touch of blackfly, particularly the tall one on the middle left. I’ve read that a solution is to mix up some washing up liquid and water and I’m planning on giving it a go before the flies stunt growth too badly.

Runner Bean

The runner beans are slowly being trained up their supports. The leaves are still a little bit yellow and I’ve read this can be from the shock of being transplanted. Hopefully they’ll get stronger over the next few weeks and we’ll have a nice wigwam covered in those lovely volcanic red flowers.

Clay

Lastly, I think it’s fairly safe to say we have clay soil. We were starting to dig over a compacted bed in order to get it ready for some carrot seeds. It turned out to be a lot more compacted than we first thought and this was found about half a spade length down. If we can’t get through it will a spade then goodness knows how carrots are going to force their way down! Suffice to say we have a lot of back breaking work before any roots vegetables can go in. This also slightly complicates my dream of having a lavender hedge at the bottom end of the plot, a lot of rubble will need sourcing and digging into a trench in order to give any lavender the drainage that they need.

Hopefully the weather will continue to improve throughout August and life will continue to keep springing from the earth ready for my pot and my plate.

Grandparent’s Donation

Just two weeks into having the allotment and the first veggies are in the ground! I always knew that I want to try my best to catch the end of the nice weather this summer in order to get some delicious goodies growing but it’s certainly going a lot faster than I envisaged.

Plants 1

These plants came from my Grandparents, they have a veg plot in their garden and donated us some cabbages, runner beans and broad beans.

Plants 2

Here’s the cabbage bed, I dug it over and incorporated a small amount of compost  just to give them a boost. Admittedly after this photo was taken I raked the ground for a solid 15 minutes to get the earth really fine (and I still wasn’t satisfied). If it’s possible to get obsessive about dirt clods then I’m well on my way there already.

Plants 3

Here they are all planted out, 20 in total. I picked out the strongest specimens to be planted out. We re-purposed some netting that we found on the plot to try and offer them some protection from the birds and butterflies.

Plants 4

Cabbage eye view. They look so tiny!

Plants 5

The broad beans were next to go in. I wasn’t sure whether to bury the pots or not so they ended up being left sticking out. If anyone can offer any advice on the best way to plant using these it would be greatly appreciated.

Plants 6I’m so proud of my runner bean wigwam. I thought it would a lot more unwieldy to make but I got it on the first try. Now I just need to persuade my little beans to cling onto it and grow to the top.

All of these will take a few months till we get any harvests from them. In the meantime I have a bumper seed order on it’s way with some quick growing cut and come again salad leaves so we’ll hopefully have some produce on the plate before the end of August. I can’t wait!!